Interest in health equity has surged in the past several years. In particular, it’s been a trending topic for employers, who view it as a critical strategy to retain or hire employees in a competitive time for talent acquisition.
What is health equity?
Health equity occurs when people have a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health. It recognizes that social determinants of health (SDOH), such as income, education, employment, housing, and environment, play significant roles in shaping health outcomes.
Savvy employers are addressing disparities in health outcomes and access to healthcare services that disproportionately affect marginalized or disadvantaged populations.
To achieve health equity, it’s essential to identify and eliminate the underlying causes of health disparities.
Caregiving is a major component of health equity
Caregiving responsibilities can place a significant burden on employees— particularly if they lack adequate support or resources—which can create or perpetuate health inequities.
The need for caregiving is becoming more common due to various demographic, societal, and healthcare factors, such as our aging population and the impacts of chronic illness. This need often falls to members of a person’s family of origin or his/her family of choice, such as neighbors, close friends, or members of a religious congregation. Caregiving needs can fall especially hard on those who need to coordinate care for loved ones from a distance, or even from another country entirely.
The rise in caregiving has had a meaningful negative impact on health equity and outcomes. A Blue Cross Blue Shield report found that caregiver health outcomes are 26% worse than the benchmark population due to the stress that family care can generate.
When it comes to caregiving, certain groups are more likely to face social and economic inequities that negatively impact their health. Women may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than men. Black and Hispanic populations spend 33% more time caregiving than their white counterparts. 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ community members become caregivers, compared to one in six for the non-LGBTQ+ community.
“Primarily (women and underrepresented employees) shoulder caregiving responsibilities, and that’s a societal issue in terms of the unequal burden of caregiving,” said Eventbrite CHRO David Hanrahan in our webinar on DEI, mental health, and family care [read the recap here].
The demands of family care impact both personal and professional well-being. For employers, that means the burden of caregiving is likely a large and unaddressed barrier to achieving health equity in their workforce.
How employers can address health equity for employees with family care needs
Promoting health equity for employees with family care needs is crucial for creating an inclusive and supportive workplace. Here are seven steps that employers can take to address health equity for these employees:
#1 Flexible work arrangements
- Offer flexible work hours, remote work options, and job-sharing opportunities to accommodate the needs of employees who are also family caregivers. Flexible work arrangements are associated with reduced stress levels and improved overall well-being among family caregivers.
#2 Paid family caregiving leave
- Provide paid leave for family caregiving responsibilities, allowing employees to attend to their family members’ health needs without sacrificing their own income and job security. A report from AARP showed that caregivers who have access to paid leave are more likely to experience lower levels of stress and greater job satisfaction.
#3 Family care benefit programs
- Establish family care benefit programs that offer resources, counseling, education, and support to employees with family care responsibilities. These programs can help employees manage stress, anxiety, and other caregiving-related issues. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, caregivers who utilize support services report lower levels of stress and improved mental well-being.
#4 Health and wellness benefits
- Offer comprehensive health and wellness benefits that cover both physical and mental health needs, including those related to caregiving. These benefits could include counseling services, respite care, and access to caregiver-specific resources. Improved access to mental health services positively impacts caregiver well-being and may lead to better caregiving outcomes.
#5 Training and education
- Provide training and educational resources to employees to help them navigate the challenges of being a family caregiver. This can include workshops on stress management, time management, and communication skills. Caregivers who receive proper training and education are more confident in their caregiving role and experience lower levels of stress.
#6 Open communication
- Encourage open communication between employees and managers about their caregiving responsibilities and needs. Executives who lead by example, speaking about their own caregiving experiences creates a culture where it is safe to talk about. Creating a supportive and understanding work environment can help reduce caregiver stress and improve overall employee well-being. A study published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology found that supportive supervisors positively influence caregiver mental health and work outcomes.
#7 Resource groups
- Provide employees with access to resource groups that cater to caregivers. These groups can serve as a platform for employees to connect, share experiences, and provide mutual support. The presence of such groups can lead to improved coping mechanisms and lower feelings of isolation among caregivers.
It’s essential for employers to recognize the impact that supporting family caregivers can have on both the employees’ well-being and workplace productivity. Studies have consistently shown that interventions and policies designed to address family care needs positively influence caregiver outcomes, reduce stress levels, decrease anxiety, and enhance overall quality of life for employees.
By implementing these steps, employers can foster a workplace that is not only inclusive and equitable but also supportive of employees’ family care responsibilities.
Comprehensive family care benefits help employers close the health equity gap
At Grayce, our family care model supports both people who need care and the people supporting them in every aspect of care: medical, financial, legal, social, and emotional.
Our fully-employed Care Partners embody this holistic approach. Each one is a highly skilled expert, trained in navigating complex family care challenges. They are instrumental in closing care gaps, managing family stress, and helping employees manage what comes next.
Additionally, through the Grayce technology platform, employee caregivers gain access to valuable self-guided resources and a community of other caregivers to engage in discussions, share feedback and ideas, and exchange information.
Together, our Care Partners and technology platform help address the health inequities that complex family care challenges can create, and drive meaningful differences in health outcomes. In fact, a survey reported that 75% of Grayce users experienced a reduction in stress levels compared to when they didn’t have access to Grayce.
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