Wages for home healthcare workers has been a topic of dispute for a long time running. The question has been whether a home health employee should receive minimum wage and overtime pay if they work over 40 hours a week. This seems reasonable seeing that if the aide worked in a nursing home, they would get minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In 1974 Congress exempted people providing “companionship services” from the act which today has caused over 1.5 million home health workers to be excluded. When those lawmakers made this law three decades ago they did not even consider this field because it was virtually non-existent in that time. But now the industry does exist, it is growing and wants to keep the exemption in place.
This debate occurred both during the Clinton and Bush administrations as the former proposed ending the exemption while the latter reversed that course back to the status quo. And now it’s back as the Labor Department has announced that it intends to re-examine the exemption.
While this is happening, the Direct Care Alliance (representing mostly women who provide care) is lobbying the House and Senate to extend the FLSA to home care and improve training. The industry obviously has taken a strong stance against this legislation saying “clients will have no choice but to choose nursing homes”.
Already 21 states mandate minimum wage by paid to home health workers and another 15 states require overtime payment. But the industry is still butting heads with the nurses who work for them. This is a tough problem to solve because families already struggle with the expenses involved with home care while home aides are one of the lowest paid jobs in America. Let’s all hope that the lawmakers come to successful compromise solution that fits both sides needs in the end.
 Leann Reynolds, president of Homewatch CareGivers, http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/20/a-fair-wage-for-home-care-workers/?ref=health