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Canadian Organizations Have a Role to Play in Helping Employees Balance Work and Eldercare Obligations

Ottawa, August 10, 2017— Over one-quarter of employed Canadians provide care and assistance to an elderly family member, which may lead to significant physical, emotional, and financial pressures. Employees struggling to balance work and eldercare can experience elevated stress levels, absenteeism, and work interruptions, including missing work, taking and making phone calls related to eldercare, and worrying about the care recipient while at work.

It is estimated that eldercare obligations cost Canadian organizations an estimated $1.28 billion per year in lost productivity. Despite these substantial costs and implications, formal eldercare programs are not common in Canadian organizations. A new report by The Conference Board of Canada examines how providing eldercare affects both employees and employers and presents a range of accommodation solutions and best practices for implementing an eldercare strategy.


  • Just over one-quarter of employed Canadians have eldercare obligations.
  • Successfully implemented eldercare strategies can benefit employers through retention and reduced absenteeism.
  • A minority of Canadian organizations have eldercare leave programs.

“In addition to caring for aging parents, many Canadians are also still caring for their children. This dual responsibility results in a significant amount of physical, emotional, and financial pressure. Many in the sandwich generation are also juggling their own responsibilities as employees,” said Nicole Stewart, Principal, Total Rewards Research, The Conference Board of Canada. “Canadian organizations stand to benefit in many ways by implementing eldercare strategies, opening lines of communication with employees, and emphasizing that support is available.”

In a previous Conference Board of Canada survey of primarily medium and large sized employers, just over one-third (37 per cent) reported offering elder care leave. Thirty-two per cent of respondents indicated that the leave was unpaid, while 2 per cent offered paid leave and another 3 per cent offered a combination of paid and unpaid leave.

The report, The Juggling Act: Balancing Work and Eldercare in Canada, offers broad guidelines for organizations looking to develop an eldercare strategy:

  • Assess the extent to which eldercare obligations are already affecting employees. Creating space for discussion about eldercare can help employees feel more comfortable discussing their circumstances and needs.
  • Consider measures that are already in place. Employee assistance programs offer helpful services to employees with caregiving obligations.
  • Align strategies with needs. Increased workplace flexibility alone may not speak to the needs of employees most burdened by eldercare obligations. Days off, reduced work hours, or a short period of leave may be more beneficial.
  • Be flexible in terms of response. Organizations should make reasonable efforts to find accommodation solutions that work for both parties.
  • Prioritize managerial and organizational support. The supportiveness of an employee’s direct manager often determines the extent to which an employee will avail themselves of eldercare accommodations.
  • Keep communication open and adjust accommodations as necessary. Accommodations may need to be modified as eldercare obligations can be unpredictable and change over time in the intensity of care required.

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