We hope that you and your community are staying healthy, informed, and connected in these times. With news of the arrival of COVID-19 coronavirus to the United States in the last few weeks, all of us at Hand in Hand are following updates closely to know the best ways to handle the situation throughout our network in various parts of the country.
If you are like us, you’re feeling something between anxiety, confusion, fear or maybe, you’re not sure what to feel about the coronavirus.
One thing we are clear about is that this is a moment that calls for us to recognize the work of care workers and domestic workers who support some of our most vulnerable populations including children, older adults and people with compromised immune systems. As Ai-jen Poo, National Domestic Workers Alliance Director, says in her New York Times Editorial, “Domestic workers have long been part of our national emergency response team. In each crisis they bear the responsibility of taking care of our homes and families… The least we can do is care for them too.”
As the only national network of domestic employers, Hand in Hand offers this short list of recommendations below to people who hire nannies, house cleaners and home attendants to support the workers in their homes.
Click here for our New York Toolkit.
Click here for our California Toolkit.
Click here for our Washington state Toolkit.
Commit to being a Fair Care employer
We may be in unknown territory with the Coronavirus, but being a fair employer remains a constant in our homes. Are you paying a fair wage? Are you communicating clearly about your flexibility at this moment? Will you encourage the worker in your home to take sick time if they need it?
Several states and cities have paid sick time protections that ensure workers can take leave and not risk losing pay. However, most states lack labor protections for domestic workers and our country does not have a robust safety net. There can be devastating consequences for a worker and their family if they have to miss a day, or several weeks of work without pay.
Regardless of the laws where you live, we urge you to:
- Provide paid sick leave for domestic workers to visit the doctor, or to stay home to care for themselves or their family members who are sick.
- Join Alia, an innovative program that allows employers to contribute to paid time off and life insurance for the domestic workers they employ.
- If you can assist in covering health care costs for the domestic worker in your home, do it!
Be extra vigilant and protect domestic workers.
Last fall, it was reported that many domestic workers headed into mandatory evacuation zones in California to go to work, because no one had informed them of the danger and the workers feared lost wages.
This time, let’s make sure to protect domestic workers. If you or your family members feel sick, we urge you to not expose workers and, instead, provide paid time off to avoid spreading illness.
For workers and your family, this is also a time to ensure you have cleaning supplies in your home in order to make sure that good handwashing can be done and the spread of germs can be kept in check in the home. Also, make sure to stock up on non-perishable food to reduce the number of trips anyone needs to make to the store.
Create a backup plan
At our workshops we often field questions about backup care. Many large employers offer backup care as a benefit and you can find out if yours does by contacting your human resources department.
This is a good time to have a conversation with the domestic worker who works in your home about what to do in the case of illness. Would she be willing to share the names of any of her contacts who she knows and trusts to see if they would be willing to be contacted by you for backup care? Did you interview any nannies or care workers who you liked but ultimately didn’t hire? You can contact them to see if they are available for backup care.
Whatever steps you are able to take, remember to keep the worker in your home in mind.
For information on best practices in New York, check out our toolkit How to be good employer during COVID-19 in NY.