12/15/2011

Proposed Rules Will Benefit Home Healthcare Workers

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New rules proposed Dec. 15 by the U.S. Department of Labor would provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly 2 million workers who provide in-home care services for the elderly and infirmed.

Many of these workers provide critical services, such as tube feeding, wound care or assistance with physical therapy; and they deserve the protections provided under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The announcement by the White House is the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward without having to wait for Congress to act.

"The nearly 2 million in-home care workers across the country should not have to wait a moment longer for a fair wage," President Obama says. "They work hard and play by the rules, and they should see that work and responsibility rewarded. Today's action will ensure that these men and women get paid fairly for a service that a growing number of older Americans couldn't live without."

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka calls the proposal a win for consumers and the home care workforce. "The proposed rule is a long-overdue matter of basic justice for the hundreds of thousands of workers who do the vital work of providing at-home care for our nation's elderly and disabled citizens. This rule ensures home healthcare workers receive the same minimum wage and overtime protections as virtually all other working people," Trumka says. "Improved working conditions will attract new workers to this quickly growing industry while reducing turnover among existing employees. This will allow more families the choice of home-based care as a long-term care option."

Many home healthcare workers are the primary breadwinners for their families. More than 92 percent of the workers who will be affected by this rule are women; nearly 50 percent are minorities; and nearly 40 percent rely on public benefits, such as Medicaid and food stamps. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home healthcare aides earn about $21,000 a year and many lack health insurance.

More information, including the proposed rule and fact sheet, is available on the Department of Labor website. [Dan Gursky, the White House, the AFL-CIO]