Domestic workers are a vulnerable population who have minimum protections under the law. Though protections have been extended to many workers during the COVID-19 crisis, protections are not permanent and employees may only be covered for 10 days of paid leave. Many domestic workers fall through the cracks and are unable to sustain themselves. For domestic employers, there is a safety net to access, but for domestic workers, employers are their safety net. Hand in Hand thanks their members for a continued commitment to protecting the person they employ as they support us.
NOTE: The information we provide below does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or tax advice.
What are the benefits that the person you employ can access?
Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is available to nannies and cleaners regardless of status, whether they are part-time or full-time. Home health aides may be excluded.
- Under Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, employers are required to provide sick leave pay to workers who are not working because they are quarantined for themselves or family members; are following the stay at home order or quarantined under specific circumstances; or caring for a child if the school or childcare has closed due to COVID-19. They can be paid sick leave for up to 80 hours. They should be paid at their regular rate if they are sick themselves or ⅔ rate to care for a family member or if their child’s school or child care has closed. There is no minimum work requirement.
- Under Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, employers are required to provide paid family and medical leave, if the workers’ child’s school has closed or they cannot access childcare due to COVID-19. This leave is not permitted if the worker is sick themselves. They are allowed up up to 12 weeks (first two weeks are unpaid), and payment should be at ⅔ the pay rate. To be eligible, the person you employ must have been employed for at least 30 days.
Employers must pay for these provisions up front. Please contact your accountant to ask if you qualify for a tax credit. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption from the requirement to provide paid leave due to school closings or the unavailability of child care if the leave payments would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. Provisions until: Dec. 31, 2020. The law does not apply to employers with more than 500 employees.
CARES Act (Unemployment Benefits): Available to all domestic workers who are part- time or full-time, have work authorization and are eligible for unemployment benefits, including having worked two quarters. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) may be available for those who have worked for a shorter time. The CARES Act provides expanded protection for unemployment insurance recipients. This includes PUA for those who usually would not qualify for unemployment, an additional $600 per week on top of regular benefits (available until July 31, 2020) and an additional 13 weeks of benefits, beyond the regular 26 weeks already provided, for a total of 39 weeks of coverage.
NYS State Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Disability Benefits (DB): All domestic workers can either be part-time or full-time to access unpaid sick days for themself or to take care of a family member during the quarantine period. They must work for 40 hours or more to be eligible for PFL and DB, though employers of part-time domestic workers can choose to provide coverage. Compensation for the duration of their quarantine is provided through your existing PFL and DB policy up to $2,884.62 per week, up to 10 weeks for PFL and 26 weeks for DB. Domestic employers must provide guaranteed job protection for the duration of the quarantine order. Eligibility is regardless of status. Documentation is required for benefits to be accessed. For more information go to this site.
Workers who are eligible for FFCRA leave are not eligible for NYS emergency benefits (unless the NYS benefits go beyond what federal law provides). In most cases, domestic workers are going to be eligible for federal benefits instead of state benefits (except those who aren’t eligible for federal benefits, like those who work for agencies with more than 500 employees or home health care providers or have a longer quarantine period of 10 days).
Paid Safe and Sick Leave Days: Employers must provide two days of paid safe and sick leave to domestic workers who provide services directly to a family or household, after one year of employment, who have worked a minimum of 80 hours. Protections are provided for part-time and full time employees, to all domestic workers regardless of status. Employers may choose to be more generous.
Days of rest: Under the New York Domestic Worker Bill of Rights employers must provide three days of paid rest after one year of working for the same employer. Protections are provided for part-time and full time employees, to all domestic workers regardless of status. Employers may choose to be more generous.
Economic Impact Payment: Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment from the Federal government of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child. You can provide this link to the domestic worker you employ to find the status of her stimulus check or to update their bank information, go to this site.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How do I know I’m being a Fair Care employer during the COVID-19 crisis?
To make sure you are taking the right steps follow this COVID-19 Employer Checklist:
- Read the Hand in Hand’s toolkit NY How to be a Fair Care employer during the COVID-19 & FAQs on COVID-19 benefits.
- Sign the Employer Pledge to commit to pay the worker you employ during the crisis, especially if your budget has not been affected. Support the worker in a way that is meaningful to both of you.
- Have the necessary conversations to be clear about expectations
- Develop contingency plans to anticipate new situations: someone falling sick in your family or in your employee’s family. How will you get medical supplies, groceries, etc.?
- Have regular check-ins: You communicate via text message, video call, or phone call. Make sure the worker you employ knows you are there for them.
- Start paying on the books. Paying on the books allows to government benefits for both employers and workers
- If you are a housecleaner employer, sign up for Alia to cover paid sick leave now and beyond the crisis!
- Become a member of Hand in Hand ($36 or more per year) and join our national employer network
- Pay for a NDWA membership ($60 per year) for the worker you employ, for her to be connected to a national organization for domestic workers
2. Why is it important to sign The Pledge?
By signing the Pledge we send out a message that domestic workers are safe and protected during this pandemic. This is a moment when having a strong voice of support from domestic employers is meaningful to end the invisibility of this workforce and to ensure we bring dignity to this work. We understand that due to the stress of the moment, many people simply are not thinking about taking this action. Also, not all employers can afford to commit to fully pay workers during the crisis – but if you can pay something, do and sign The Pledge!
3. Are nannies or housecleaners considered essential workers? When is it safe to have my worker to come back?
Nannies and housecleaners aren’t considered essential workers, except when they provide childcare services to essential workers. For your safety and the safety of your employee, we don’t recommend workers to come back to work in your private home until the NYS government ends the stay-at-home mandate. Read more about essential workforce guidelines in NDWA and Hand in Hand’s Memo on Executive Order 202.6.
4. What protections exist for the worker I employ if I’m paying them on the books?
If you are paying on the books, you must provide unemployment, disability and worker’s compensation insurance must be in place, regardless of status. Employee work authorization is required to access unemployment benefits and applies to both full-time and part-time workers.
4.1 Under the CARES Act workers are eligible to receive $600 in additional benefits. Unemployment benefit formula is based on the paid wages in the last four quarters. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is available for those that have worked less. Regular Unemployment Benefit amount is based on the employees high quarter wages divided by 26. The minimum PUA benefit rate is 50% of the average weekly benefit amount in New York. Under the new stimulus package, workers will be paid an additional $600 per week on top of what they would normally receive for up to four months until July 31. Once that additional federal assistance is exhausted, they will continue to receive their normal benefit amount administered by their state.
4.2 Under the Family First Response Act (FFCRA), you must pay the person you employ out of pocket when they take leave. You may be eligible for a refundable tax credit to cover the amount paid under leave. This provision covers part-time or full time domestic workers, including nannies and housecleaners but not home health care providers. You should check with your tax accountant for more information on eligibility.
4.3 Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, workers may take up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if they or a family member are quarantined or to take care of a child if the school is closed or childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19. They may also access this protection if they are unable to work due to the stay-at-home order (NYS Executive Order 202.6). Domestic workers get full pay rate if leave is because the worker is sick themselves and ⅔ the pay rate if they care for another person for their sick leave
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act applies in addition to any form of paid or unpaid leave provided by an employer or law. An employer may not require employer-provided paid leave to run concurrently with—that is, cover the same hours as—paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
Domestic workers also have access to Emergency Family and Medical Leave for a school closing or lack of child care due to COVID-19. Provision is up to 12 weeks with the first two weeks being unpaid. The employer can allow the worker to use agreed upon paid time off, for the first two weeks or run concurrently thereafter with the paid Emergency Family and Medical Leave.
If the employee is using paid leave under the employer’s plan, the employer must pay the employee’s full pay during the leave until the employee has exhausted available paid leave under the employer’s plan—including vacation and/or personal leave (typically not sick or medical leave). After leave is under the employer’s policy is exhausted domestic workers are eligible for ⅔ rate of pay. The employer may only obtain tax credits for wages paid at 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to the daily and aggregate limits in the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act ($200 per day or $10,000 in total).
An employee can exhaust their days of rest and paid sick time under NYC and NYS laws and still be eligible to take paid sick time under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act or NYS Paid Family Leave and Disability Benefits.
4.4 COVID-19 NYS Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Disability Benefits (DB) is insurance coverage that provides up to 60% of an employee’s pay, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $840.70. After receiving full PFL benefit, employees can receive DB to match their full wages up to a maximum weekly disability benefit of $2,043.92, for a total of $2,884.62 per week. PFL benefits are up to 10 weeks and DB benefits are for up to 26 weeks. There is no waiting period for either benefit. Domestic workers can apply for COVID-19 NYS PFL and DB regardless of immigration status and can be accessed to pay the person you employ if they or their family member is under quarantine. Domestic workers must work 40 hours to be eligible. Documentation needs to be submitted to your policy carrier. For more instruction visit NYS Covid-19 PFL and DB .
4.5 Economic Impact Payment: Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child. You can provide this link to the domestic worker you employ to find the status of their stimulus check or to update their bank information.
5. If I’m paying off the books, what are the protections my employee can access?
If you are paying off the books, the person you employ is eligible to access benefits, however, the employer will be contacted by the agency in which they are accessing benefits. Employers will be subject to paying back taxes. If you prefer to pay off the books consider paying the domestic worker so they can earn some financial relief without filing.
For your own financial security, you may be eligible for Family Medical Leave or a dollar for dollar tax-credit if you are self-employed under the FFCRA. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. We encourage you to take advantage of these benefits for yourself. Remember there is a safety net for you but you are the only safety net for the person you employ.
Consider paying on the books. Have a conversation with the person you employ and explore options to either pay unemployment, disability or workers’ compensation insurance or pay their income at a lower rate. You may have to pay back taxes, go through an audit and pay fines, but many payroll companies are waiving fees at this time. This might be the moment to start paying on the books to avoid a further impact on your worker.
6. I’m unable to keep paying full wages, what can I do to support the person I employ?
- Keep paying the person you employ as long as you can even if there is a partial payment.
- Share the above resources about benefits with them.
- Help them secure another job in the future. Getting the right job can take time. Provide a good recommendation letter and connect her to your network.
- Get involved in Hand in Hand’s chapter to fight for policy change: Domestic workers are excluded from most labor protections that’s why domestic employers responsibilities are so important during this time. Follow our recommendations and get involved in policy solutions. The government has an obligation to protect all workers including domestic workers.
7. I’m a housecleaner employer, what are the protections my employee can access?
Housecleaners are protected under FFCRA, federal legislation and qualify for Paid Sick Leave as well as Expanded FMLA (see Q 4). Many of them do not qualify for much benefits and depend on multiple employers to get paid. We recommend you:
- Consider paying your housecleaner at a regular rate.
- Donate part of your stimulus check or issue them a generous bonus during this time.
8. What can I do if my employee gets sick?
If the person you employ gets sick in your home they are eligible for Workers’ Compensation. A worker can file for workers’ compensation regardless of immigration status and must work 40 hours a week. If your worker is not eligible to access these benefits you should compensate your employee. Under COVID-19 NYS Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Disability Benefits (DB) they are eligible for benefits if they work 40 hours a week. A policy must be in place. For documentation, the worker needs to be eligible for an order, but can apply for benefits first (using medical documentation) and submit the order later.
Domestic employers who have Unemployment Insurance are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) which provides benefits at half the rate of regular unemployment insurance plus $600. PAU covers unemployment for COVID-19 reasons including being sick. See Question 4.
In NYC domestic workers are eligible for 2 paid safe and sick leave after one year of working with the same employer for a minimum of 80 hours a year. Under NYS, employers must provide 3 days paid rest to their employees. No documentation is needed for either benefits. Eligibility is for part-time and full time workers, regardless of immigration status. If city and state days have been exhausted Hand in Hand encourages Fair Care employers follow COVID-19 Employer Checklist.
9. What protections can home health home care workers access?
Home care workers are eligible for COVID-19 PFL and DB. Agency home care workers may be eligible for Paid NYS Sick Leave depending on the number of employees the agency has. Agency home care workers are eligible for 40 hour of NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave. Private home care workers are eligible for 2 NYC paid safe and sick leave and 3 NYS days paid rest.
10. What medical coverage can a domestic worker access?
Medical Coverage: If your paid care worker does not have a doctor or health insurance, they can visit an NYC Health + Hospitals facility here or go to a Federally Qualified Health Center here. Calling 311 is another option.
- Provides services regardless of ability to pay
- Staff will not ask about immigration status
- Receiving health care is not a public benefit identified by the public charge test
- Strict laws protect patient confidentiality
11. What happens if my nanny or housecleaner needs to take care of their child because school is closed or someone in her home who is quarantined?
Under FFCRA you must pay the person you employ out of pocket. This provision covers part-time or full time domestic workers, including cleaners or housekeepers but not home care workers. Domestic workers may take up to 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave to take care of a child if the school is closed or childcare is unavailable because of COVID-19 reasons. Domestic Workers can also access Emergency Family and Medical Leave for a school closing or lack of child care due to COVID-19. Provision is up to 12 weeks with the first two weeks being unpaid (the employer can allow the worker to use agreed upon paid time off if they wish during the first two weeks of Emergency Family and Medical Leave). Documentation must be provided. Employers may be eligible for a refundable tax credit to cover the amount paid in undercover paid leave. Talk to your accountant for tax credit advice.
Additionally in NYC agency home care workers are eligible for 40 hours of paid safe and sick leave to be taken for this reason. Private home care workers can take 2 paid safe and sick leave days and 3 days paid rest.
12. What happens if my nanny does not qualify for NYS Paid Family Leave?
If you don’t have a policy in place and your nanny, housekeeper or home care worker does not qualify because she works less than 40 hours a week, domestic workers are eligible for protections under FFCRA. Please see question 4 for more information on eligibility.
Additionally by NYC law domestic workers are entitled to 2 days of paid safe and sick leave after one year of working with the same employer. Under NYS, employers must provide 3 days paid rest to their employees after one year of work. Employers should provide fair benefits for paid time off and sick leave. See our Employer Checklist.
The person you employ may qualify Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers being out of work due to COVID-19. Domestic workers must have work authorization to access this benefit.
Pay your nanny for as long as you can. You may also be eligible for protection under the FFCRA, the CARES Act, or New York State Paid Sick Leave. These provisions can potentially assist you with your income to be able to continue to assist your domestic worker. See Question 4.
13, Are domestic employers small businesses?
Some employers have created an LLC which qualifies them as a small business, but if you have not, you aren’t classified as a small business. The FFCRA provides small business employers with tax credits to cover certain costs of providing employees with required paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19, from April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. FFCRA also states that it covers everyone under the Federal Labor and Standard Act, which covers domestic workers. Talk to your tax accountant to confirm eligibility for tax credits. For more information visit the IRS frequently asked questions.
14. Is furloughing a good idea for my nanny and job security?
Furloughing a worker is a temporary unpaid leave in which the worker has job security. When a person is furloughed, they can’t work and receive pay. It’s essentially a temporary unpaid leave of absence, and you would still have an employment relationship. You can help them apply for unemployment if you furloughed the worker. After having an open conversation with the person you employ, together decide if furloughing is the best decision for both.
Laying off a worker is not temporary and does not guarantee that the worker will return.
DOL offers a benefit calculator with an estimate of how much your domestic worker would get: The maximum rate for Unemployment Benefit is $504 and the minimum is $104 a week. The CARES act provides an additional benefit of $600 a week. Under the CARES act unemployment has been expanded from 26 to 39 weeks.
For Pandemic Unemployment Assistance the benefit rate is based on recent wages. In New York, the current maximum weekly benefit rate is $504. The minimum PUA benefit rate is 50% of the average weekly benefit amount in New York. For January 27, 2020 – March 31, 2020, the minimum benefit rate is $172. For April 1, 2020 – June 30, 2020, the minimum benefit rate is $182.
Remember to document your arrangement with the person you employ. A written agreement is good for the employer and the worker.
15. If I place my nanny on furlough, how do I communicate that I’d like her to come back after the stay at home order?
Your home is your nanny’s workplace. If furloughing is a mutual agreement between you and the person you employ, a written agreement is recommended to have clear expectations since the beginning and lay out agreements in place when “reentry” after the stay-at-home mandate. Write a letter indicating what being furloughed means, why you have decided to make that decision and how the work relationship will transition. If you need assistance in working on your written agreement, reach out to Hand in Hand.
16. I lost my job, should I lay off my nanny and housecleaner?
We are sorry that you are in this situation. We urge you to access the benefits to take care of yourself and your family. With a reduced income, you will need to make decisions about your budget. Know that many domestic employers are also in your situation. We urge you to be in communication with the worker you employ, find out if they can access benefits, and provide what support you can to help them to also take care of themselves. Domestic workers are one of the most vulnerable populations even though they play such an essential role in our lives. We encourage you to do what you can to support the worker you employ.
17. I’m paying the home care worker (an essential worker). What else can I do to support them?
- Check in with the worker about their family and health.
- Provide emotional support or connect with CareTogether, an app to provide caregivers (including you as a caregiver) with support, NYU Langone or Caringkind.
- Communicate about safety precautions and provide masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies.
- Provide bonus or hazard pay to acknowledge the essential nature of their work during this pandemic
- Learn more about our campaign for universal long term home care and investment in quality home care jobs.
18. How to help the domestic worker I employ apply for unemployment if she’s off the books?
To be eligible for Unemployment Benefits an employee must have work authorization. You can pay back taxes by working with a payroll company – many of which are waiving fees – to make it easier for domestic employers. Paying your domestic worker you employ on the books is good practice for you and the employee. It provides protection for you and the person you employ in case of an emergency like COVID-19. By paying on the books, employers also are eligible to file dependent care tax credit, and use any company flexible/dependent care spending account benefits their own employer may offer.
19. What notices must I provide employees?
This section contains notices to provide domestic workers in print, but under this crisis consider sending them by email or text messages. Notices should be provided in their language if available.
- Family First Coronavirus Response Act
- NYS Paid Family Leave and Disability Benefits
- CARES Act
- Economic Impact Payment
- Unemployment Insurance Poster
- Workers’ Compensation and Disability Benefits to be obtained from your insurance carrier. Additional information specific for household employers found here.
- NYS Days Of Paid Rest
- New York City Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law
If you have additional questions, please email NYC Organizer at [email protected].