EEOC issued Employer Best Practices for Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities, a technical-assistance guide, last week. Caregiver or Family-Responsibilities Discrimination, according to the EEOC, occurs when an employer makes an adverse employment decision based on the employee’s care-giving responsibilities. Because this type of discrimination is a derivative of gender discrimination, the basic premises begins with parents of young children. But it extends in the opposite direction, as well, to employers whose own parents are the ones in need of caregiving. This second category is the less commonly recognized of the two forms of discrimination. But there is a third type, as well. A dual-income household where both caregivers are working and care not only for children, but also for aging parents, is known as a “sandwiched” home. The sandwiched generation are those who are at a very fragile point, having responsibility for multiple generations.
As many as 9-13% of American households can be characterized as a sandwiched household. The typical couple includes a 44-year-old man and a 42 year-old-woman, who have been married for just less than 20 years. Both spouses work full time. There are two children in the home and two aging parents who require assistance in performing daily tasks of living, such as transportation, shopping, making care-related decisions, housekeeping, and managing money.
Until the economy enjoys a significant improvement, it is easy to imagine that the number of sandwiched households will continue to grow. Aging parents who, in good financial times, may have been able to afford the expense of assisted living, may see a more reasonable option as living with an adult child. Of course, as we continue to outlive previous generations, the number of aging parents will continue to grow.
Employers can play a key role in the lives of employees facing these challenges at home. Of course, alternative work schedules can be used to attract and retain the best employees of all ages and in all stages of life. To a group facing extraordinary pressures at home, an alternative work schedule may separate a good employer from a great one. Even aside from these more formal workplace initiatives, though, employers can take important steps to improve the work-family culture in the workplace. Managers who are sensitive to employees’ personal needs, for example, can be a great source of comfort to an otherwise over-burdened employee. Guilt is not an emotional area in which they come up short and it’s the last thing they need to feel at work when the pressures of home require them to leave early or to take a longer lunch.
For more on Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD), see: