2015 White House Conference on Aging

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

The White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) is a once-a-decade conference sponsored by the Executive Office of the President of the United States which makes policy recommendations to the president and Congress regarding the aged. The first of its kind, the goals of the conference are to promote the dignity, health and economic security of older Americans. It has been claimed that it is perhaps the best-known White House conference. The Conference is held once a decade, with the most recent conference held in earlier this month on July 13th at the White House.

iStock_WhiteHouse_PMHistorically, in 1950, President Harry S. Truman ordered the Federal Security Agency to hold the first national conference on aging. The purpose of this initial conference was to assess the policy challenges posed by a changing populace, particularly in light of numerous changes in federal entitlement programs (such as Social Security) that had been enacted during the previous 20 years. Social Security’s goal was to assist those in need of financial assistance such as the poor, elderly, physically disabled or mentally ill.

In preparation for this decade’s conference, there were five regional conferences around the country purposed to aggregate information and recommendations for the national conference at the White House.

The regional conference took place in

I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to participate n the Cleveland, Ohio regional conference. Take a look at the highlights of the Cleveland WHCoA regional conference. In addition, I wrote a blog recommendation that I’ll share at a later date. From these 5 regional sessions, together with input from other aging leaders and older Americans around the country, common themes were identified and developed into major topic areas. Those topic areas are the following.

Retirement security is a vitally important issue. Financial security in retirement provides essential peace of mind for older Americans, but requires attention during our working lives to ensure that we are well prepared for retirement.

Healthy aging will be all the more important as baby boomers age. As medical advances progress, the opportunities for older Americans to maintain their health and vitality should progress as well and community supports, including housing, are important tools to promote this vitality.

Long-term services and supports remain a priority. Older Americans overwhelmingly prefer to remain independent in the community as they age. They need supports to do so, including a caregiving network and well-supported workforce.

Elder justice is important given that seniors, particularly the oldest older Americans, can be vulnerable to financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect. The Elder Justice Act was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, and we need to realize its vision of protecting seniors from scam artists and others seeking to take advantage of them.

In an era where cooperation in Washington is not very good, I commend President Obama for moving forward and continuing this historically important White House forum. Several Congressional representatives were in attendance throughout the day. With the sheer number of aging Americans, this is a defining time for issues regarding the health and well-being of our seniors to be aired, understood, and appropriately actioned. The entire country is being impacted. The issues of aging are important to every American, not just our elderly citizens.

OLDER AMERICANS ACT (OAA)

It is worth noting that just after the WHCoA, the critical and politically contentious, reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (S. 192), was passed by a bipartisan action of the Senate on July 16th. The Older Americans Act of 1965 was the first federal level initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults. It created the National Aging Network comprising the Administration on Aging on the federal level, State Units on Aging, and Area Agencies on Aging at the local level. The network provides funding – based primarily on the percentage of an area’s population 60 and older – for nutrition and supportive home and community-based services, disease prevention/health promotion services, elder rights programs, the National Family Caregiver Support Program, and the Native American Caregiver Support Program. Since it was enacted into law in 1965, millions of our most vulnerable older Americans have relied on the services provided by the OAA for their health and economic security. These services help older Americans live independently by:

  • Supporting nutrition programs, including Meals-on-Wheels;
  • Providing home and community-based services, including preventive health services and transportation assistance;
  • Assisting family caregivers with information and referral, counseling and respite care;
  • Preventing and detecting elder abuse; and
  • Providing part-time community service employment and training, including the Senior Community Employment Program (SCSEP), which has helped more than 1 million older Americans enter the workforce.

Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act is critical to the health and well-being of millions of our seniors throughout the country. It is my hope that the House will also be led to vote and approve OAA reauthorization before they recess in August. These program are essential to the millions of people who helped to build our country.

I invite you to take a look at the summary of the 2015 WHCoA by accessing the link “2015 White House Conference on Aging“.

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National Healthcare Decisions Day & White House Conference on Aging

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

NATIONAL HEALTHCARE DECISIONS DAY (NHDD) — April 16th

My most recent newsletter is singularly focused on the subject of Advanced Healthcare Directives. An advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actionsRisk Management should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. In my recent newsletter I provide the history of this document and the current generation of what is now often deemed as simply Advanced Directives. Simply request the newsletter in the form below and I’ll have it sent to you.

In presentations to employers, I stress the competitive advantage that companies can attain by including this in their Human Resources benefit offerings. I also talk about how critical of an issue Advanced Healthcare Directives are when it comes to sustaining a high level of productivity within an enterprise. April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Please take action to include provisions for employees to have access to this service as a benefit of being employed at your company.

WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON AGING — JULY 2015

The Wasa_theme_logo[1]hite House Conference on Aging  (WHCOA) is a once-a-decade conference sponsored by the Executive Office of the President of the United States which makes policy recommendations to the president and Congress regarding the aged. The goals of the conference are to promote the dignity, health and economic security of older Americans. It has been claimed that it is perhaps the best-known White House conference. The Conference is held once a decade, with the most recent conference held in 2005, in preparation for the retirement of the baby boomer generation.

In July of this year, the White House is convening this decades WHCOA. I’ll be attending planning sessions starting next week when I attend the 2015 Aging In America conference in Chicago. This conference of industry professionals on aging is the annual event sponsored by the American Society on Aging.

iStock_WhiteHouse_PMAdditionally, I’m privileged to have been invited to attend an invitation-only ‘issues forum’ sponsored by the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (BRIA) in April. Our input will be provided to one of only five pre-conference regional forums held around the nation. Fortunately for us in Ohio, the fifth regional meeting has been scheduled in Cleveland for Monday, April 27.

Given the significance of this historic year (50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, the 80th anniversary of Social Security), it is incumbent on aging advocates everywhere to take note of this event, and to ensure that our thoughts about the future of aging and aging services in America are heard.

These are important issues for employers who have to efficiently manage a mufti-generational, increasing diverse workforce. I expect to be sending relevant ‘tweets‘ and blog posts from both the ASA conference and the BRIA issues forum.

 

 

Ebola—What to do!

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

Because of the severity of the Ebola virus, I am posting this information on each of my blogs.

The re-emergence of the Ebola virus has caused a global health care concern. As of this post, cases of iStock_Ebola_PMEbola here in the United States have caused us to re-examine our overall preparedness with a ‘real-time’ health emergency. It is no surprise that rumors and inaccurate information is running rampant.

Our recommendation for accurate and up to date information, is the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Click on this link, http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html, to learn more about the disease and what you need to know about Ebola.

So what do we do? The CDC has developed quite an extensive checklist for healthcare providers titled, Health Care Provider Preparedness Checklist for Ebola Virus Disease. Although the information is geared mostly to the hospital setting, there is a lot of valuable information that can be used in the workplace setting as well. Under the additional resources section is a link to the Public Health Emergency site where you can register for webinars on the subject and subscribe to stay informed. The CDC checklist can be accessed via the following link:  http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/healthcare-provider-checklist-for-ebola.pdf and the Public Health site via http://www.phe.gov.

If you have employee related questions or are unsure how to handle a specific employee situation, such as: an employee returning from travel abroad, questions about their return to work, or more questions of this nature, consult your attorney. He or she can guide you on appropriate H.R. policy for your state.

Assess Your Company Against the Data!

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

It is thGenerations @ Christmas1ae end of another year and I truly hope it has been a good one for each and every one of you.

First, I’d like to refer you to my blog post from December of 2011 titled Home for the Holiday’s … Gather Critical Information on Your Aging Parents, and my blog post of December 2012, Home for the Holiday’s — Time for an Assessment! I believe that each contain timeless information that you should reference with respect to your aging loved ones. Each of these blogs are less focused on employer/employee issues of lost productivity resulting from the urgency of adult caregiving. Instead, they ask that each of us pay special attention to their older loved ones during this time of the year when family visits are so prevalent.

Secondly, when speaking with employers or writing our newsletters and blogs regarding the +$30 Billion in lost workplace productivity attributed to adult caregiving, I usually provide information based on specific research that I’ve uncovered. I’m closing my last blog post of the year with additional factoids and ask that you examine your workplace accordingly.

UNDERLYING DATA — Sixteen percent of the U.S. civilian non-institutional population age 15 and over (39.6 million people) provided unpaid eldercare in 2011 and 2012.  Eldercare providers are defined as individuals who provide unpaid care to someone age 65 or older who needs help because of a conditioiStock_data_PMn related to aging.

During the 2011–2012 period, 17.4 percent of women provided eldercare, compared with 14.7 percent of men.

The eldercare provider rates for Whites and Blacks were 16.6 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively. For persons of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity (who may be of any race) the rate was 10.4 percent.

Overall, 16.7 percent of workers provided eldercare. Part-time workers did so at a higher rate (18.1 percent) than did full-time workers (16.3 percent); those not employed provided eldercare at a lower rate (15.2 percent).

People without children at home and parents with children age 6 to 17 (and none younger) provided eldercare at higher rates (17.3 percent and 16.8 percent, respectively) than parents with children under age 6 (9.0 percent). Those with a spouse or unmarried partner present provided eldercare at a higher rate (17.3 percent) than those without a spouse or partner present (14.6 percent).

Among persons age 25 and over, those with higher levels of education spent more time caring for those over 65. Among those with a bachelor’s degree and higher, 19.1 percent provided eldercare and among those with some college or associate degree the rate was 18.8 percent. High school graduates and those with less than a high school diploma provided eldercare at lower rates (15.9 percent and 9.0 percent).

Findings from the 2011-12 surveys:

  • Of the 39.6 million eldercare providers in the civilian non-institutional population, the majority (56 percent) were women. Eldercare providers are those who provided unpaid care to someone over the age of 65 who needed help because of a condition related to aging.
  • Individuals ages 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 were the most likely to provide eldercare (23 and 22 percent, respectively), followed by those age 65 and over (16 percent).
  • On a given day, nearly one-fourth (23 percent) of eldercare providers engaged in eldercare. Eldercare providers who were ages 65 and older and those who were not employed were the most likely to provide care on a given day.

Percent of population who were eldercare providers

Thank  you 2013! We trust you found our blog postings informative and actionable. We look forward to working with more employers in 2014 to implement our risk management practices. These practices are designed to minimize workplace lost productivity from employees that have to tend to the eldercare needs of their aging loved ones.

We wish you a great year-end holiday season!

These data are from the American Time Use Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employers Can Help Employees…and Help Themselves When it Comes to Eldercare! — Part 5

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

Part 5: Best Practices for Removing Barriers to Equal Employment Opportunity for Working Caregivers

Our fifth and final post in this important series focuses on best practices that employers can utilize to minimize their legal liability. It is my hope that presenting this information in a multi-part series assists employers to better understand these issues and their associated liability. Further, it is my hope that employers take action to improve their workplace by adopting practices that minimize their susceptibility to lost productivity from working caregivers.

In addition to public policy solutions, employers can provide equal employment opportunity for employees with family responsibilities by adopting six key practices.

1) Adopt a model policy for preventing FRD.

A model policy for preventing FRD is a crucial first step. Adopting this policy—and incorporating it in the employer’s iStock_000014696872XSmall_PMpersonnel manual—can send a clear message that employees with family responsibilities, including eldercare, should be judged on the basis of their job performance, rather than on outdated assumptions that they are not committed to their jobs.

2) Provide workplace flexibility.

Workplace flexibility differs from FRD. FRD involves discrimination prohibited by public policy—treating employees with caregiving responsibilities less favorably than similarly situated employees due to unexamined assumptions that their family commitments mean that they are not committed to their jobs. Workplace flexibility refers to a panoply of alternative work arrangements commonly implemented by employers for business reasons. The following are the most common practices:

  • Flex-time allows employees to vary their starting and stopping times, typically with a core time span (often 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) when everyone must be at work.
  •  Compressed work weeks allow employees to work the same number of hours in fewer days a week; a typical schedule is four 10-hour days.

  •  Part-time and part-year work allows employees to work fewer hours than full-time or to work full-time for only part of the year.

  •  Telecommuting allows employees to work part or all of their work hours from home.

The business benefits of workplace flexibility are extensively documented.

Caregiving has economic consequences not only for the family caregiver but also for employers: There are costs to accommodating and supporting caregiving, but there are also costs to not accommodating and supporting it. A recent survey found that working caregivers of older adults are forced to miss an average of 6.6 days of work a year because of their eldercare responsibilities, and estimated that U.S. businesses lose up to $25 billion annually from full-time working caregivers due to absenteeism alone. Properly designed and implemented programs

  • Increase retention of valued employees
  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Tap the full talent pool, given that many employees have family responsibilities that make it difficult of impossible for them to work a traditional full-time schedule
  • Improve moral and employee engagement
  • Improve productivity
  • Reduce stress and burnout

3) Establish effective and predictable scheduling of hourly jobs.

Workplace flexibility was designed with professional jobs in mind. Hourly employees typically face very different issues, notably jobs with schedules that are both rigid and unstable. Rigid schedules, in which employees have to punch in and out, typically are accompanied by no-fault absenteeism policies that provide for termination of employees after a certain number of tardies and absences regardless of the reasons. Such systems may result in the firing of a worker who encounters a period of intense eldercare tasks, such as when a parent is hospitalized.

Low-wage workers often face a different problem: just-in-time schedules that change from day-to-day and week to week, often with very little advance notice, as employers attempt to maintain a tight fit between labor supply and labor demand. These types of schedules, even more than mandatory overtime, make it extremely difficult for families to arrange consistent eldercare.

Changes would be good for employers as well as employees. The business reasons for shifting to more effective scheduling techniques are much the same as those for adopting workplace flexibility. Just-in-time scheduling, in particular, leads to extraordinarily high, and extraordinarily expensive, rates of absenteeism and turnover.

4) Develop and provide education and training to supervisors and managers.

Unlike childcare issues, the challenges faced by workers juggling the demands of both work and caregiving for aging family members are not well understood and recognized by employers. Caregiving employees’ needs are not usually a “top of mind” issue for employers. Educating managers and supervisors about what constitutes caregiver discrimination, including eldercare, is a critical step forward. Another strategy might be to incorporate training about stereotypes and assumptions that underlie FRD into existing diversity training in the workplace.

5) Offer eldercare support, resources, and referral services to employees.

Caregiver-related information and resources for employees can help them better manage their caregiving responsibilities. Studies have shown benefits to employers with workplace eldercare programs, including worker retention, improved productivity, lower stress, and improved health among workers. Examples of such programs may include referral to caregiver resources in the community, on-site support groups for working caregivers, or discounted backup home care for emergency needs.

6) Implement recruitment practices for people with eldercare responsibilities.

Designing and implementing recruitment practices that target individuals with eldercare responsibilities who are looking to enter or return to the workplace is an innovative strategy to recruit skilled and talented workers. Some midlife and older individuals may quit their jobs to care for a parent, and then wish to return to work later on. People who disrupt their careers for full-time caregiving responsibilities can lose substantial benefits and retirement security. Such positions could be advertised in publications that target midlife, aging, and caregiving readers, websites, and senior employment job fairs, for example.

CONCLUSION

As both the workforce and the U.S. population age, the workplace will include more employees who need to combine eldercare responsibilities with the jobs upon which their economic futures depend. Given the prolonged economic downturn, it is important that family caregivers with eldercare responsibilities—especially midlife and older workers who are in their peak earning years—do not lose their jobs due to stereotypes and unfair treatment.

Recent research emphasizes the importance of legal system supports to family caregivers, including protection from FRD, in addition to caregiver supportive services (such as respite care). Both are fundamental elements of a high-performing Long-Term Services and Support (LTSS) system.

The trend toward more American families experiencing the “new normal” of working and eldercare underscores the need to develop public and private solutions to both help workplaces adapt and support caregiving families. Such solutions should ensure that working family caregivers with eldercare responsibilities receive equal opportunity in the workplace and are protected from employment discrimination.

Thanks so much to AARP Public Policy Institute for outstanding research they performed to generate the information in this 5-part blog series.

Employers Can Help Employees…and Help Themselves When it Comes to Eldercare! — Part 4

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

Part 4: Model State Statutory Langauge

This post is our fourth post in this important five-part series regarding how employers can avoid employment discrimination issues that could arise from employees that are family caregivers. In our previous post we shaped the issue and presented the framework for why this is a policy matter important to employers. As federal and state law are in-play, this post speaks to how the states craft their position and gives employers  critical insight to consider.

The patchwork of federal, state, and local laws presents a complicated legal environment for employers and employees alike. The lack of consistent policy leaves many working caregivers unprotected from FRD. It also leaves many managers and supervisors unaware of how eldercare affects their employees.

State policymakers should consider whether a single statewide law would simplify and clarify the legal environment for employers while fillingiStock_000014696872XSmall_PM gaps in legal protections for employees with family responsibilities. Because each state currently has its own statute prohibiting employment discrimination based on protected classifications—such as sex, race, national origin, religion, and disability—the most efficient means of addressing FRD (Family Responsibilities Discrimination) is to add family caregivers as a protected class to existing state law, rather than introducing a stand-alone statue. A stand-alone statue likely would sharply limit the scope of antidiscrimination protections offered as the result of the legislative process. An amended state statute addressing FRD would benefit employees by filling the gaps in legal protections, most notably by adding protections for employees responsible for the care of older adults. Such a state statute might well benefit employers, too.

Employers typically avoid legal risk by training their supervisors on the law with a series of clear dos and don’ts. Given the current complexities of FRD law, this is very difficult to accomplish. Indeed, some employment lawyers who defend employers have opined that the legal landscape surrounding FRD is so confusing that employers might be better off with a simple, straightforward state law clearly prohibiting discrimination against employees because of their family caregiver status.

Legislation to prohibit workplace discrimination against family caregivers would not give any group special rights. It would simply require employers to treat workers with caregiving responsibilities the same way they treat other employees. Such legislation would address the fact that employers sometimes impose unwarranted penalties on workers with caregiving responsibilities due to stereotypes that such employees are less competent or less committed to work.

Under an antidiscrimination law, employers would have to treat employees with family responsibilities the same as other employees. Thus, an employer who readily allows students’ work schedules to be shaped around their class schedules could not refuse to show similar flexibility for an employee caring for an older adult. Anti-discrimination law simply requires equal treatment.

Confusion often arises between statutes addressing FRD and statutes requiring family leaves. An important point is that equal employment law to protect family caregivers does not require employers to provide employees with family or medical leave. A simple, straightforward state statute would—

1. Add the term “family caregiver status” to the list of status characteristics upon which employers are prohibited from basing discriminatory employment decisions under state law;

2. Define the term “family caregiver” for the purposes of employment antidiscrimination protections as “a person who cares for a family member”;

3. Define “family member” as “a person who is related by blood, legal custody, or marriage, a domestic partner, or a person with whom the caregiver lives in a familial relationship”; and

4. Ensure that anti-retaliation provisions that protect discrimination complaints based on other protected classifications apply to protect family caregivers as well.

Next Post: Our final piece in this series, “Best Practices for Removing Barriers to Equal Employment Opportunity for Working Caregivers”

Again, special thanks to AARP Public Policy Institute for outstanding research.

Employers Can Help Employees…and Help Themselves When it Comes to Eldercare! — Part 3

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

Part 3: Protections That Exist for Employees Under Federal Employment Laws

This post is our third of a five-part series regarding how employers can avoid not only lost productivity costs, but also avoid employment discrimination issues that could arise from employees that are family caregivers. In our previous post we shaped the issue and presented the framework for why this is a policy matter important to employers. Let’s talk about the status of existing federal law. With this, you may begin to gain a view as to where we may be headed with federal policy.

Federal equal opportunity policies explicitly prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, religion, iStock_000014696872XSmall_PMdisability, national origin, and age. Federal law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on caregiver status. Rather, FRD claims are actionable only when discrimination against family caregivers qualifies as discrimination under other federal statutes.

A patchwork of federal protections provide limited coverage to family caregivers who experience FRD. Yet federal law often fails to protect employees who need or have taken leave, because only about half of the workforce is covered by the FMLA. In addition, federal law completely fails those who need accommodation other than leave, such as reduced or flexible schedules, or even minor workplace adjustments to meet the needs of workers in their caregiving role such as the need to communicate during the workday with a parent’s health care provider.

What protections do exist for family caregivers under federal law come from the FMLA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Caregivers who can show that they were treated worse on the basis of their sex or their age are also protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).

Recognizing the growing scope of FRD, in 2007 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued enforcement guidance on the topic of caregiver discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination, discrimination against parents caring for their children, and discrimination against workers who care for aging parents or ill or disabled spouse or family members. In 2009, the EEOC followed up with a second report on this issue. The reports provided examples of best practices for employers to decrease the likelihood of employment discrimination complaints. In February 2012, the EEOC held a meeting to examine recent trends in discrimination against pregnant workers and workers with caregiving responsibilities.

Despite these laws and federal guidance—and despite the rapid growth in the number of FRD cases over the past two decades—federal legal protections for employees caring for older adults are severely limited. Because of a lack of legal protections for working families, fewer than one-tenth (about 8 percent) of the cases in WorkLife Law’s case law database of more than 3,000 FRD cases involve adults caring for older relatives.

Common situations in which employees would have no protection under federal law include the following examples:

  •  A phone company customer representative lost her job when she failed to meet her sales quota due to the stress of caring for her mother, who had died by the time of her union hearing.

  •  A factory worker was disciplined for failing to show up for overtime work on a Saturday because he had no one to stay with his wife, who had cancer and was severely depressed.

  •  An employer denied sick leave for a surgical supply coordinator who requested leave to travel out-of-state to care for her mother during and after a surgery.

Federal Policy Considerations

Given the limited protections in current federal law, a starting point in improving federal policy to protect family caregivers from employment discrimination would be for the EEOC to ensure enforcement of its 2007 guidance. The EEOC and the Department of Labor could also conduct a campaign to raise awareness about caregiver discrimination in the workplace.

Other federal policy considerations should include:

  • Improving the FMLA, such as by expanding its scope to cover all primary caregivers, regardless of family relationship, and to cover workers in smaller businesses

  •  Providing paid leave to permit working caregivers to care for an ill child, spouse, or parent or to accompany family members to routine medical appointments

  •  Requiring employers to provide workers with a reasonable number of paid sick days to care for themselves or a loved one

Another way to address FRD might be to enact legislation to promote a federal “right to request” law. Such laws, already in place in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, require employers to set up a process to negotiate workplace flexibility and allow employers to turn down flexible work arrangement requests only for certain business reasons.

Again, special thanks to AARP Public Policy Institute for outstanding research.

Next Post — Modeling State Statutory Langauge

Reference: AARP Public Policy Institute

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