CNN Editorial: Mandating Overtime Pay in Home Care Hurts Caregivers and Seniors

There’s been a push in the past few months to make home care workers eligible for overtime pay under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, but the CEO of a Boston-area home care agency says that while the motive behind these proposed changes is “noble,” there are some unintended consequences that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Jim Reynolds, CEO of Caring Companion Home Care, writes in an editorial for CNN:

We can all agree that providing higher wages to home care workers would reward professional caregivers, attract more qualified people to this growing industry and improve care for the elderly and disabled. These are common goals for both caregivers and families. However, mandating that home care workers be eligible for overtime pay will have the opposite effect.

As the head of a home care agency in Massachusetts, I am required by state law to pay overtime to caregivers who are eligible. For those of us who hoped the law would result in caregivers earning more money, it is disappointing.

The reality is that many home care workers’ weekly wages would be higher if overtime pay were not required.

Why? The answer is simple: The law does not—and cannot—require families or home care agencies to employ the same caregiver once that person reaches the overtime threshold. When a caregiver has put in 40 hours during the week, employers usually switch to other workers who have not yet reached that limit, even if the first worker is available and wants to earn more money.

He then goes on to describe a scenario where a consumer is hiring a caregiver, either directly or through a home care agency, for care that wouldn’t be covered by Medicare. If that person needs more than 40 hours of “custodial” home care each week (doing chores around the house like cooking or cleaning, or helping someone bathe or dress), it’s possible to arrange with that caregiver to have him or her work overtime. 

But what happens, Reynolds asks, if the hourly rate for that caregiver goes up 50% once the 40-hour threshold has been crossed? Consumers could go from paying about $20 dollars an hour to $28—a “huge” increase, he says. 

In these cases, there would be nothing keeping the consumer from hiring a different caregiver, once the initial one has worked for 40 hours. 

“The fact is that many seniors in our country are living on limited budgets,” he says. “Any increase in home care wage for caregivers means more money flowing out of the Social Security check or retirement savings of seniors. Most families have little incentive to pay the higher rates associated with overtime work.” 

And for caregivers who have become accustomed to working perhaps 50 hours a week at the regular pay rate, the new overtime laws could limit them to only working 40, Reynolds continues. 

Read the full piece at CNN

Written by Alyssa Gerace

Alyssa Gerace

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