Editorial: Home Care Workers Need More Attention

The growing demand for home care workers as the American population ages is being undermined by a lack of incentive to enter the industry, particularly when it comes to compensation. 

It’s been 75 years since President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law providing federal minimum wage and overtime protection to most American workers. To celebrate the anniversary, opines Steve Edelstein, the national policy director for the Paraprofessional Health Institute (PHI), in an editorial for The Hill, it’s time to expand the Act to include home care workers.

“What better way for President Obama to mark this important anniversary than to move forward with his proposal to ensure minimum wage and overtime coverage for home care workers, one of our nation’s largest workforces?” Edelstein writes. 

The home care aide workforce is projected to grow from today’s approximately 2.5 million workers to nearly 4 million by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“…[T]he challenge we face is how to attract people into these new jobs,” says Edelstein. “The work is vital, but also difficult and often dangerous. Yet the pay is low—on average, less than $10 an hour. … Perhaps the most shocking fact about how we compensate this essential workforce is this: Home care workers are not subject to the federal minimum wage and overtime protections virtually all other workers enjoy.”

In December 2011, the Obama administration took a first step to addressing the situation, and the Department of Labor posted new proposed regulations that were open to public comment. The public largely supported home care worker inclusion under the Fair Labor Standards Act, at about 75%, but no further action has yet been taken.

“It is time for the Administration to finalize their new regulations extending minimum wage and overtime to home care workers,” Edelstein concludes. “The baby boomers are aging. There is much work to be done. Let’s get started.” 

Read the full editorial. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace 

Alyssa Gerace

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