On March 16th, Governor Tom Wolf declared a state of emergency in Pennsylvania. Many of us are anxious and scared about how the virus will impact us and our communities. While it’s hard to know what will happen, especially as new information is released hourly, we do know that this virus is exposing many of the flaws and inequities in our system, from the need for universal health care coverage to a lack of paid time off for workers.
Most domestic employers want to do the right thing when they employ someone at home. Being a fair employer means educating yourself about best employment practices, your legal obligations, and preparing your household for moments of crisis. Whether you employ a nanny, house cleaner, and/or home attendant, something you can do is take measures to protect domestic workers and care workers, a workforce excluded from basic labor protections. These measures often help us protect ourselves and our families too.
Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network has prepared this toolkit of best practices for employers to protect the workers employed at their home. We recognize that domestic employers are diverse in terms of race, class, age, ability, gender etc and have varying capacities to carry out these recommendations. We welcome your thoughts and feedback on how to improve these recommendations. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recommendations for All Domestic Employers
1. Before taking action, review this toolkit.
2. Have a conversation with the person you employ at home about Coronavirus and make necessary adjustments for this new reality. Together, set up new agreements to avoid any conflicts and impacts on their income. (Here are more tips for establishing open and respectful communication with workers in your home.) We’ve also created a blog post for how to approach difficult but necessary conversations, including conversation starters that might help you take the first step.
3. Protect your employee’s health and your household’s health. If you need your employee to come to work:
- Provide gloves, soap and hand sanitizer and give the worker an assurance that your family will sanitize your home.
- If you or a member of your household is sick, tell your worker and protect your workers’ health by not asking them to work if at all possible, or honoring their request not to work. If they do come to work, practice recommended social distancing guidelines for in the home (you can find some here), minimizing contact between the person who is sick and your employee.
- If you or members of your household have COVID-19 symptoms, get yourself and family tested if that option exists. Isolate the member of your family who is sick. Notify your employee and ask them not to come to work. If your employee is sick, give them paid time off and assist in covering health care costs if you can.
- If you are able, consider paying for a taxi or rideshare to transport the workers home who may normally rely on public transit.
4. If you can, provide extended paid sick leave. If you don’t need your worker to come to work, or if the worker becomes sick, provide them with paid sick leave. In the midst of this crisis, Hand in Hand recommends providing at least 10 days of paid time off, or more if you’re able, for your employee to visit the doctor or to stay home to care for themselves or their family members who are sick.
5. During stay-at-home orders, provide paid time off for your employees: Philadelphia has now issued a stay-at-home order. While childcare and homecare for people with disabilities and older adults may not be prohibited during shelter-in-place rules, these rules are aimed at minimizing contact and spread of the virus and should be taken very seriously. For those employers who can, we recommend offering paid time off to your employees, so that they can stay at home and continue to pay their bills. We recognize that this is not possible for many attendant employers and some nanny employers who must report for work in the medical field and other essential operations, or whose very lives depend on their workers.
6. Take action to support all Domestic Workers and our communities. See the list below for how to support new legislation that will support domestic worker’s safety and labor rights, as well as how to donate directly to a Coronavirus Care fund for workers.
7. Become a member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network! Join a national movement mobilizing people who hire nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers to bring respect and dignity to domestic workers and ensure affordability of care for our communities!
Specific Recommendations for Childcare provider, Attendant and House cleaner Employers
For employers of childcare workers/nannies
- If you are now working from home, set yourself up for success—avoid micromanaging or adding new supervision in the worker’s day. Your home is already their workplace. While you adjust to working from home, set yourself up to maintain their work structure as much as possible.
- If you are in a nanny share, consider these options:
- Be sure you and the other employing family are on the same page BEFORE talking to the childcare provider about what paid time off (PTO) already exists in your work agreement, how much PTO is left for the remainder of your agreement, and what additional PTO you’re willing and able to offer.
- Consider setting up one home for the childcare and the other home as the place where the parents work, to minimize disruption in both the children’s care and the parents’ work.
- If you are concerned about exposure to the childcare provider or from the childcare provider and have the work flexibility to do so, place the childcare provider on paid leave and have the parents take turns caring for the children.
- Here is a sample work agreement for nanny shares to create a temporary change in the agreement and offer paid time off created by one of Hand in Hand’s Bay Area members.
For employers of home attendants
- Adjust your schedule to stay at home as much as possible to avoid crowded areas to reduce your exposure and your employees’ exposure. Some ways to do this are by rescheduling or canceling non-essential appointments and getting supplies or groceries delivered.
- If you have multiple attendants and one is sick, ask the person who is not well to stay home and ask your other attendants to cover their shifts to minimize everyone’s exposure. This will also help the sick attendant get better.
- Have attendants continually wash their hands and wear gloves as much as possible to keep everyone safe. (See other health and safety tips above.)
- If family members or those that live with you are available, not in a high risk group, and able, consider checking in about whether they can fill in for sick attendants or cover your shifts so that your attendants can stay home.
For employers of house cleaners
- House cleaners are tasked with a lot, and more under the current circumstances. When you discuss sanitizing your home with them, be sure to cover the following topics:
- What to sanitize and how. See detailed guidance here.
- Prevent mixing chemicals that create a toxic environment. For example, be careful with the excessive use of bleach, and avoid mixing some chemical products with wipes that have high content of VOC or mixing ammonia and bleach.
- Provide added protections such as gloves and goggles for workers who are sanitizing homes. Masks are currently only recommended for people who are not well.
- Compensate cleaners for the added work of sanitizing a home on top of cleaning it.
- Have a flexible cancellation policy and if you need to cancel, pay for cancelled appointments. (In shelter-in-place counties, housecleaning will likely be deemed a non-essential service and so housecleaners will be forced to forego work. Pay your employee their normal monthly wages to the degree you can so that they are able to continue to support themselves and their families.)
- Provide a flexible schedule to optimize travel.
- Sign up for Alia, an innovative program that enables domestic employers to contribute to paid time off and life insurance for the domestic worker in their home.
Take Action and Support Policies to Protect Your Worker
Support our policy campaigns and join in solidarity with communities of color, low-income people, seniors and people with disabilities who are particularly vulnerable at this time.
- Sign the petition to pass the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to win federal legislation to ensure domestic work is protected and valued.
- Take the Universal Family Care Pledge to build a care infrastructure that ensures the most vulnerable are cared for.
- Donate to the Coronavirus Care Fund, established by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, to provide direct relief to domestic workers and their families who may lose work or get sick during this outbreak.
- Become a member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network and be a part of national movement to win respect and dignity to our care infrastructure.
- RSVP for the Virtual Town Hall and Speak Out for Philadelphia workers and employers.
Legal Obligations under Philadelphia and Pennsylvania State Law
Hand in Hand encourages paying workers “on the books” for many reasons. One of those reasons is that during a moment like this, certain benefits become available to workers that would not be available otherwise, like unemployment insurance and workers compensation. If you need advice or help about paying on the books, please email email@example.com
Philadelphia’s Domestic Worker Bill of Rights goes into effect on May first. Get ahead of the game by making sure you’re already in compliance with this new policy, and learn more about the policy here.
Rest breaks and meal periods
Freedom from discrimination and sexual harassment
Written agreements to specify job duties, hours of work, pay, termination notices
Employer contributing paid time off through a portable benefits platform, the first of its kind in the country
Retaliation prohibited when workers exercise their rights, including protections for immigration status
Domestic Workers Task Force in City Hall that includes domestic workers to ensure enforcement
If you employ a domestic worker in the state of Pennsylvania, you already have some obligations under the law. Make sure that you’re already following these legal requirements so that all domestic workers benefit from basic protections in your home.
- Your employee should be paid for all hours worked and on time—wage theft is illegal
- Your employee should know when they are getting paid and how much
- Your employee should be safe from physical and sexual assault and harassment
- This includes any physical or sexual touch, requests for sexual favors, or anything that creates an intimidating workplace. Assault is a crime and should be reported.
- In Philadelphia, the police are prohibited from sharing anyone’s information with ICE or asking about immigration status
- Employers are prohibited from holding immigration documents
- If your employee is hurt at work, you may be responsible for medical expenses
Stay healthy, stay safe, stay in touch, and stay tuned. Hand in Hand will continue to update this toolkit as new information becomes available.