In providing home care in California, one of the most important laws that agencies such as Support For Home must observe is Wage Order 15. This regulates “Wages, Hours and Working Conditions in the Household Occupations.” If you are a glutton for legal language, you can read the entire Wage Order 15 on-line.
The gist of Wage Order 15, relative to the provision of home care in California, is that “personal attendants” are exempt from overtime provisions. It is only with this exemption that extended hours home care can be provided to those who need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental ADLs at anything resembling “reasonable” costs.
Many elders and others dependent on Home Care Aides require 24-hour support. If “personal attendants” did not receive an exemption from overtime provisions of wage and hour law, home care would be virtually impossible for many, many folks.
Let’s look at what costs to elders would be for 24-hour care, if personal attendants were not exempt from overtime provisions. NOTE: In the numbers below, the only increase in cost is that associated with Home Care Aide wages. As a baseline, you need to know that our rates for 24-hour care usually range from $300 to $315. We can only afford those rates because of the personal attendant exemption under Wage Order 15.
Without that exemption, if the “normal” hourly rate for home care, for example is, let’s say, $23 per hour, any hours above eight (8) would have to include overtime rates for the Home Care Aide involved. That would increase the rate per hour by about 30%, to about $30 for hours 9-12 of the 24 hour shift. After 12 hours in a shift, labor law requires paying twice the normal wage rate per hour. That means the cost per hour in this scenario would go from $23 to $36.75, meaning hours 13-24 cost a total of $441. That brings the total cost (without the Wage Order 15 exemption) of the 24 hour shift to $745 — an impossible number.
Unfortunately, simply using three Home Care Aides to cover the 24 hours does not make the situation much better. A cost of $23 per hour for 24 hours is $552; still incredibly high for all but a very few clients.
So, the personal exemption is a critical component of affordable home care in California — critical to elders and disabled who need help.
That is the good that Wage Order 15 brings to home care. It allows home care agencies, including ours, to provide 24-hour care at a much lower cost to clients and families than would otherwise be the case.
Unfortunately, most home care agencies, in our opinion, abuse the application of Wage Order 15 — and thereby abuse their employees. What is going on at most home care agencies, in our reading of the law, violates Wage Order 15, and we honestly do not understand why they do it or how they get away with it.
So, what am I talking about? While Wage Order 15 exempts personal attendants from overtime provisions and schedule restrictions, it indicates that such personal attendants providing 24-hour care need to be paid for all 24 hours. That includes time taken for meals or sleeping. Basically, the argument is that if the personal attendant were not truly on duty for the full 24 hours, they would not be at the client’s home. The personal attendants would be off living their own lives, sleeping in their own homes at night. Instead, they are spending all 24 hours available to the client. They must, thus, be paid for all 24 hours in the shift.
At Support For Home, we follow this law. We wish every home care agency did. It means that our employees are paid 35% to 50% more than employees of other home care agencies with which we are familiar — and, believe me, we have looked long and hard for other agencies that pay their employees what we feel very strongly is the right wage. We have not found them.
We are proud to be paying our employees more than other agencies. We are less proud of our colleagues at other home care agencies, who we believe should be matching us.
Best wishes, Bert