As more people juggle caregiving with working—including single parents, spouses or parents of people with illnesses or disabilities, and middle-aged adults sandwiched with responsibilities for both children and aging parents, HR must be aware that this situation creates potential liability.
Though no state or federal law explicitly prohibits discrimination against caregivers, this kind of discrimination might constitute unlawful disparate treatment.
The way HR manages work hours and employee scheduling can go a long way toward keeping employees with caregiver responsibilities more productive, less stressed—and less litigious.
So to avoid problems, here are five actions to consider:
- Review policies that limit employee flexibility. If you have fixed hours of work or mandatory overtime, make sure these rules are truly necessary to business operations.
- Encourage employees to request flexible work arrangements. These arrangements can help workers balance their workplace and personal responsibilities. Work with employees to customize arrangements to meet the needs of the company, the department, and the individual employee.
- Post schedules as soon as possible. When jobs have changing schedules such as in retail or hospitality, post the schedules as early as possible so workers can arrange for child care, elder care, or other coverage for their caregiving responsibilities.
- Make overtime requirements as family-friendly as possible. Determine whether a voluntary overtime systems would satisfy your business needs. If not, allow workers to schedule overtime in advance so they can make necessary arrangements ahead of time.
- Provide reasonable personal or medical leave to allow employees to engage in caregiving, even if it is not legally required. Allow your workers to use their leave to care for family members or domestic partners or handle medical emergencies. To the extent possible, let workers use leave in short increments, rather than full days or weeks. Consider establishing a donation bank so employees can voluntarily contribute their leave time to coworkers.