Change Has Finally Come for Home Care Workers

Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic and Employment Policy Project

HomeCareWorker 4_1Do you or someone you know care for the elderly or disabled at home?  I do, and I suspect you probably do as well.  In fact, I have several aunts who work as personal care aides, providing vital in-home care and support for their elderly neighbors.

Unfortunately, they, along with millions of other home care workers, did not have access to basic workplace protections.  But that changed earlier this week.

What happened on September 18, 2013 and how long has this been an issue for home care workers?

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced a final change to a rule requiring millions of home care workers—such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants—to be paid minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The rule change will end a 38-year-old labor law loophole known as the “companionship exemption,” which excluded workers who provide companionship services for the elderly and disabled in their homes from the basic labor protections enjoyed by most U.S. workers.

Since President Obama’s declaration in December 2011 that it was time to end the decades-old injustice of excluding these workers from basic labor protections, NCLR has worked with a broad coalition of worker advocacy groups to end the exclusion of home care workers from wage and overtime protections.  Home care work is the fastest-growing job in the U.S., projected to grow by 71 percent between 2010 and 2020.  Twenty-one percent of home care workers are Latino.

Who can we thank for this historic breakthrough?

NCLR asks that you join us in thanking President Obama and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez for ushering in a new era of respect for home care workers and a stronger economy for all.

How do these new regulations benefit working families and the economy?

We know that when workers get paid the minimum wage and overtime, workers can afford basics necessities such as food, clothing, and rent, and when we help workers better support their families we help the economy grow.  Along with providing workers with basic labor protections, the new rules will help stabilize and strengthen the home care workforce, making it easier for people who use home care to ensure access to consistent, high-quality care from a stable and increasingly professional workforce.

When do the rules take effect and where can individuals get more information?

Given that one in five home care workers is Latino, we anticipate a lot of questions from our community about what this rule will mean for them.  Since this rule doesn’t take effect until January 1, 2015, we have more than a year to get the word out and ensure that workers and employers are prepared with accurate information.  NCLR looks forward to working with the Department of Labor to help families, other employers, and workers understand the new requirements.  In October, the Department of Labor will be hosting five public webinars, and it has created a new web portal with various fact sheets and other educational materials.  Here’s a summary of relevant tools that will help you and your family and friends understand this rule change:

NCLR thanks the thousands of people who stood with us to ensure victory for America’s nearly two million home care workers.

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