Caring for caregivers 

Globally, 71% of the workers have responsibilities to care for others, according to our Health on Demand 2023 research. Thinking about the distinct needs of caregivers is critical for employers that want to look after the health and happiness of their employees.

In fact, the same research shows that the generations with the highest percentage of working caregivers are millennials (78%) and Gen Xers (74%). This means many of an organization’s current and future leaders have caring responsibilities. To retain business-critical experience and talent, organizations should look to support the caregivers among them.

However, when designing programs, it’s essential to recognize that caregivers are not just looking after small children. Workers have a range of responsibilities for their broader family — such as caring for an elderly relative, a spouse or a friend. These responsibilities extend beyond financial support, food and housing to providing support in daily life through home maintenance, shopping, attending appointments and managing finances.

These types of dependants and support do not fall under a traditional government or insurance definition of “dependent” — thus, the societal and organizational systems in place provide limited timely or effective support. However, these dependants still require many workforce members’ care, time, money and resources. Such responsibilities can tax a caregiver’s own well-being, but organizations have the power to help.  

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On average, 71% of global respondents noted that medical expenses have caused financial hardship for them or their family this past year, specifically 76% among Asian respondents, 49% in Canada, 67% among European respondents, 79% in Latin America, 87% among United Arab Emirates respondents, 51% in the United Kingdom and 61% of respondents from the United States.

Rising stress in the workplace

During the COVID-19 pandemic, awareness of caregiver needs came to the fore, and employers responded with a greater focus on flexible working, digital health and family benefits. Now, employers have an opportunity to build on that momentum and further support this broad and critical group of employees.

However, there are significant pain points among caregiving employees that businesses need to be aware of and tackle. For instance, Health on Demand research shows that caregivers are twice as likely as non-caregivers to say that medical expenses have caused them financial hardship over the past year (36% versus 18%). This finding may explain why caregivers are also more likely to be stressed in everyday life (48% versus 42%) and to have worked while being physically (60% versus 55%) or mentally (53% versus 47%) unwell.

At work, a lack of flexibility with their schedule or location was cited in the report by one in three caregivers (32%) as having the potential to cause burnout. Employers considering pulling back on the flexibilities afforded to employees during the pandemic should consider the impact this might have on this substantial and crucial group of workers.


Caregivers are more likely to say medical expenses have caused financial hardship for them and their family (versus 18% non-caregivers)


Caregivers are more likely to have worked while feeling mentally unwell in the past year (versus 47% non-caregivers)


Say the social supports and relationships they have at work enhance their well-being (versus 58% non-caregivers)

Benefits work

The good news is that caregivers value the support they get from employers and trust them to look after their medical well-being. Over half (55%) said: “I trust my employer to deliver personal health solutions,” compared to 45% of non-caregivers.

Caregivers are also significantly more likely to believe their employer cares about their health and well-being (69% of caregivers agree that their employer cares about their health and well-being vs. 59% of non-caregivers). When asked about their employer-provided benefits, 75% employees with caring responsibilities were more likely to say that they understood their benefits well (compared with 66% of non-caregivers), and these caregivers are less likely to leave their employer because of the benefits they receive (54% caregivers vs. 39% of non-caregivers).

Employers wanting to keep this trust should deliver comprehensive benefits that meet caregivers’ needs and address the issues they’ve identified.

A short list of solutions that caregivers cited as helpful to them and their families


Preventive cancer screenings


An app to find medical care when and where I need it, even in the middle of the night


Apps and devices to help self-manage health conditions


Targeted services for children, teenagers and parents to assist with mental health, socialization and learning issues faced by youth 


Apps and devices to self-manage well-being

Source: Mercer Marsh Benefits. Health on Demand 2023.

Actions to consider: How to succeed

Employers should continue to build on the momentum made during the pandemic by looking for ways to provide the benefits that caregivers value — like time-saving solutions, digital health benefits, greater flexibility and mechanisms for stress management.

At the top of the list should be flexible working arrangements such as flextime, alternative shifts, compressed workweeks, reduced schedules and job sharing. Employers that require an on-site presence at the workplace can consider offering employees subsidized transportation and parking or compensation for commute time. 

Other actions to consider include:

  • Ensuring adequate flexibility away from work through formal leave policies
    But not overlooking a return to work post-leave as a source of potential stress.
  • Reviewing caregiving-specific benefits
    Including subsidies for child/adult care, navigation support, digital health solutions for children and benefits eligibility for extended family members, such as parents. One way to allow for flexibility in broadening benefits is to offer a spending account powered by benefits technology.
  • Looking for opportunities to provide advantages to dependants
    Although it may not be financially feasible to offer benefits to extended family members like parents, you may be able to provide support through such methods as negotiated discounts, voluntary benefits or health evaluations under broader well-being programs. 
  • Checking benefits adequacy for specialized benefits
    Such as home renovations, assistive technology and developmental assessments.
  • Establishing social networks and focus groups that support caregivers.
  • Evaluating how you can support parents of children with developmental needs
    And/or neurodiversity (including ADHD and autism).
  • Providing access to services that can help caregivers save time and money
    Such as grocery or medication delivery.

An important opportunity to make a real difference

Caregivers are a large and hugely important group within the workforce. They generally feel supported by their workplaces, but employers could be doing more.

The research shows that caregivers are stressed, and that firms can help alleviate this by providing health benefits to caregivers’ extended families, such as parents and children; offering more flexibility over work locations and schedules; and implementing digital health solutions that can be accessed anytime and anywhere.

If employers do this, they can make a real difference to these employees, improve retention, become a workplace of choice — and ultimately win the competition for talent.

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