Wage and Overtime Protection Proposed for Home Care Workers

As the U.S. population ages, and the senior demographic expected to double in the next 20 years, home caregivers are going to be an increasingly invaluable resource to help the elderly age at home.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama, along with a, Department of Labor and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, announced plans to update the laws to extend minimum wage and overtime coverage for home health-care service providers. Currently, home care workers are exempt from the 1974 minimum wage law and are classified as “companions” even though 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.

“The care provided by in-home workers is crucial to the quality of life for many families,” Solis said. And President Obama stated that, “Today’s action will ensure that these men and women get paid fairly for a service that a growing number of older Americans couldn’t live without.”

Industry figures show that while the majority of home care aides employed by Senior Home Care Agencies are paid above federal minimum wage, many do not get paid overtime for a longer than 40-hour work week.

States’ regulations vary in their minimum wage and overtime provisions. Only 22 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. According to the administration, this initiative would “level the playing field” and ensure that home care that exceeds “companionship” would have the same legislative protection as other healthcare professions.

In my Labor Day blog post, I outlined the protective legislation challenges faced by home care workers. And while no one doubts the need for these professional in-home services, many question whether this proposed legislation will benefit the home health aide or the elderly client.

So tell us what you think. Is this a good move by the Obama administration to improve the quality of life for many home health care workers, even if it means higher costs for the aged and infirm? Or do you believe that this will be a detriment to in-home workers, forcing agencies to schedule maximum 8-hour shifts, eliminating full day-rates in order to prevent any overtime charges? And if you are an agency owner, are you afraid this regulation has the potential to drive an underground unskilled and unvetted workforce that a family would be forced to hire in order to save costs? Do you now pay overtime in order to keep a better-skilled workforce?

There will be a 60-day public comment period and the new rules may take effect early next year, so now is the time to make your voices heard.


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Comments (1) -

  • Kim Jackson

    1/2/2012 7:53:40 PM | Reply

    I am against this legislation. People that require more than eight hours of care per day will be charged higher rates to cover the overtime charges.  This will make the care even more unaffordable.  Agencies that provide home care will divide the hours between multiple workers so that the overtime pay will be avoided.  In the end, this will hurt caregivers who work more than 40 hours per week.

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