The Obama administration has proposed a new rule to extend minimum wage and overtime coverage for the nearly 2 million workers who provide home health care services for the elderly, according to a White House announcement.
The U.S. Labor Department proposal gives health care aides protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in keeping with the changing nature of domestic workers as the U.S. population continues to age, upping the demand for long-term care in homes, says the administration.
“The care provided by in-home workers is crucial to the quality of life for many families,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a statement. “The vast majority of these workers are women, many of whom serve as the primary breadwinner for their families. This proposed regulation would ensure that their work is properly classified so they receive appropriate compensation and that employers who have been treating these workers fairly are no longer at a competitive disadvantage. “
Under the current system, workers who are classified as “companions” are exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, which as originally established were meant to apply to casual babysitters and companions to the elderly and inform—not as workers whose vocation was in-home care service.
The proposed rule would expand minimum wage and overtime protections “by ensuring that all home care workers employed by third parties, like staffing agencies, will receive protections,” says the administration. “It would also ensure that those employed by families and performing skilled in-home care work, such as medically related tasks for which training is typically a prerequisite, are covered.”
In circumstances where those employed are engaged in tasks along the lines of fellowship and protection, the role is still considered “companion” and wouldn’t fall under wage protections.
Across the nation, 29 states do not include home health care workers in their minimum wage and overtime provisions, and nearly half of all home care workers work in these states, according to the White House, and the proposed regulation would provide them with new protections.
AARP recently announced its support for the proposal.
“As the population rapidly ages, the need for in-home care will only continue to grow,” said Joyce Rogers, senior vice president of AARP, in a statement. “Services in the home and community are also cost effective – on average, the Medicaid program can provide home and community-based services to three people for the cost of serving one person in a nursing home. The nation’s aging population is struggling to find and retain home care workers; ensuring coverage under the minimum wage and overtime laws for more workers can help increase the supply of workers and improve the quality of care for those in need.”
After the proposed rule is published, the Labor Department invites interested parties to submit comments at www.regulations.gov for a sixty-day period.
More information on the proposed rule can be viewed here.
Written by Alyssa Gerace