Caregiver Leave: What Is It and Why Should Employers Consider It?

Employee Benefits

Caregiver Leave: What Is It and Why Should Employers Consider It?

The effects of the pandemic, along with the shifts in employee needs, attitudes, and expectations, have prompted employers to rethink several aspects of their benefits strategy and organizational cultures. Of particular focus is the evolution of leave benefits in the last few years.

Prior to the pandemic, parental leave benefits were gaining popularity and some large employers invested heavily in their programs, some providing extremely generous parental leave durations. Since the onset of the pandemic, leave benefits continue to be top of mind for employees, but there is a shift in the type of leave benefits that employees need. Rather than further expansion in parental leave benefits, employers have been modifying and reducing parental leave benefits. While it is still too soon to tell, trends in the market and employer conversations with consultants at Brown & Brown Strategic Non-Medical Solutions (SNS) suggest there may be a new type of leave that may soon gain popularity and adoption: caregiver leave.

An Evolving Labor Landscape

Pandemic Fallout

The global pandemic has heavily influenced the labor market and after three years, employers are still navigating both the fallout and impact of the pandemic in all areas of work and life. When a large portion of the workforce shifted to remote work, the already thin lines between work and home life were blurred even more.

Disconnecting became more difficult than ever, and as a result, employees reported higher rates of exhaustion and burnout. In one survey by Spring Health, 76% of U.S. employees experienced burnout throughout 2020 and 2021; 44% of workers reported higher burnout rates in 2021 than in 2020.1 Burnout is more than stress. It is a set of symptoms that result from chronic and unsuccessfully managed stress, which can negatively impact employee health and productivity. Beyond feeling exhausted, employees who are burnt out may have negative feelings toward work, decreased morale, poor work performance, low concentration levels, and in some cases, may quit altogether.2

The Great Resignation

Following the onset of the pandemic, individuals’ perspectives about life and work evolved as well. Upon feeling the weight of pandemic-related stress and subsequent burnout, many individuals called it quits. In 2021, resignations reached 47 million, resulting in what many now call The Great Resignation.3 Although all demographics of employees across all industries were resigning, data now demonstrates that the largest demographic to quit was women. This is unsurprising, considering the caregiving needs that were amplified during and after the pandemic. Many women took on the role of primary caregiver, with some spending as much as 20 hours per week performing caregiving and household duties, according to a 2020 report by McKinsey & Company and the Lean In Organization.4 Furthermore, a 2022 global study by Deloitte found that the resignation rate of female employees is expected to continue rising, “with 59% of nonmanagers and 64% of middle managers saying that they plan to move on within two years”.5

With so many more potential resignations on the horizon, is burnout to blame? And if so, what can be done about it?

Evolving Employee Needs

Beyond burnout, employee needs have evolved and many have reshuffled their employment in pursuit of higher pay, opportunities for advancement, greater respect at work, flexible childcare needs, and better benefits, according to a Pew Research Center study on the top reasons for employee resignations.6 However, “better benefits” encompasses so much, that it is important to understand exactly which benefits employees are demanding most. In a 2022 survey, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) identified the top three benefits employees seek are health-related benefits, retirement savings and planning benefits, and leave benefits. Leave benefits in particular saw an increase in rank among employees’ wants and needs in 2020 and remained in the top three benefits in 2022.7

1 Jen Fisher, Nicole Nodi, Melanie Langsett, Brenna Sniderman, “The disconnect disconnect”, January 22, 2021, Deloitte Insights.
2 World Health Organization, “Burn-out an ‘occupational phenomenon’: International classification of diseases”, May 28, 2019, World Health Organization News.
3 Jennifer Liu, “Roughly 47 million people quit their jobs last year: ‘All of this is uncharted territory”, February 1, 2022, CNBC.
4 “Women in the Workplace 2020”, McKinsey & Company, LeanIn.Org, WIW
5 “Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook”, 2022, Deloitte Insights.
6 Kim Parker, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, “Majority of workers who quit a job in 2021 cite low pay, no opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected”, March 8, 2022, Pew Research Center.
7 2022 Employee Benefits Survey, Society for Human Resource Management

Employee Benefits Team