Florida Caregiver Wages

There has been an abundance of press lately regarding the Federal and State Minimum Wage Standards and how they reflect in life quality for low-income employees. The current national minimum wage is $7.25; however, this is not superseded with the state minimum wage which is now $8.05. How does this reflect quality healthcare — specifically in the home care modality?

According to The National Private Duty Bench Mark Study, the average hourly rate for a Florida Caregiver: Home Health Aide is $9.00–9.50 an hour and for a Certified Nursing Assistant it is $10.00–10.50 per hour. South Florida Home Care, fortunately, pays more than this.

Customarily, Home Health Agencies charge anywhere from 15.00 to 20.00 an houry are licensed and I have seen care priced as low as $13.00 an hour for Nurse Registries. Looking at it in raw number the profit margin seems huge for Home Health Agencies, and everyone knows that being “middled” is not a good feeling. So, what are you paying for when it seems there is an extensive markup?

For starters, you are not paying Employer Tax or Workers Compensation Insurance, as you would eventually have to if you were hiring someone privately. Many people try to hide under the guise of being independent contractors, but if we are taking an honest appraisal, home care workers function as employees — not contractors. They can not come and go as they please — it is up to the consumer to decide hours. They also have to follow a care plan, which is considered direct supervision, another provision that disqualifies someone to be considered an independent contractor. There are scores of literature disputing the differences between Registries vs. Agencies, but that is not what this article is about.

This article is about is the expectations that employers and employees have on what is reasonable wage. As a Home Health Owner I have employees that I would love to pay six figure salaries to provide the amount of love and compassion that they give to our clients. Unfortunately, though, that is simply not feasible, as I can not charge what they are worth and maintain the costs of being an employer and be able to provide appropriate supervision and oversight for each individual case.

So the question really is, what is a fair wage for a caregiver? The Federal Government says $7.25, the State of Florida states $8.06, and the Benchmarking Study states anywhere between $9.50 and $10.50. The Florida Weekly released an article last week about liveable wages and “The Working Poor.” The article speaks in depth about calculation developed by MIT called “The Living Wage Calculator.” The calculator defines the concept of what a living wage is; the amount of funds it takes to have basic needs met with no public assistance or extras. The dollar amount is location specific. In Palm Beach County, the MIT Calculator found the living wage to be $11.81 per hour for a single adult with no children and $21.22 per hour for a single adult with one child.

There is, however, a silver lining. Home Care Workers are not capped at forty hours per week. These employees are considered “domestic household workers” and are exempt from overtime regulations under the Companionship Exemption. This is unlike virtually any other profession. Employment of Home Care Workers would be impossible if you could only staff them at a max of forty hours a week, as overtime would be impossible to accomplish, leaving many cases at a financial loss. More often than not, caregivers love working more hours rather than less — usually seeking around fifty or sixty. The nature of their job usually includes a great deal of down time, as well, since Seniors spend a lot of time resting. An aide’s primary responsibility is to ensure safety. The act of providing personal care usually encompasses twenty five percent or less of the amount of time they are actually in the home.

Are caregivers, then, not given a fair wage? To answer this question fairly there are too many variables to consider. I will say, however, that in the LTC Continuum, to responsibly provide care within legal and ethical parameters, and for the agency to make an appropriate profit margin — yes, they are paid for fairly. For what is a fair wage value, really? It is what someone agrees to do for an hourly wage or rate. At South Florida Home Care we incentivize in different ways than just an hourly wage. We also use bonuses based on an employee’s profitability, their ability to pick up shift work that comes in unexpectedly and their level of customer satisfaction.

Originally published at www.southfloridahomecare.com on March 16, 2015.

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