但许多雇主似乎并未开始关注这一问题。比如：据人力资源管理协会（Society for Human Resources Management）2014年的员工福利调查发现，为寻找老人看护资源的员工提供转介服务的雇主仅有5%。只有不到1%的雇主会提供老人医疗咨询，或是在紧急情况下提供后援看护服务等福利。
至于说员工的合法权利，现在还不够完善。《家庭医疗休假法案》（Family Medical Leave Act，FMLA）和类似的州级法律规定，如果员工为解决家庭问题而不得不无薪休假，雇主应该保留员工的职位。劳动法律师事务所Fisher & Phillips的合伙人史蒂芬•伯恩斯坦表示，在某些情况下，请假的时间“可以是断断续续的，而不是连续的，最少可按15分钟的增量累计。但这并不适用于所有情况。”
包括密尔沃基、坦帕、华盛顿特区和亚特兰大在内的许多城市，均通过了地方性法规，禁止“家庭责任歧视”。鉴于大多数看护者是女性，因此公平就业机会委员会（Equal Opportunity Commission）和法院也认为，某些禁止性别歧视的联邦和州级法律，同样适用于这一问题。
她说道：“除非必须用到它，否则，大多数人根本不清楚雇主的员工援助计划包括哪些内容。”某些员工援助计划至少能帮员工联系提供老人看护信息和支持的政府机构和非营利组织，或帮助员工联系全美护理联盟（National Alliance for Caregiving）或家庭看护者联盟（Family Caregiver Alliance）等组织。
Dear Annie:I’m hoping you and your readers can offer some suggestions. I’m in middle management at a financial services company and my performance has always been great—I’ve been promoted twice in four years—until recently. My parents, who are in their late 80s, have moved to a town nearby to be closer so that I can help them out. They’re in an assisted-living facility, but I need to go with them to doctors’ appointments, stop by to check on them, and make sure they have groceries and medications.
The problem is, my company doesn’t allow flexible hours or telecommuting, and my boss has started making pointed remarks about the times when I am unavoidably late or have to leave early, once or twice a week. A few of my colleagues are dealing with similar situations, so we’re wondering if we have any options, or any legal rights. None of us wants to go work somewhere else to get flextime. Your thoughts? —Save Our Sanity
Dear S.O.S.:Cold comfort though it may be, you and your coworkers are part of a growing national trend. To put your predicament in perspective, a few statistics: about 40 million Americans, most aged 40 to 59, now are helping at least one elderly parent with the tasks of daily living, says a Pew Research study, and, although most caregivers are women, about 45% are men. Moreover, AARP research says most caregivers have jobs, but 70% are obliged to “make workplace adjustments”—coming in late or leaving early, for instance.
Yet it seems many employers haven’t caught on. Consider: a scant 5% offers a referral service to employees looking for eldercare resources, according to the 2014 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resources Management. Fewer than 1% offers benefits like geriatric counseling or backup eldercare services for emergencies.
As for your legal rights, they’re a bit sketchy. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and its state counterparts say employers have to keep your job open for you if you take an unpaid leave of absence to deal with family issues. In some instances, the time off “can be intermittent, rather than continual, and in increments as small as 15 minutes,” says Steven Bernstein, a partner at employment law firm Fisher & Phillips. “But that doesn’t apply in every situation.”
A few cities, including Milwaukee, Tampa, Washington D.C., and Atlanta, have passed local statutes prohibiting “family responsibility discrimination.” Since most caregivers are female, the Equal Opportunity Commission and the courts have also found that some federal and state laws against sex bias apply in these matters.
But for the most part, although caregivers may soon gain more legal protection, this is still “an evolving area,” Bernstein says, adding that, as 77 million Baby Boomers head into old age, “more people are working into their 70s and taking care of relatives in their 90s. It’s something lawmakers, and employers, will have to start recognizing.”
No doubt, if only because eldercare problems are expensive. A 2010 report from MetLife says, for instance, that caregiving costs U.S. businesses from $17 billion to $34 billion annually in lost productivity, absenteeism, and higher medical expenses for stressed-out caregivers.
So, what can you and your coworkers do now, short of quitting? First, says Jody Gastfriend, vice president of senior services at benefits firm Care.com, “There is power in numbers.” She suggests you go as a group to speak with someone in your company’s HR department about the need for flextime.
“Flexible hours are the No. 1 issue here,” she notes, adding that no one is likely to be surprised by your request. “Flextime has become a national conversation, so it’s easier to bring up than it used to be.”
At the same time, you need to lay your cards on the table with your boss. “Managers now have so many things to contend with, they can’t know what you’re dealing with unless you tell them,” says Lisa Bull, director of employee and leadership learning at benefits consultants Ceridian LifeWorks. She says most bosses are willing to work out flexible hours with a valued employee and that “even a little bit of flexibility can go a long way” in taking some of the pressure off, or at least cutting down on the “pointed remarks” you’ve been receiving.
You should also take a close look at your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Bull adds, to see if there are available eldercare resources.
“Most people don’t even know the range of what their employer’s EAP provides, until they need to use it,” she notes. Some EAPs will at least connect you with local government agencies and nonprofits that offer eldercare information and support, or with organizations like the National Alliance for Caregiving or the Family Caregiver Alliance.
For what it’s worth to you now, Bull predicts that more employers will start to offer help with eldercare before too long, because “it’s becoming a huge tool for attracting and retaining talent, especially among Millennials, who put a high priority on work-life balance.”
So do Boomers. Not surprisingly for a company in the benefits business, Ceridian LifeWorks offers its employees flextime, a generous EAP, and other support for caregivers. And since Bull is taking care of both a 76-year-old parent and a 14-year-old child, she says, “If I were looking for a job somewhere else, I’d look for those same benefits. I’d have no choice.”
Talkback:Does your company offer flextime or other eldercare assistance? If you’re a caregiver, what helps you get your job done? Leave a comment below.