The federal Department of Labor recently announced a new ruling that will give home care workers minimum wage and overtime benefits. Up until now, home care workers were not protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act that was passed to provide minimum wages and overtime benefits for workers employed over 40 hours per week. The rule did not provide these benefits to home care workers because of a “companionship exemption.” “Companions” were defined as those who provide in home services such as bathing, meal preparation, and assisting with driving and medication management for elderly and disabled individuals. Though most home care workers put in more than 40 hours on a regular work week, the average salary for the estimated 2 million professionals in this field was $20,000 in 2010.
As American longevity continues to increase, the need for home care workers is also on the rise. Federal officials recently reported that six million Americans over the age of 65 require home care services to avoid going into assisted living or nursing facilities, and they estimate that this number will double over the next 20 years. Presently, the home care industry is the fastest growing field of employment in the United States and is expected to grow by 70% over the next ten years.
Not everyone in the home care field is happy about the new ruling. Some fear that the rule will force individuals, families, and home care provider agencies to cut workers’ hours to avoid having to pay the time and a half overtime rate. Others fear that individuals receiving home care who cannot afford the higher wages will be forced to enter assisted living and nursing care facilities because Medicaid typically pays for this type of service.
After January 1, 2015, any home care worker employed full-time by an agency must receive minimum wage and overtime benefits. Individuals privately hiring a home care worker need to define specific tasks to identify whether the new ruling affects them. A home care worker is defined in two categories – companions, who are exempt from the new rule, and caregivers, who provide more hands-on duties, such as bathing and dressing. Companion care includes activities such as conversation, entertainment, sharing a meal, accompanying the individual to appointments, and providing protection by being physically present. Caregiver tasks include heavy cleaning, family meal preparation, bathing, dressing, incontinence support, maid services, and medication dispensing. When caregiver services account for more than 20% of the home care worker’s time, they must be provided with minimum wage and overtime benefits as stated in the new ruling. For live-in home care workers, the new rule states that they must receive minimum wage, but do not receive overtime pay.
Philadelphia Labor Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates Handle Wage & Hour Disputes
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