The young, adult children with disabilities and the elderly are some family members that caregivers devote a significant portion of their time to care for. Previously, we discussed how daunting it is for caregivers to manage their full-time jobs together with caregiving duties. These challenges often lead them to reduce working hours or leave the workforce completely.
Caregivers who remain employed not only face stress at home but also at work when expectations are not being met. When leaving a job is not an option due to financial reasons, caregivers have to rely on employment benefits to pull them through.
Employee benefits to reduce caregiver stress
By law, employers are obliged to provide certain categories of employee benefits to ensure that employers can maintain a work-life balance. These include the mandatory paid childcare, maternity, paternity and shared parental leave. In recent years, community groups such as the Association of Women for Action and Research have urged the government to make eldercare leave statutory, amid growing concerns of an ageing population and the corresponding demand for caregiving. While the government has provided various caregiving grants and subsidies to support caregivers of seniors and those with disabilities, these individuals often face caregiver stress when they struggle to maintain caregiving responsibilities with job demands.
Many caregivers must continue to work to provide for their families. What working caregivers can do for themselves is to take charge of their choice of employment. When looking for new roles to better support their caregiving duties, caregivers can look out for several perks to help manage caregiver stress at home.
1. Family Care Leave
According to the Global Parental Leave Report in 2018 by Mercer, 62% of organisations in the Asia Pacific provide family care leave to employees. Singapore ranks 5th among the top 10 countries with the highest percentage of organisations that provide Family Care Leave. In Singapore, this is not a statutory requirement; yet corporations who have the resources are more likely to provide such employment benefits to those eligible. This allows employees who have caregiving duties at home to take additional leave without having to use up their annual and sick leave entitlements all the time.
2. Work from home
Work from home or ‘Flexi-place’ policies are examples of Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA) recommended by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices in Singapore. Companies that adopt FWA policies contribute to a supportive work environment where caregivers are given the flexibility to work while fulfilling caregiving commitments. Being able to work at home while having their family members around to care for helps caregivers alleviate the anxiety and stress of, for instance, leaving their loved ones alone at home. It also allows caregivers to minimise work stress as they have more flexibility in completing their tasks at home compared to the rigid environment back in the workplace.
3. Paid time off
Paid time off for caregiving is another helpful solution for caregivers who need to manage caregiving duties during workdays. For instance, those who need to run errands for family members, such as taking elderly parents to the doctor or attending to the needs of adult children with autism, can request for paid time off specifically for such cases. Employers who offer these provisions give caregivers better control over both work and caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers can complete their work for the day within a few hours and have the rest of the time off. Paid time off can also be seen as an alternative or an addition to Family Care Leave, providing more options for caregivers to make better work and care arrangements.
4. Employee Assistance Programme
Apart from additional leave arrangements, caregivers also need continuous support to avoid burnout due to caregiver stress. Caregivers who may not have others to turn to for support will benefit from professional counselling services through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Employers such as PwC Singapore and Dow Chemical Pacific (Singapore) engage external vendors to provide the EAP to support employees with counselling services for personal and work-related problems. Through such programmes, caregivers can seek continuous mental health support and manage stress caused by the dual role without having to incur additional time and costs to access such resources outside of work.
What caregivers can do
Caregivers should proactively look for employers offering such leave benefits so that they can have a better idea of how to manage work expectations against caregiving demands and reduce stress.
If the job descriptions do not provide enough information on the company’s employment benefits, you can:
- Read up on employees’ experiences on community job forums such as Glassdoor
- Explore the organisations’ social profiles online
- Network with existing employees on LinkedIn to understand the company better
- Ask questions about employee culture during the interview, and if the situation permits, share with the interviewer about your caregiver role. This allows the employer to understand you better and allow for meaningful discussions on whether the role is suitable. At the end of the day, you want to maintain a balance between your job and caregiver role. Should you learn at the interview stage that the role may cause a strain, you can decide to move on and look for other opportunities. If the organisation is still keen to hire you, it may work out a customised work arrangement based on your needs.