If you employ a home care worker either for yourself or to help care for a family member, you understand first hand just how vital their services are to maintaining quality of life. The value of these hard-working professionals is hard to measure in only dollars and cents, but ensuring that they are fairly compensated is one way to show sincere appreciation.
In addition, though many people don’t realize it, there are federal laws that protect home care workers. As a potential employer of a home care worker, it’s important to educate yourself about these rules and make sure that you are in compliance with them.
What are the laws?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most workers in the United States are due minimum wage and overtime pay protection. The U.S. Department of Labor recently updated the FLSA to cover home care workers, including providers who assist seniors and people with disabilities with:
- fellowship and protection
- personal care (including bathing, dressing, cooking, and housework)
- health-related services such as administering medication, etc.
How much should you pay?
Under the Department of Labor’s “Home Care Final Rule” addition to the FLSA, people who employ home care workers are responsible for paying these employees the federal minimum wage and also paying overtime wages at one and a half times the worker’s regular rate of pay for each hour worked over forty hours per week.
In addition, the Home Care Final Rule stipulates that employers must maintain basic employment records including the employee’s name, social security number, home address, hours worked, and wages paid.
Get the details
The Department of Labor has published a guide to help consumers and their families understand the new laws. Paying Minimum Wage and Overtime to Home Care Workers provides details about the requirements and exemptions associated with various scenarios (hiring a worker directly, hiring through an agency, paying family members for care, paying live-in vs. visiting caregivers), but the bottom line is that if you are considered to be the employer of a home care worker, you are ultimately responsible for compliance with the Home Care Final Rule.
You, as either the person receiving care or a family member or consumer helping to manage such services, must ensure that your home care worker is paid the federal minimum wage and receives overtime pay when:
- You hire a home care worker directly without going through an agency. For the purposes of the FLSA, you are considered an employer if you set the worker’s schedule, direct his or her activities, and have the ability to hire and fire that person.
- You hire a home care worker through an agency. In this case, you and the agency are providing “joint employment.” Although the home care worker will most likely be paid by the agency, both you and the agency are responsible for compliance with FLSA.
- You self-direct services provided by a state agency or other non-profit organization. This is another case of joint employment in which you are responsible to pay the minimum wage and overtime.
There are some limited exemptions to the minimum wage and overtime requirements. If your home care worker spends the majority of his or her time providing fellowship and protection services (such as simply keeping someone company, playing games, or engaging in hobby activities), you may be eligible for the “companionship services exemption.”
Under this exemption, you – as a consumer or family member helping a consumer manage services – are not required to pay the minimum wage or overtime as long as your home care worker:
- Spends no more than 20% of his or her total working time per week on personal care (bathing, dressing, grooming, cooking, cleaning, etc.)
- Does not perform any medically related tasks (such as tube feeding or catheter care)
- Does not perform any general household work (laundry, cooking, etc.) that is mostly for members of the household other than the senior or person with disabilities
It is a narrow exemption, but one worth exploring if you think it may be applicable to your situation.
You can learn more about that scenario and others and also get access to additional references and details about record-keeping requirements in the Department of Labor’s Paying Minimum Wage and Overtime to Home Care Workers guide, on their website (www.dol.gov/homecare), or by calling 866-487-9243.
Did you know that if you take care of a family member so he or she can stay at home, you may be able to get compensated? Click here to watch our video – you may be surprised.