Flexible Work Schedules for the Family Caregiver
Many people enjoy a fairly standard work schedule. They punch in at one time, clock out at another, and couple of days off each week.
When you are trying to provide care for an aging parent, sick spouse, or another family member in need of care, your comfortable work schedule can be thrown out of balance. A family member may need transportation to regular appointments, scheduled medications, or other care that won’t conform to your regular work hours.
Workers may worry that they won’t be able to continue with their career if they need to care for a family member. However, most employers are understanding of this difficult situation and can help you find an arrangement that balances work and caregiving.
Let your supervisor and human resources department know about your situation. Not only will this let them know what issues you are facing, it will also allow them to present you with options for more flexible work arrangements. Some companies will also link you to resources such as counseling or caregiver support.
If you will only need to work as a caregiver temporarily, taking leave may be your best option. The Family Medical Leave Act, which is applicable to companies that employ 50 or more people, provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee to care for a family member. Under this act, the employee can return to work after this period with no loss in pay or benefits.
If you need to provide caregiver support for a longer period of time, companies can usually offer a number of arrangements to fit your schedule. These include:
Flex time: With flex time, you can work the same number of hours per week but work a more flexible schedule. Instead of a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. day, for example, you might work 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. followed by 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. This lets you work a full workday but opens up the afternoon for caregiving responsibilities.
Compressed work week: This arrangement allows an employee to work longer days in order to get a shorter work week. With a 40-hour work week, you could work 10-hour days instead of eight-hour days to get one extra day off per week.
Shift swaps: Shift workers can consider swapping their hours with another employee. This could allow you to pick up a shift that complements your caregiving responsibilities better.
Telecommuting: Video conferencing, remote workstations, and other technologies are making it easier than ever to work from home. You can complete your work on a more flexible schedule while always being close by to take care of a family member. Check with your company to see if there are any limitations on telecommuting; some employers may only allow this setup for a limited time.
Reduced hours: If you want to continue to work but don’t think you can handle the responsibilities of caregiving alongside a full-time job, consider asking for a reduction in hours. You may be able to come up with an arrangement where an employer gradually increases your hours if you are able to resume full-time work or a reduction to part-time work could be a good way to transition into retirement. Make sure you understand how a shift to part-time hours will affect your pay and benefits.
Job sharing: One part-time arrangement is to have two employees share the responsibilities of a full-time job. This allows another employee to step in if necessary to cover the other one. Job sharing schedules may alternate weeks or have employees work on overlapping workdays.