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CBS' Employee Benefits Help Ensure Working Caregivers' Peace of Mind

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One of the most valuable employee eldercare benefits offered to working family caregivers at the mass media company CBS could be peace of mind, noted Vice President of Human Resources Specialty Services Michelle Martin.

CBS, described by industry experts as a leader in providing benefits for employees shouldering senior care responsibilities, provides the following perks to 14,000 CBS employees nationally. CBS has discovered what many others are realizing – a caregiver-friendly work environment makes good business sense:

  • Paid Time Off: Employees may take up to two weeks of paid time off for a terminally ill family member.

  • Support Through Health Advocate: CBS works with a company called Health Advocate to help employees manage insurance and deal with paperwork, including Medicare enrollment and claim issues, on behalf of aging loved ones.

  • Redefined Sick Time: CBS' policy was expanded in 2016 to allow employees to take up to eight sick days per calendar year for themselves or to care for a loved one.

  • Partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering: Also in 2016, CBS launched a partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to support employees and their families who are dealing with cancer. The program gives them access to a dedicated contact at the hospital who guides them through paperwork and appointments, as well as access to social workers for emotional support.

  • Emergency Backup Care: CBS subsidizes the bulk of fees for up to 15 days of back-up care for employees each calendar year.

"Peace of mind is the feedback about our benefits we hear most from employees, whether it's for caregiving support or from those who have accessed the Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer services," Martin said. "Our hope is to fill the gaps in support along the care continuum so employees not only have what they need to care for their loved ones, but also that peace of mind to do so without worrying about their jobs."

Martin said eldercare offerings have developed "organically" as the needs of the CBS workforce have changed and evolved. While CBS does survey its workforce about some company benefits, the most valuable input has come from casual conversations in the office and at community events. CBS participates in a variety of community outreach and fundraising activities as part of the company's philanthropic program.

"People who join these events often have personal experience with the organization, such as the Alzheimer's Association walk. They invite family members to join them. Spouses and parents feel connected to CBS and employees are proud of their company's support." It's another way CBS discovers what's important to their employees.

Martin said she has seen the stress of caregiving unfold for working family caregivers. Most of the time that stress is a perception. "The employee will say, 'I just found out my father is in the hospital and I need time off. What do I do?' Sometimes they feel badly. They often are leery about being out of the office for any length of time. I'll explain the benefits, the fact that we'll talk with their manager and that the manager often has dealt with these issues in his or her own family. In my experience, most managers want to do everything they can to support their team."

While Martin has counseled scores of CBS employees, her company's benefits recently became personal to her. "My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and now is using the CBS resources at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center program."

Key to the success of any work-life program is listening to employees and understanding their needs, Martin noted; whether it's during an elevator conversation or a more formal survey process.

Last revised: May 31, 2017

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