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The 20% Rule Redefines Home Care in 2015

Effective January 2015, the Final Rule of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will differentiate between companion care, direct care and domestic services. If a caregiver performs care-oriented duties more than 20% of his or her time, overtime rules will apply.

Under companion care, an elderly person will enjoy recreational activities such as playing cards, watching TV and sharing meals, whereas care-oriented services will be described as bathing, grooming, light housekeeping, and care coordination. At the present time, caregivers perform a combination of both kinds of tasks, but next year, their pay will be based on the types of services they provide. Moreover, household chores that are traditionally part of home care services will be added as an extra charge and no longer fall under companion care.

What does this mean for families who hire private caregivers?

The role of a caregiver who is hired from an advertisement as opposed to an agency must be clearly defined. If you are hiring a caregiver independently, it would be a good idea to document the types of tasks she will be doing and refer to the description of tasks outlined in the Fact Sheet. Here’s an example of categorization according to the Final Rule:

Care-Oriented Tasks

  • Bathing
  • Grooming
  • Meal Preparation (for patient only)

Companionship Tasks

  • Transportation for social visits
  • Play board games
  • Accompany to theatre or nail appointments

Domestic Services

  • Vacuum, dust and mop
  • Meal preparation (for the whole family)
  • Laundry

You can create your own spreadsheet that corresponds to the Fact Sheet and make sure that your caregiver has a clear understanding of your expectations before he or she agrees to work for you.

What does this mean for caregivers, nannies, and domestic contractors?

If you are working for a private client, be sure to keep track of your tasks. Ask your employer for a written copy of expectations so you have a clear understanding of what your duties will be. If English is not your first language, ask for a copy written in your native tongue or ask a friend or attorney to translate everything for you. Just as employers have to be cautious about whom they will allow into their home, contractors need to be careful about whom they work for. Create a task sheet and familiarize yourself with different responsibilities that fall under each kind of category.

What’s the point of the Final Rule concerning domestic service workers?

The Final Rule was devised to protect domestic service, home care and nanny contractors and employees against exploitation. The re-definition of tasks under three separate categories delineates the level of pay for each type of work, so that the worker gets fair wages. Tracking hours and duties for independent workers provides structure and clarity that may not be provided by a family, so it’s important to document activities in a spreadsheet or chart. The Final Rule ensures that domestic, home care and nanny workers get the pay they deserve.

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