Caregiving costs the Canadian economy $5.5 billion in lost productivity annually, a study finds.

The Ceridian study finds 2.9 million Canadians are working caregivers and they had to take, on average, 10.4 days off over the last 12 months to manage their caregiving responsibilities.

While the majority of people say caregiving is a rewarding part of their life, there’s evidence that this responsibility is taking its toll. Respondents say the most negative drawbacks of caregiving are the fatigue (69%), stress (69%) and sadness (59%).

Read: The workplace consequences of family caregiving

The hours that caregiving demands can also have a negative effect on life outside of caregiving.

Respondents say they have difficulty getting their work done on time (44%), have had difficulty focusing at work (41%) or have had to miss work entirely (35%). Forty percent have experienced financial hardship or loss of income and alarmingly 21% report increased use of alcohol or drugs as they struggle to meet caregiving demands.

Caregiving also takes up a significant amount of time. Canadian respondents report an average of 23.4 hours spent on caregiving activities in a typical week.

Read: Caregiving’s impact on the workplace

The study notes employers could do more to support employees with caregiving responsibilities.

Only 42% say they have the support of their direct manager in their caregiving role.

And just 18% say their employer offers all four of the following support programs: paid time off, unpaid time off, the option to work from home and a flexible work schedule.

“Working caregivers represent a unique group of individuals with tremendous and often unpredictable pressures and stressors from a variety of sources,” says Estelle Morrison, vice-president of clinical and wellness services, Ceridian LifeWorks. “In fact, caregivers who work need to meet multiple and competing demands on their time, their attention and emotional reserves.”

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Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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