In 2015 Home Health Care Workers will be covered by Standard Wage and Overtime Labor Laws
Florida has a large graying population, many of whom require assistance in their daily living. These home health aides number to almost two million within the United States and yet they have not been protected by the federal Department of Labor Wage and Hour laws as they have been classified in a loophole known as companions, which fall into the definition of companionship services and casual babysitters. They have been exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws in many states. Home Health Aides, or Companions, is a fast growing part of our American workforce and new regulations apply soon.
Babysitters will still continue to be exempt, but on January 1, 2015 companions will be protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act regarding how they are paid. Most of these folks are already covered by the minimum wage and may even earn more, but not all. Many may work enough hours to fall into overtime laws (over 40 hours per week) but aren’t being paid overtime now. Families may need time to gear up to meeting the new law, as well as Florida Medicaid programs, and similar programs in other states. The delay in starting the law’s effective date is to allow time for the payers to prepare.
According to the NY Times, the federal government administration claims that 40% of home care aides supplement their earnings with food stamps and Medicaid and that 92% of such workers are women, “30% are black and 12% are Hispanic.”
What is a companion or home health aide? According to the new law, caregivers who are employed to assist with normal daily activities such as bathing, dressing, helping with meals, doing some minimal housekeeping, and assisting with the taking of already prescribed medicines to name some duties, are companions. These workers do not perform certified nursing or registered nursing assistance.
What could this mean to the folks receiving their care? According to Ms. Devoti of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, people will receive less care due to the higher costs. Part time workers will be sought versus full time workers. The one thing that would be harshly detrimental would be people having to seek nursing home or assisted living care when they could otherwise be at home. However, it is important to note that in the 15 current states that provide wage and hour protection there are few negative impact reports.
What if the worker lives at the home of the employer? A live-in companion or home health worker would not be covered by the overtime laws, but must be paid the federal minimum wage for all hours worked. In Florida the minimum wage is $7.79 (2013) compared to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Protection for workers is coming, as is the continued explosion of senior citizens who need assistance on a regular basis. According to msnbc, “Americans over 65 [are] set to double in the next 20 years, failing to expand protections could leave millions of workers struggling to make ends meet. The number of home health care workers is expected to reach 4 million by 2020.”
Central Florida Bizjournals.com foresees that providing 24 hours care for a dementia patient for example, will result in more than one caregiver in order to avoid paying pricey overtime at 1 1/2 times the pay for working more than 40 hours.
You can find a fact sheet on the new law on the Department of Labor website.
My central Florida family has been able to date to help other family members to stay at their homes as long as is possible. Our graying population and our home health workers should become aware of this new 2015 law.