Compensating for Eldercare


It is an undeniable truth that we all get a little bit older each and every day.

As we move along the aging path, so do our parents, at what seems to be an increasingly rapid rate. One day your parent is the way you have always perceived them to be – healthy, active, and independent. In the blink of an eye, that parent is suddenly not healthy, inactive and increasing dependent on others to get through the day. That other is usually a family member (you) who has to take on the role of caregiver to look after the physical and mental health of their aging parent.

While this is not a new trend for the Canadian workforce, the number of adult children who have taken on eldercare responsibilities continues to increase. According to a recent article published in The Globe & Mail, approximately thirty-five percent of Canada’s workforce have primary care responsibilities for one or both parents. There is no doubt that this percentage has a direct impact on organizational and employee productivity for those who have to take time off from work to care for their parents.

Click here to read the article.

While there are organizations that can offer a flexible work schedule or the ability for employees to work from home, many companies do not have a benefits strategy dedicated to workers with eldercare responsibilities. As noted in the article, eligible employees may be able access compassionate care benefits through federal employment insurance plans. The eligibility requirements, however may not be applicable in all cases. Most employees with eldercare responsibilities have to take time off from work without pay to attend medical appointments, emergency calls as well as attending to the day-to-day needs of their aging parent. From a compensation perspective, organizations should be looking at lost productivity costs balanced against the provision of both monetary and non-monetary eldercare benefits in order to reduce those losses.

This is a real compensation challenge for Canadian workplaces. With every challenge comes an opportunity to improve the situation. Hopefully effective compensation planning can provide increasing support to employees who have to care for parents who have spent their lives caring for them.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would you include in an eldercare plan as part of a compensation strategy?
  2. If you had to take time away from work right now to care for an aging parent, what would you have to do? How would your pay and benefits be impacted?
  3. The article states that thirty-five percent of Canada’s workforce has eldercare responsibilities. How is this number reflected in your current (or most recent) work environment? What percentage of your current workforce has eldercare responsibilities?

Time for Baby

There are so many challenges and opportunities that come with the joyful arrival of a baby. People become parents, single or couple units suddenly become a family, and life changes dramatically for everyone involved.


Along with all of these changes, a new parent must also choose whether or not to take time off from work in order to care for their child. This may seem like a straightforward decision, especially for mothers who give birth and are caring for a newborn child along with their own post-birth recovery.

However, there are two challenging considerations that all new parents must face. First, whether or not they can afford to the take time off from work financially; and second, whether or not they can afford to step off their personal career trajectory for an extended period time.

There is no doubt that taking time off from work to have a child is costly. As the cost implications impact both the individual employee and the employer, Canadians can access childcare related benefit programs offered by the federal government. These benefit programs provide both financial subsidies and time-related provisions that allow new parents to spend more time at home. Recently, the federal government introduced new provisions that allow parents to extend their time at home from twelve to eighteen months. There is also a new benefit offering an additional five weeks of leave for those choosing to share parental leave benefits. These are federal government programs for which new parents must apply and meet eligibility requirements order to receive the monetary benefits.

An extensive review of the impact of maternity and parental leave benefits is provided in a recent article published by Benefits Canada.

Click here to read the article.

Click here to read about the additional five week parental leave plan.

As noted in the article by Benefits Canada, with the new 18-month extended benefit for parental leave, the monetary payments are at 33% for the duration of the leave in comparison to the traditional twelve month leave during which time the parent can receive a maximum of 55% of their total salary. The article notes that the uptake for Canadians accessing the 18-month benefit is slower than anticipated, which may not be surprising if individuals simply cannot afford either the reduced benefit and/or the increased time away from work.

The additional five weeks of parental leave benefits also comes with a catch. New parents must decide whether to use it or they will lose it, based on their eligibility requirements and by determining which parent will be able to access this new benefit.

In order to alleviate some of these financial impacts, employers can choose to offer a financial top-up for employees who are in receipt of federal parental leave benefits. Again, this is a cost decision that an employer can make based affordability.

All of these considerations must be taken into account in the context of thoughtful compensation planning when determining how much support in terms of time and money can be provided for new parents.

New parents do need all of the support that they can get, so they can focus on what is truly important – their new child.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you agree with the use-it or lose-it requirement for non-birthing parents eligible to take the new the five weeks of parental leave? Explain your rationale.
  2. In your opinion, why is the uptake for new parents taking maternity and parental leave time in Canada so low?
  3. Identify three barriers and three benefits to the employer who provides top-up provisions to maternity and parental leave plans.

How Do You Show Your Employees You Care?

Be Panya/Shutterstock

How do you show your employees you care? You care for your employees’ children.

All employers are looking to use perks and other benefits to create sustainable bonds and lasting connections with their employees. Throwing more money at employees may seem like an easy way to improve employee workplace satisfaction but it is not they only retention tool out there. Employees stay with a company because they believe the company cares about them and their well-being.

If they really want to show employees they care, perhaps more HR departments should follow Starbucks’ lead and provide child care—not full-time child care, but a service many would consider almost as valuable—back up child care when an employee needs it the most.

Starbucks in the United States has partnered up with a company called Care@Work. Each eligible Starbucks employee will receive a free premium membership to access Care@Work services including subsidized day care at a cost of $1 per hour for up to 10 backup care days.

This isn’t only for child care, however. Starbucks realizes that many of their employees are in the sandwich generation and are looking after children as well as dependent adults. This benefit perk applies to both dependent groups.

Click here to read about Care@Work’s services.

With the tight labour market in North America, employers are looking for ways to stand out and attract prospective employees, while retaining existing ones. Providing subsidized child and adult care may be a key factor in helping your organization stand out.

Click here to read more about Starbucks’ innovative benefits.

Starbucks has been a leader in the service industry, which traditionally treats its employees as low-skill, entry level, transient workers. Starbucks has done the opposite by providing its employees with the full spectrum of benefits including medical, education, stock options, and even pensions.

Cynics might argue that Starbucks is adding all these benefits just to retain employees; however, it’s worth noting that the Starbucks mission statement highlights a desire to “inspire and nurture the human spirit”, and that among the company’s core values are commitments to foster a sense of belonging, to find new ways to take the company forward, and to “challenge the status quo”. Others might argue that in providing backup care for its employees’ loved ones, Starbucks is doing an admirable job of living up to this mission statement and these core values—that it is doing business “through the lens of humanity”.

Click here to read Starbucks’ mission and values statement.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Research two other service industry companies. What types of employee benefits do they offer their employees?
  2. Why don’t more service companies take the Starbucks approach to employee benefits?

Millennial Considerations

Two creative millenial small business owners working on social media strategy using a digital tablet while sitting at desk

The times they are a-changing, for sure.

Much has been written about the challenges facing the millennial generation as its members begin to take greater hold of the economy and the workforce. The millennial worker is someone who has grown up with access to a world of information through digital resources that a person from previous generations simply did not have. As this millennial generation increasingly populates the world of workers and business leaders, they are bringing about a changing view of what constitutes effective rewards and incentives for employment performance.

A recent article, published by Benefits Canada, outlines some positive statistical analysis of the millennial approach to indirect reward plans.

Click here to read the article. 

Previous generations of managers commonly held back group health and dental benefits until employees asked for them. It is apparent that upcoming business leaders recognize the reward potential of offering wellness initiatives from the very beginning of the employment relationship. In order to have a healthy, engaged and constructive workforce, millennials prefer to have a pro-active influence in an employee’s social and physical well-being.

Further, supporting employees on a pro-active wellness path is more affordable at the beginning of a business venture, rather than incurring escalating premiums for an unhealthy workforce later on. It is evident that access to digital resources, such as the statistical evidence provided in this article, has had a great impact on the way benefits are provided. It is also evident that the Human Resources professional has helped to shape this changing workforce view in a positive way. And, as noted in the article, millennial business owners appreciate the value of the Human Resources professional in helping to advise, shape and shift the modern workplace in a constructive way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the top five HR compensation ‘must-haves’ you would advise a small business owner to put into place from the start?
  2. Why do you think flexible benefit plans, as outlined in this article, are attractive to the millennial workforce?
  3. After a year of working in your chosen profession, if you had a choice between a moderate pay increase or full access to an employer paid benefits plan – which would you select? Why?

Smoky Rewards?

Lego star wars No Smoking Day.
Bubbers BB /

Gone are the days when smoking was an accepted practice in the workplace. In today’s society we see a few solitary figures who take their breaks and smoke outside their workplace during the work day. Employees who smoke are either huddled together in designated smoking areas or forced to stand on the other side of the workplace boundaries in order to have that much needed cigarette. With these visual displays as proof there is no doubt that employees who smoke have a costly impact on workplace productivity.

Everybody knows that smoking is an addiction loaded with severe health-related risks. These risks include the development of heart disease and cancer. Most employers in Canada offer health care benefits to employees to assist them in covering medical costs for these types of catastrophic illnesses.

Should employees who smoke be penalized for increasing group health care costs as a result of developing smoking-related diseases?

Should employees who smoke be penalized for having a negative impact on a productivity-based bottom line?

Both of these questions are loaded with complex and potentially negative consequences for the employer and employees alike.

A company in the United States has implemented a smoking cessation program that rewards employees who stop smoking and penalizes those who enter into the program and fail to quit.

Click here to read the article.

While the intent of this type of reward/punishment-based smoking cessation program may be to encourage a change in employee lifestyle, it is clear that the goal of the program is to reduce productivity losses and health care costs.

These types of programs raise questions about the role of the employer in any employee’s personal lifestyle decisions. Does the employer really want to be monitoring and stepping into an employee’s personal behaviours that extend beyond the boundaries of the workplace?

The answers to all of these questions remain unclear.

These and similar questions will, no doubt, continue to be asked as our social and health-related demographics continue to change into the future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. To what degree do you think the employer should be involved in an employee’s decision to continue or stop smoking?
  2. Who benefits from a reward-based smoking cessation program? Why?
  3. Would you change a health-related behaviour (stop smoking, go on a diet, start exercising) if your employer offered you a financial reward for making that change? Why or why not?
  4. Would you change a health-related behaviour (stop smoking, go on a diet, start exercising) if your employer imposed a financial penalty on you if you did not make that change? Why or why not?