A few months ago, I shared with you some “tips for working caregivers” from an AARP webcast on the topic. In the second part of the AARP webcast series, the conversation turned toward how to have caregiving conversations with your employer. While the webcast didn’t offer XX steps you should follow, I thought it might be helpful to outline what you could do if and when you need to discuss your caregiving responsibilities with your manager.
1. Understand the law. In January 2018, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act was signed into law. This legislation requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop, maintain, and update a strategy to recognize and support family caregivers. I’m not aware that the details of the program have been finalized yet, but it is something to watch. Also be sure to check the laws of your state to see if there is legislation covering caregivers.
2. Read your employee handbook. One of the most eye-opening portions of the webcast was when the host asked polled listeners how many people had read their handbook or talked with human resources about their benefits. More than 75% had not. As a HR pro, I understand that the handbook isn’t the most riveting reading, but it contains essential information. Check it out. Talk with HR. Know your benefits.
3. See what services your employee assistance program (EAP) can offer. Speaking of benefits, a common one that many organizations offer is an EAP, also known as an employee assistance program. EAPs provide employees with confidential resources and guidance in areas like mental health, financial well-being, etc. Again, this is a benefit that is already yours. Take full advantage of it.
4. Think about the objections. Whenever I’m getting ready to pitch an idea, I think of all the objections. And come prepared to address them. While the crux of your conversation is “I’m responsible for family caregiving and I need my company’s support.”, put yourself in your manager’s shoes. What might their objections be? Some of the things that immediately come to mind are quantity and quality of work. Know the answers.
5. Have proposed solutions. This is the hard part. Be prepared to propose some steps that will allow you to be a caregiver and still get work done. Some of the proposed solutions could involve working from home, or a flexible schedule. But if those proposed solutions involve shifting work to others, consider how you’re going to introduce that idea. Chances are, you wouldn’t want someone to do it to you, so you probably don’t want to do it to them.
6. Plan your conversation. Put a few talking points down on a piece of paper. You might want to talk about your current performance, your caregiver needs, and your proposed solutions. If your work performance has been less than stellar, be prepared to address that. The company is going to have a hard time buying into your ideas if you can’t convince them that you’re able to deliver.
7. Don’t expect an immediate “yes”. After you pitch your plan, don’t expect your manager to immediately respond. They might ask a few questions. Or offer some sort of non-committal reply like, “I’m going to have to discuss this with HR.” Especially if you’re the first person that’s ever made this type of request. Just because you don’t receive an immediate “yes” doesn’t mean you’re going to get a “no”. Be patient.
8. Have a Plan B. Speaking of “no”, I don’t know that you need to present this during your initial conversation, but it might be worth considering on the front end what happens if the company does say “no” to your request. I’d like to think that companies do understand that caregiving is an issue. Maybe your manager is a caregiver and can empathize. But it’s better to have a Plan B and never use it than the other way around.
9. Thank the company for considering. Regardless of the outcome, thank your manager and the company for considering your request. It is possible that even if the answer in your situation is “no”, that you’ve opened the door for a conversation long overdue. It’s also possible that the company might come back to you weeks or months later with a change of heart.
Tomorrow (February 20, 2020) is National Caregivers Day. As we age, we not only have to think about our own caregiving needs but the caregiving needs of those around us. Proper research and planning will help us have the open conversations we need.