Your next employee benefit
By STAFF: David Kirkpatrick, Michael Rogers, Patricia Sellers, H. John Steinbreder, and Daniel P. Wiener

(FORTUNE Magazine) – ''Did Uncle Ned turn off the stove?'' ''Has the doctor seen my mother yet?'' Such questions preoccupy an increasing number of American workers, affecting productivity. So elder care could soon replace child care as the hottest employee benefit. According to a survey by researchers at the University of Bridgeport's Center for the Study of Aging, 25% to 30% of workers over 40 who responded are providing some care for an elderly person. A study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that nationwide about 12% of women and 5% of men who care for elderly parents could not handle the burden on top of their jobs. They quit. Surveys by the New York Business Group on Health, a research organization, indicate that when employees care for the elderly the costs to employers range from excessive use of telephones to chronic absenteeism. Champion International, Pitney Bowes, PepsiCo, and others are responding with employee education. PepsiCo publishes a handbook and operates a hot line on elder care. Other companies -- People's Bank of Connecticut, for example -- grant flexible hours to employees, such as Lana Gerwien, below, so they can care for elderly relatives. Broader benefits are on the way. The Travelers insurance company recently introduced what may be the first insurance program for employees caring for the elderly. The group policy covers a wide range of costs, including nursing home fees. Several corporations are considering the program, but none has yet signed up.