Caregivers and employers: their different perspectives

BPCE L'Observatoire is publishing the findings of new research dedicated to caregivers at a time when 15 million French people are actively involved in providing these services. The study focuses on caregivers who are simultaneously holding down a job, and examines the issues related to reconciling caregiving with a working life.

For its first study published in 2021, BPCE L’Observatoire focused more particularly on the question of money in the caregiver/patient relationship. For this 2023 edition, the principal theme is work considering that 55% of caregivers also hold down a steady job.  
In France, almost 9 million people suffer from a disability or diminished autonomy, a figure expected to rise as the population progressively grows more elderly. The first baby-boom generations have now reached the age of 75 and, by 2030, France will have an average of 240,000 additional people aged 75 or more every year. This is undoubtedly one of the principal challenges of the decade. 
Caregivers consequently stand at the leading edge of the in-coming wave of demographic upheavals and face myriad difficulties: lack of time, cost of support, shortage of professional help, the sheer complexity of organizing assistance, etc.

Family caregivers: a huge contingent 

BPCE L’Observatoire has calculated that there currently exist 15 million caregivers in France: people providing assistance to a loved one facing difficulties in their daily life owing to health issues, disability or old age. In 61% of all cases, the person being helped is an ascendant (parent, parent-in-law, grandparent). Non-family carers account for a smaller percentage that still represents a far from negligible minority (11%). 
Nine out of ten caregivers consider that the help they provide to their loved one is important or very important, but the hourly workload is extremely unequal between caregivers who are mobilized almost continuously – frequently spouses or parents of a sick or disabled person, living in the same home – and those who provide help on a more occasional basis. 37% of caregivers feel that the person they help is very or extremely dependent on them.

The cost of help: a significant outlay

50% of caregivers included in the survey say they cover certain expenses or provide financial assistance, chiefly to pay for living expenses. For almost one third of these caregivers, the amount of assistance exceeds 250 euros per month, a sum that may represent a substantial financial burden.
The higher the caregiver’s income, the financial support provided is given at more frequent intervals and the amount involved tends to be larger. This partly explains why 49% of caregivers consider financial assistance to be largely “bearable,” even if 58% say they have not been able to undertake projects or make purchases because of these costs. 12% feel that this cost is beyond their capacity (vs. 7% in 2020 – BPCE L’Observatoire).

An impact on caregivers’ professional careers

According to BPCE L’Observatoire, around 55% of caregivers are employed or self-employed. These professionally active caregivers overwhelmingly want to continue working: employment is perceived as a source of income but it also provides access to a community, a status, a career… and it also provides a safety valve. 

55 % of caregivers pursue a professional activity

The main issue facing caregivers is the organization of work: changes to their working hours or days, emergency absences, special leave, etc. All in all, 43% of working caregivers say they have changed the way they organize their work. This rate is much higher among the self-employed (58%) than among salaried employees (36%) given that the self-employed enjoy greater freedom to set their own working hours.

Among salaried employees, women are more likely to report that they have reduced their working hours, while male caregivers are more likely to modify their schedules and to telecommute. In fact, 29% of female caregivers with salaried jobs work part-time compared with 13% of their male equivalents. Women are also more likely to have given up work to help a loved one: 80% of home carers are women, and 43% of them had to stop working because of their situation as a caregiver.

Being a caregiver can also represent a brake on career development: 44% of working carers feel that their caring role has led them to turn down opportunities, such as a promotion, a change of position or a new job offer. 

Caregivers holding down salaried jobs and their employers: the importance of maintaining a dialogue

Approximately one in three caregivers/salaried employees have informed their employer of their situation out of a concern for transparency (40%) or to preserve the relationship of trust (28%).  For 93% of them, the announcement went well, or even very well (49%). 

And yet only 36% of caregivers/salaried employees feel supported by their employer. This rather low figure deserves some qualification, however, because employers seem inclined to take greater account of the caregiver’s situation when the disabilities of the person being cared for are more severe. 70% of those who have to be absent several times a month feel this to be the case. 

Other findings highlight a form of inequality between caregivers who are also salaried employees. Those in upper socio-professional categories feel they receive greater support (43%) as do those in managerial positions (51%). In terms of income and assets, the most modest caregivers feel the least supported, unlike more affluent households. On the other hand, men feel slightly more supported than women (38% versus 33%).

Employers in very small/medium-sized businesses are often ill-informed and helpless

23% of VSE-SME managers say they are aware of their employees’ caregiving situation.

All in all, 85% of the managers of these companies say they offer at least one solution liable to meet the needs of caregivers. Most often, these are global measures available to all employees. More specialized measures – e.g., colleagues giving each other their days off; leave for caregivers, parental presence or family solidarity; dedicated training courses, meetings or information material; access to specific support services – are less frequently mentioned.

Managers prefer a case-by-case approach (52%): very few claim to have implemented a structured policy (1%), even among the largest SMEs. In 45% of cases, respondents admit that the subject of caregivers is simply not broached. The reasons for this include a lack of time, a lack of awareness of the issues involved, and a greater potential than in larger companies for these considerations to destabilize the entity’s business activities.

52 % of VSE-SME managers prefer a case-by-case approach

However, VSE-SME managers are well aware of their role in helping their employees who are also caregivers. For 89% of them, supporting employees in this situation is a way of being a committed and responsible employer. 

This awareness of the company’s societal role is fully aligned with deeper changes in society. The question of caregivers reflects a broadening of what people expect of companies, above and beyond their strict economic function, as well as a more fundamental transformation in the French people’s relationship to work.

The BPCE L’Observatoire study is based on two exclusive surveys conducted with the CSA Institute 

  • A quantitative survey of 2,009 French people aged 15 or more, and an oversample of caregivers, giving a total base of 1,671 caregivers (online survey from July 10 to 24, 2022),
  • A quantitative survey of 544 companies with 6 to 499 employees (telephone survey from October 4 to November 10, 2022), supplemented by 10 telephone interviews (individual interviews conducted in December 2022 and January 2023).
To learn more (in French only)

To learn more (in French only)

Conférence de presse – Présentation, septembre 2023


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Aidants et employeurs : regards croisés – BPCE L’Observatoire, septembre 2023