It’s no secret that employees are more productive when employers treat them well. So why are many employers failing to care for their “sandwich generation” employees?
The “sandwich generation” refers to individuals who are squeezed between caring for their children as well as their parents. According to the Pew Research Center, about 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s are part of the sandwich generation.[i]
There is no question that the sandwich generation is being pulled in many directions: taking care of their children, looking after their aging parents, working demanding jobs, and taking care of their own emotional and physical needs.
One of the biggest challenges for this generation is finding the time to take care of their children’s and parents’ medical needs while balancing a full-time career. Many employees adjust their work schedules, take time off, cut back on hours, change jobs or even retire early. In fact, one in five retirees reported in a recent survey that they left the workforce earlier than planned in order to care for a family member.[ii] While some employers are taking steps to protect these employees by allowing them flexible schedules and time off, many employers are falling short.
Most Arizona employers are aware of their obligation to provide paid sick time to employees for their medical needs. But what is an employer’s obligation in providing time off (paid or not) to employees who are caring for both children and aging parents? This issue comes up often in our employment and elder law practices. The answer fits squarely in Arizona’s new paid sick time law, or Prop 206, as well as the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA.
Prop 206 requires employers to give all employees 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. But Prop 206 does not just apply to time off for the employees’ medical needs; it also applies to the medical needs of their immediate family members. Employers in Arizona are therefore required to give employees paid time off (if the employee accrued it) to care for their parents’ or children’s medical needs.
Similarly, FMLA requires employers to allow employees 12 weeks within a year to care for a seriously ill parent (but not a parent in-law). While this leave need not be paid, but their same or equivalent job must be available after leave is taken and group health benefits must be maintained during the employee’s leave.
Beyond the legal mandates of Prop 206 and the FMLA, employers benefit from allowing their sandwich generation employees flexibility in caring for their loved ones. Flexible work schedules and family leave may also prove very useful accommodations for caregiver employees. Additionally, employers may provide seminars, programs, and access to resources intended to help employees navigate the maze of responsibilities in caring for a loved one, such as with care managers, elder law attorneys, community resources, caregiver support groups, and discounted emergency caregiver services. Benefits and programs such as these for employee caregivers are a win-win solution—Employers may not only retain valuable existing employees, but also recruit new employees, and employees are able to better balance their employment and caregiving responsibilities.
Charlotte C. Johnson is a Partner at the law firm of Davis Miles McGuire Gardner. She specializes in helping clients find solutions for aging and special needs populations, including elder law, long term care planning, special needs planning, and estate planning.
Emma J. Chalverus is an Associate at the law firm of Davis Miles McGuire Gardner. Emma focuses on employment law from the perspective of the employer.
[i] K. Parker and E. Patten, The Sandwich Generation, Rising Financial Burdens for Middle-Aged Americans, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/01/30/the-sandwich-generation/
[ii] R. Hellman, C. Copeland, and J. Van Derhei, The 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey: Job Insecurity, Debt Weigh on Retirement Confidence, Savings. Issue Brief N0. 369 (Washington, D.C.: Employee Benefit Research Institute, March 2012).