Employed caregivers at risk from current Canadian policies

07/20/05

Changes to Canada's labour and income security policies could help employed

Changes to Canada's labour and income security policies could help employed caregivers keep their jobs while still taking care of family and friends with chronic health problems.

This recommendation has come out of research recently completed at the University of Alberta that showed that, in 2002, almost 1.5 million Canadians over the age of 45 were in paid employment and caring for an older adult.

In 2002, 260,000 employed caregivers in Canada aged 45 and older who reduced their working hours to provide care, may have compromised their future pension benefits. While the Canadian Pension Plan does allow parents caring for children under the age of 7 to drop years of low to no earning out of the calculation of pension benefits, the same does not apply to other caregivers.

Jason Walker, who recently completed his Master's thesis under the supervision of Dr Janet Fast of the Department of Human Ecology, looked at the experiences of employed caregivers. Walker researched a number of characteristics of this group, whose need to balance the competing demands of paid employment, unpaid care giving and other life roles, often results in scheduling conflicts, time pressures and workplace compromises.

Using Statistic Canada's 2002 General Social Survey, Walker described employed caregivers, the extent to which they made workplace adjustments and identified those characteristics that predict whether an employed caregiver will make changes at work.

Walker's research found that, overall, women make more workplace adjustments than men. These adjustments ranged from leaving work early, working from home part-time, reducing work hours or declining a promotion to the most extreme adjustment of quitting a job to take care of someone.

Dr Fast, who is herself an employed caregiver, says Walker's findings about those factors that lead to workplace compromises, will help with the development of useful policies for private and public workplaces.

Fast says public and private sector policies that maintain employees' ties to the paid labour market while still allowing them to provide care to family and friends with chronic health problems will be helpful to both employees and employers. Such policies will reduce the economic consequences of employees and for employers, reduce absenteeism and turnover, and increase productivity.

Walker's project was part of a $2.3 million major international collaborative research initiative funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SHHRC). Led by Dr Fast, the Hidden Costs and Invisible Contributions (HCIC) research program is deepening our understanding of the place in society of those currently characterized as 'dependent,' specifically older adults and adults with chronic illness or disability.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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