Human Resource Issues: Compassionate Care Policies - A policy should be implemented to all companies in Canada.

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By Duff McCutcheon

Compassionate Care Policies: Care for Caregivers

As the population ages and more Canadians find themselves caring for dying family members, many Canadian workplaces are helping to “care for the caregivers” by implementing compassionate care leave policies that provide comfort to employees, while boosting engagement and retention at work. 

A recent survey by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRP A), in partner-ship with the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, found 59% of 692 organizations polled had formal compassionate care leave policies that recognize and accommodate employees’ family and dependent care responsibilities for providing end-of-life care to loved ones. As one respondent put it, “being there for your employees when they need it the most speaks volumes about your culture."

Business benefits

Providing compassionate care benefits is also good business practice according to the survey. A majority found there were clear business benefits to providing these policies, including increased employee engagement (61%) and retention (56%). And almost half (49%) said having a policy makes it easier for employees to return to work and re-integrate in the work team after caring for a loved one.“These numbers speak to the fact that not only do compassionate care policies help employees through very difficult times, they also make good business sense,” said HRP A CEO Bill Greenhalgh. “Providing accommodations for employees caring for family members at end of life is one of the ways to reduce caregiver stress and avoid burnout. Workers who are supported through situations like this are more loyal and are more likely to stay with the company.”

Legal implications

There are also more legal risks to failing to grant compassionate care accommodations. A recent decision by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal awarded an employee $15,000 after they had been terminated after continued absences from work to care for his terminally ill mother. The tribunal rejected the employer’s claims that the employee’s absences were having a negative effect on the performance.

Best practices

  • Avoid offering compassionate care accommodation on a case-by-case basis. A formal policy ensures the policy will be provided consistently across the organization.
  • Where possible, a compassionate care policy should include provisions for flexible work hours or work-from-home arrangements.
  • When an employee returns to work after providing compassionate care, it’s appropriate to ask if they have discussed their loss with colleagues and to provide coworkers with information about how to support a grieving co-worker (often available from local funeral directors).
  • Understand that grieving is not a linear process: Bereaved employees may still be grieving a year after returning to work.

    Source: The VOICE, Markham's Exclusive Business Magazine.  2014 Winter Issue. page 11
    Written by: Duff McCutcheon, Communications Specialist with the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) - Canada's largest HR association and the regulator of the HR profession in Ontario.

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