Health and Safety ReportVolume 17, Issue 07

On Topic

Balancing Work and Caregivingprint this article

It's 4:27 pm and Wilson, a director at a logistics company, has just logged off for the day. He needs to take care of his aging father for the next few evenings before his sister takes over duties. As he's about to head out the door, the president requests performance metrics as soon as possible. "Oh, and I need you to attend a networking reception with me tomorrow evening," he adds before leaving. Wilson sighs heavily and buries his head in his hands.

A closer look at worker-carers

Many people, like Wilson, provide care for family members or loved ones at some point in their lives. Of the 8.1 million Canadians who provide unpaid caregiving to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging need, approximately 6.1 million are also engaged in paid employment. Half of these workers are between the ages of 45-65 and are among the most experienced in the workforce.

A care gap is emerging as family sizes shrink, the population ages, the rate of disability increases, and the number of double income households are on the rise. The number of seniors requiring care is projected to double between 2012 and 2031. More responsibilities - including transportation, meal preparation, personal care, and managing finances - are being placed upon fewer shoulders.

These trends are impacting the growing number of worker-carers, who are family members and other significant people who provide care and assistance to a parent, spouse or life partner, adult child, sibling, or friend living with ongoing physical, mental, or cognitive conditions, while also working in paid employment. These worker-carers span all industries and occupations, in companies of all sizes and sectors.

For worker-carers, the strain of juggling work and caregiving responsibilities can be a challenging act of balance leading to increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, poorer physical health, and burnout. Burnout is characterized by energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from work, and reduced professional efficacy. In addition to this stress, impacts can include injuries that may occur, for example, when the caregiver is lifting or assisting a person who has mobility issues. Sometimes the overall burden is so great that worker-carers quit working altogether. Leaving the labour market impacts not only the organizations who lose skilled workers, but also the worker-carers who are left vulnerable to future economic losses and poverty.

Supporting those who support

Federal and provincial government supports are available for worker-carers, including compassionate care leaves, benefits, and caregiver tax credits. Organizations have an opportunity to provide additional security and support for worker-carers, through carer-inclusive and accommodating policies. Also known as "family-friendly workplace policies" or "work-family initiatives", these measures are deliberate organizational changes intended to reduce work-family conflict and support workers. The CSA B701-17 Carer-inclusive and accommodating organizations standard includes numerous actions employers can take.

  • Create a more supportive work environment that is responsive to the pressures facing worker-carers. Develop a policy that includes commitment to providing accommodation for worker-carers, complying with human rights requirements, and monitoring for continual improvement. Provide manager and co-worker awareness training, promote worker participation, and encourage workers to talk freely about work-life balance issues.
  • Arrange flexible work options. The ability to work from home, work part-time or compressed schedules, adjust working hours, or partake in job sharing can provide worker-carers with the time and space needed to manage their work, the well-being of their families, and their own health.
  • Provide access to support services. Include information on caregiving services, counselling, and support groups, and update employee assistance plans and benefits packages to provide direct access to these services. Ensure that all workers are aware of the services available to them.
  • Offer options for paid or unpaid leave. Life circumstances can change quickly, and leaves can serve as a vital tool to help worker-carers navigate particularly challenging periods.
  • Provide other opportunities for training. For example, provide or include worker-carers in safe lifting training, regardless of whether their paid job has that requirement.

These caregiving issues will only grow over time, with an ever-greater number of workers who must balance both work and caregiving responsibilities for loved ones with illness, chronic conditions or disability. This new caregiving landscape will continue to impact and present challenges for the employers, the worker-carers, and those that they care for.


Statistics included in this article are from Portrait of Caregivers, 2012," General Social Survey, Statistics Canada.

Partner News

World Congress on Safety and Health at Work is Coming to Torontoprint this article

Get ready to join experts and decision-makers from around the world to learn about and exchange ideas on the latest developments and innovations in workplace safety and health. On October 4-7, 2020, the XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work will come to Toronto.

With the theme of "Prevention in the Connected Age", this is a premier event for occupational health and safety leaders, policy-makers, employers and advocates to stay current with emerging challenges, innovative solutions and best practices in work-related injury and disease prevention.

The 2020 World Congress is organized by the International Labour Organization and the International Social Security Association and is co-hosted by CCOHS and the Institute for Work and Health.

To find more information, download the first program, register for the Congress or sign up for updates, go to the World Congress website.

Tips and Tools

Harassment and Bullying: What Employers Can Do print this article

Harassment and bullying have no place in the workplace.

Harassment is a form of discrimination that occurs when someone makes unwelcome remarks or jokes based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, or pardoned conviction. Bullying is usually seen as acts or verbal comments that could mentally hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. Sometimes, bullying can involve negative physical contact as well. Both harassment and bullying can involve a pattern of behaviour that demeans, annoys, alarms, or verbally abuses a person that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome.

Employers have a general duty to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of employees. The most important part of a workplace prevention program is management commitment that is best communicated in a written policy that includes a system by which employees can report their experiences of harassment and bullying.

Some general tips for employers

  • Encourage everyone at the workplace to act in a respectful and professional manner.
  • Develop a workplace policy and program that includes a reporting system.
  • Try to work out solutions before the situation gets serious or "out of control".
  • Educate everyone about what is considered harassment and bullying, and whom they can go to for help.
  • Treat all reports seriously and address them promptly and confidentially.
  • Train supervisors and managers on how to promptly deal with a situation, whether or not a formal complaint has been filed.
  • Have an impartial third party help with the resolution, if necessary.
  • Address any potential issue as soon as possible.

CCOHS Resources


Podcasts: Harassment in the Workplaceprint this article

This month's feature podcast is Harassment in the Workplace. Also listen to Summer Safety Tips, for advice for working and playing in the heat.

Feature Podcast: Harassment in the Workplace

Gossip, intimidation, and offensive behaviour. These are just a few examples of harassment. Do they exist in your workplace? Are you or a co-worker the victim? Listen to this interview with Jan Chappel, Senior Technical Specialist at CCOHS, and discover tips and advice as you learn more about harassment in the workplace.

The podcast runs 7:32 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

Encore Podcast: Summer Safety Tips

Warm and sunny summer months mean more time being spent outdoors. And whether you work or play in the great outdoors, you are at greater risk of illness and injury resulting from excessive sun exposure and extreme heat. In this podcast CCOHS provides steps you can take to make your summer safe and injury free.

The podcast runs 4:59 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!

See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode. Listen on Spotify.

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