Under a long-awaited labor law decision released today, those who provide direct care will receive federal minimum wage and overtime protections.
The repeal of a companionship exemption under federal labor law for the direct care workforce is seen as a “victory” for home care workers that has been two years in the making for the nation’s fastest-growing job force.
But those in the business of home care could suffer under the changes, as could those receiving the care according to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, which issued a statement following the announcement.
“Like many things that emanate from Washington, the repeal of the companionship exemption is not what it seems. While ostensibly intended to help hard working caregivers, it will have the very opposite effect,” said Andrea L. Devoti, Chairman of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. “It will mean that people will receive less care. Home care companies will have little choice but to employ workers part time rather than full time as Medicaid payment rates and consumers with limited incomes cannot afford higher costs. Caregivers will in the end receive less pay.”
Two years after President Obama pledged his “We Can’t Wait” program, the U.S. Department of Labor extend the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) announced today the final rule that will provide minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illness, injuries and disabilities.
Beginning January 1, 2015, nearly two million direct care workers will be covered under the FLSA, leading to a more a stable workforce, industry members and officials say.
“Today we are taking an important step toward guaranteeing that these professionals receive the wage protections they deserve while protecting the right of individuals to live at home,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
The final rule also clarifies that direct care workers who perform medically-related services for which training is typically a prerequisite are not companionship workers and therefore are entitled to minimum wage and overtime protections.
“Direct care workers play a critical role in ensuring access to high-quality home care that many people need in order to remain healthy and independent in their communities, and they should be compensated fairly for this important work,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “We will continue to engage with consumers, states, advocates and home care providers in the implementation of this rule to help people with disabilities, older adults and their families receive quality, person-centered services.”
There are an estimated 1.9 million direct care workers in the U.S., with nearly all currently employed by home care agencies, according to the Department of Labor. Of these care providers, approximately 90% are female, and nearly 50% are minorities.
As the home care workforce constitutes the fastest-growing job force in the nation—projected to increase 70% over the course of this current decade—America will need an estimated 4 million home care aides to meet the support needs of its aging population, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI).
“This is a tremendous victory for home care aides, a workforce earning near-poverty wages while providing vital personal care and health-realted services to America’s elders and people living with disabilities,” said the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) in a statement. “We are pleased that the Obama administration has fulfilled its promise to treat home care workers with respect and fairness.”
Written by Jason Oliva