As more and more senior are opting to "age in place", the direct hiring of senior caregivers are being sought out by family members. Families have questions about minimum wage, overtime and questions about what constitutes payable hours during the care day. Often, they are not aware of the tax obligations of employing a household employee.
Senior Home Care Minimum Wage and Overtime
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies minimum wage and overtime protections to household or domestic service workers, including in-home senior caregivers. There are some exceptions:
Live-in Domestics: Domestic service workers who reside with their employers are exempt under the FLSA from overtime premiums. (State rules vary - this is not universal!) The live-in senior caregiver must be paid for all hours on duty, however, they are not entitled under Federal law to the "time and one half" premium.
Companionship Exemption: Bona fide companions are exempt from both minimum wage and overtime in the FLSA, yet they remain employees subject to Social Security and Medicare taxation. The FLSA defines companionship services as "services which provide fellowship, care, and protection for a person who, because of advanced age or physical or mental infirmity, cannot care for his or her own needs." These services may include help with bathing, dressing, eating, etc. Some general household work may be performed but must be "incidental" - meaning no more than 20% of the caregiver's time may be spent in general household work for the exemption to apply. Where the 20% limitation is exceed the employee must be paid overtime. Again, state rules vary and not all recognize the companionship exemption.
In these cases, individuals may negotiate compensation at their own discretion, understanding that fair and reasonable compensation is the best guarantee of low turnover and employee dedication to the work.
Senior Home Care Workers and Sleep Time
Many senior caregivers provide around the clock care for several days at a time. These caregivers typically do sleep when care is not actively required, such as when the senior is himself sleeping. How is this time compensated?
The FLSA allows up to 8 hours of "sleep time" to be uncompensated for overnight care that is BOTH contiguous with a scheduled work day (24 hour+ shift) AND truly affords the senior caregiver a minimum of 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
US News and World Report recently noted that "by a 9-to-1 ratio, people prefer to stay in their homes as they get older rather than moving into an institution." They often become household employers as they hire individuals to help them age in place. Working out these important details with an in-home senior caregiver insures a safe and healthy situation for all.
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