If you are managing a workplace in Israel, you surely know which of your employees has kids at home. Chances are you offer them some level of flexibility and support when it comes to childcare. You turn a blind eye when they must work from home to care for a sick kid, or if they have to leave a bit early to get to the gan before it closes. You get it when they take off a day to drive across the country for a dance competition or an army induction ceremony. Maybe your compensation package even includes formal employee benefits that support working parents.
It’s the right thing to do – and it will go a long way in attracting and retaining talent, and maximizing productivity.
Now what about your Sandwich Generation employees: a growing group of employees, ranging from their mid 30s to early 60s, who are caring for both their children AND their aging parents? You are not alone if you haven’t been quite so accommodating when it comes to your employees taking time off to take mom to the doctor, spending hours on the phone in the morning trying to get through to Bituach Leumi, or leaving work early to pick up their dad’s meds.
With pressure to support their aging parents coming at them from one side, and pressure to care for their young children bearing down from the other, it’s no wonder that Israel’s sandwich generation is struggling to stay afloat at work.
It’s a growing problem. Costs are high for both the sandwiched employee and her employer, and solutions are slow in coming.
Employee Pressure Points
By Israeli law, four paid days per year can be used by an employee for tending to an ill parent. In reality, however, four days is insufficient to proactively manage an ailing parent’s care. The only choice your employee may have is to take unpaid hours or days off from work. This not only affects her financial bottom line, but also puts her at risk for being perceived as having a poor work ethic or a lack of dedication.
Unpaid time off work means less income. And for an employee who is likely financing not only her own life, but also a significant portion of her children’s lives and potentially her parents’ lives as well, there’s no room for income cuts. What’s more, financial strain almost inevitably leads to emotional stress, which leads to increasing illness and injury, and even more time off of work.
Long-term finances (retirement)
Sandwich employees who find themselves stretched too thin to meet the myriad of financial demands sometimes sacrifice their own retirement savings. In doing so, they risk being unable to take care of themselves when THEY can no longer work, passing the burden on to THEIR children. It’s a cyclical problem.
Cost to Employers
You may think that, from an employer’s perspective, unpaid leave is a solution – the employee takes the time he needs to care for his parent, and you don’t need to pay salary.
When an employee is absent, or even if he is there physically but his head isn’t there, it has an exponential impact on productivity. One study cited that the average employed family caregiver reported 1.5 hours absence from work per week, and 18.5% reduced productivity while at work, as a result of her caregiving.
If an employee decides to leave because he can no longer manage work alongside his caregiving responsibilities, that spells bad financial news for the employer. Turnover is expensive, with costs including but not limited to:
- Cost of recruiting and hiring a new employee
- Cost of onboarding
- Lost productivity (a new person may take up to 6 months to develop the skills and reach the productivity of an existing person)
- Impact on other workers who may be demoralized or lose motivation when coworkers leave
- Mistakes made by new employees that would not have been made by employees with more experience
- The loss of the monetary investment made in the employee who left
This calculator can help you get an idea of the financial impact that turnover has on a company.
As Josh Bersin from Deloitte says, “People are an asset that appreciates over time, growing in skill, experience and productivity. Lose them and you’re losing the increasing value that would have come from them.”
Four F’s for Keeping the Sandwich Generation at Work
So, what can you do to retain your valuable, appreciating assets, and attract future talent?
The Teachers’ Insurance and Annuity Association of America enumerates four keys to supporting sandwich generation employees:
There are many services and benefits that family caregivers and their aging parents are eligible for that could ease the burden. The problem is, many of them are basically well-kept secrets. The first thing that sandwich generation employees need is information.
That’s one of the reasons we wrote about 10 Hidden Benefits for Seniors Many Olim (and Israelis) Don’t Know About – and the follow-up post with 10 more tips. There’s really a lot out there that can help, both financially and emotionally.
Employers should make themselves informed of benefits their employees could be eligible for – and provide them with that information. Consider in-house caregiver support groups, “brown bag” lunch sessions presented by internal staff or external professionals, or coordinating with community groups or amutot. The more external support the sandwich generation employee is receiving, the more ability they will have to continue working and earning.
The more flexibility employees have with their schedules, the more capacity they have to balance their work with caring for their families. When flex time is established, the employer benefits from increased productivity and lower employee stress levels. Ultimately, flex time saves the employer money, since both turnover and absenteeism is expensive. It also primes the employee to feel trusted, which buys the employer loyalty.
While Israel has mandatory pension plans for employees, is the employee’s current work schedule and plan enough to prepare her for retirement? Is she depleting other financial resources to support her double caregiving role?
Providing employees with personal financial advisory or setting up long-term planning meetings with the insurance team who handles their pension plans can provide employees with better financial planning, peace of mind, and increased appreciation and loyalty to the employer who is helping them in this way. And the cost to the employer? A big, fat zero. Pension and insurance advisors who already work with the employer are happy to meet directly employees and act as resources.
Nothing is worse than feeling like you’re alone when you’re going through a hard time (which is why we founded the private Facebook group Sandwich Generation Israel!)
If work provides a supportive emotional atmosphere, that can go a long way toward increasing your sandwich generation employee’s resilience and ability to work at capacity.
The Workplace as the Solution
While the workplace can provide a challenge for Israel’s sandwich generation, it can also go a long way toward providing a solution for the daily challenges they face. An understanding, flexible and supportive employer helps her workers, her workers’ families and the company itself. It’s win-win all around.