Home care workers who were looking to receive minimum wage and overtime protection may have to wait a little longer, as the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it would delay enforcing the rule for the nation’s two million personal-care aides, home-health aides, and certified nursing assistants.
The rule is effective as of Jan. 1, 2015, but the Labor Department won't enforce it until June 30, 2015. After that and until December 31, 2015, it will be at the discretion of the department to take action against employers who don’t show a good will effort to implement reforms. The rule states that home-care workers would have to receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and time and a half when they work more than 40 hours a week.
Some senior home care agencies, along with Medicaid officials among others, have put pressure on the feds to delay minimum wage and overtime pay for home care workers, concerned that higher wages would translate into higher costs for the care recipient. The fear is that if home care costs increase, seniors and the disabled might be forced into institutional (nursing home) care. They also predict that smaller companies will be forced to hire workers part-time rather than full-time because of costs, in effect, causing wage loss among home caregivers.
Nonsense, say home caregiver advocates. Some states such as California and New York have already begun to implement changes, and they have the nation’s two largest Medicaid home programs. Twenty two states extend minimum wage to at least some in-home care workers, and 12 states have a minimum wage that is higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Many home care agencies pay more than minimum wage, as well as overtime to its workers, even if it means seeing a smaller profit margin than their competitors who don’t. Those home care agencies believe that paying a higher wage results in a more professional and better trained workforce.
Home care workers have been excluded from protection since 1974, when the Department of Labor extended minimum-wage, overtime-pay to workers who perform "domestic service." At that time, caregivers for the elderly were, in the eyes of the law, providing “companionship services” and thus exempt from the wage protection — just like babysitters. Of course, as the population has aged, home care workers provide much more than simple companionship. The field has evolved to include other types of duties such as providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). These duties can include tube feeding, physical therapy, taking the correct medication and getting cleaned and dressed.
Senior caregivers are quite different from childcare workers, but the minimum wage affects both equally. Have you seen this Kristen Bell Mary Poppins parody? She doesn’t get those birds for free!
Caregiverlist believes that home care workers help the elderly age in place, at home, which is where most seniors prefer to age. We think that all senior caregivers deserve to be paid a fair living wage.
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