The U.S. has more than 2 million home care workers, and yet this important sector of the labor force has never been covered under minimum wage and overtime laws. However, under new federal regulations announced this week by the Obama administration, that will change in January of 2015.
The new rules will apply to home aides who take care of the elderly or people with disabilities, helping them with daily tasks like dressing, eating and taking medications.
Home care workers have long been lumped into a labor category along with babysitters, where they are exempt from federal wage and overtime rules. A good number of those workers earn more than the federal minimum wage, yet they don’t receive overtime pay – and this can be a burdensome situation since they often find themselves in time-intensive care scenarios where they spend nights and weekends with those they assist. Yet after a decades-long fight by labor advocates and Wage and Overtime Attorneys, they will finally be covered by those regulations and protections when the rules go into effect at the beginning of 2015.
Steve Edelstein, the national policy director of PHI (a non-profit that works to improve the lives of people who need home or residential care by improving the lives of the workers who provide that care), applauds the new regulations. He told NPR’s Wendy Kaufman that “if we are really serious about helping elders and people with disabilities live in their homes and in their communities and live as independently as possible, we really need to focus on this workforce and have policies that help to support them to do this work.”
Home Instead, a corporation with a lot of political muscle in Washington DC – and one of the largest employers of home care workers – argues that the new rules will increase the cost for families who pay for care. Yet employment attorneys point out that care SHOULD cost most if the employee is required to work additional hours. Wouldn’t any other arrangement be a simple case of labor exploitation and wage theft?