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Minimum wages and OT mandated for home health workers
Last Tuesday, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division approved the final rule expanding the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime protections to home health care workers. Two million direct care workers, home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants will be affected by this change, a group whose work falls under "domestic services" and whose federal labor laws haven't been updated in 38 years.
Direct care workers remain one of the lowest-paid sectors of the service sector, and so improving their training, as well as the quality of the care provided by these workers, was becoming increasingly difficult.
Effective January 1, 2015, the exemptions to minimum wage for those who simply provide "companionship services" now can only be claimed by individuals, and no longer by staffing agencies. Those workers are defined as individuals who are hired primarily for companionship, protection, and basic care needs by an elderly individual or their family, now excluding any direct care workers who provide services that require medical training.
The overtime pay protections can substantially raise the salaries of these workers, who often work long hours to care for people needing independent, round-the-clock care. Medicare and Medicaid costs are expected to increase by under three-tenths of 1% of what federal and state governments spend on the program.
The final rule, according to the Department of Labor, reflects the trend that more elderly wish to have their medical care provided at home instead of a nursing or long-term care facility, and increasingly rely on home care professionals with medical training.
Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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