Employee Benefits For the Older Worker
By: Audrey Miller MSW, RSW, CCRC, CCLCP
The HR Professional December 2008
With the beginning of the baby boom generation turning 65, employers are faced with an interesting challenge. As this large group retires, there will be a shortage of skilled and experienced workers especially in the upper echelons of many businesses. How can employers entice their aging workforce to stay on past 65 or attract and retain new employees who are close to or past retirement age? Elder Caring expert, Audrey Miller discusses ways that work.
Employee Benefits For the Older Worker
With the beginning of the baby boom generation turning 65, employers are faced with an interesting challenge. As this large group retires, there will be a shortage of skilled and experienced workers especially in the upper echelons of many businesses. December 2006 marked an important year for older adults with the elimination of mandatory retirement. This means that employees can stay on working well past 65, continuing to share their years of experience and expertise. And for others who entered the workforce late, it allows the opportunity to continue to earn a salary and save for later years. But how can employers entice their aging workforce to stay on past 65 or attract and retain new employees who are close to or past retirement age?
One option is to offer continued benefit programs. As the Employment Standards Act is based on the Human Rights Code which is only applicable to persons over the age of 18 and under the age of 65, there is no ruling that employers need to continue to provide such things as long term disability and other benefit programs to persons who pass the age of 65. By providing continued benefits to these individuals, employers are ensuring better access to healthcare for these employees and an assurance that employee’s family members (if also under their policy) are taken care of. Currently, continued benefits are not a mandatory part of the employment contract; they soon may be. Until then, continued benefits can be used as a draw to keeping older employees and attracting new talent.
Another option is adding an Elder Care benefit. In 2002, there were more than two million family and friends 45 years and over who reported providing informal care to seniors. Eighteen percent of women and 19% of men aged 45 and over reported providing care to one or more seniors with a long-term health problem. While 24% of women and 25% of men 45 to 54 years old gave care to a senior, 6% of those 75 years and over were caregivers. (Cranswick, K. 2003). Clearly, it is not only the younger worker who faces care giving challenges. The older worker, too, is facing the challenge of not only working and caring for children, but they may indeed also be caring for an older parent, spouse or loved one. Among currently employed caregivers, it is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men could retire sooner than planned because of caregiving responsibilities. (Lero, D & Joseph, G. 2007)
An Elder Care benefit offers professional consultation services which addresses issues facing older individuals, whether it be adult children and their parents or a spouse dealing with disability issues. A Geriatric Care Manager is a professional who has experience and expertise in navigating the system, who is aware of programs and services that are available both publicly and privately for individuals who need extra support. These Care Managers can assist an older worker in making plans for retirement and long term/ future care. Geriatric Care Managers can provide these individuals with access to information, assessment, care management and referral to services and resources within their communities.
For more information, contact Audrey R. Miller MSW, RSW, GCM, CCRC, CCLCP 416 658 8887/ 1 866 473 8887
The National Association of Geriatric Care Managers (http://www.caremanager.org/) provides the following comments about how to know when someone might need to access the services of a Geriatric Care Manager: “You should evaluate whether you have the time, inclination, or skills to manage the challenges of geriatric care. Questions to consider: Are the problems that you or your loved ones are facing becoming larger and more complex than you can comfortably manage? Are other demands and responsibilities now so great that you are not able to provide the desired level of supervision and attention to your loved one’s problems?”
Some companies offer these type of benefits through their Employee Assistance Plan and other may offer referral services from their Human Resource department. Some services are data based referrals only and some are able to offer customized services that include face to face meetings and in some companies, Geriatric Care Managers will assess the older person in their own home. Organizations like Elder Caring encompass all of these services. Elder Caring’s care managers are able to visit the older person in their home and provide them with an in-depth assessment of the person’s current situation, health and safety needs and possible future care needs. These Care Managers can meet face to face, not only with the older person, but also with the family members and caregivers to assist the entire care team – client/patient, their caregivers, family members and friends with making an appropriate plan for the future. Geriatric Care Managers have an extensive list of contacts and resources in order to be able to refer to services best suited to the client’s needs and wants. The cost of care can tend to be quite high and so Care Managers with Elder Caring Inc. seek to find services and resources that are publicly funded first, with private services used only to supplement needs.
In a recent study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving (2008), it was found that employees who accessed Geriatric Care Manager Services through their employer reported that the availability of the program and the program’s staff provided them with validation of their situations, their feelings, and their need to talk about caregiving challenges. The study also found that “presenteeism” (not missing work for caregiving issues) improved over time for users. “Essentially, this indicated that people who used the Geriatric Care Manager Program were more focused on work after using the program than their were before using it. Additionally, Geriatric Care Manager Program users were less likely than the other groups to self-report deterioration in their health over time.”
The end of mandatory retirement is a positive change to employment law. It means that employers can retain the skills and expertise that older, experienced workers bring to the table. The continuation of benefits and the provision of added benefits will not only attract and retain older workers, it will also help to ensure that employees are able to be fully engaged in work without the worry and stress of having to care for an elderly loved one alone.
For more information contact Elder Caring Inc. 416 658 8887 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cranswick, K. (2003). Caring for an aging society. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.
Lero, D & Joseph, G. (2007). A systematic review of literature on combining work and eldercare in Canada. Guelph, ON: Centre for Families, Work and Wellbeing.
Life Care Inc. (February 2008). Corporate eldercare programs: Their impact, effectiveness and the implications for employers. Summary of findings from a study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving, and Center for Productive Aging, Towson University
National Association of Geriatric Care Managers (2008). Do I really need a professional geriatric care manager? Taken June 30, 2008 from: http://www.caremanager.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=78
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