Developed by Senior & Disability Action and Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network

COVID-19 has changed what it means to hire and manage attendants and caregivers. Recommendations from the CDC— including social distancing, quarantining, and sheltering in place— have challenged us to get the support we need, while keeping ourselves and the workers we employ in our homes safe and healthy. This guide, created by Hand in Hand and Senior and Disability Action, offers ideas, recommendations and thoughts for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as safely as possible. 

Our Workers Depend On Us 

We encourage you, to the degree possible, to continue to pay your attendants — whether or not they are working, since their livelihoods depend on it.  (And then tell others to do the same by signing Hand in Hand’s Coronavirus Fair Care Pledge of consistent pay throughout this crisis.)  If you cannot afford it, think about saving for a small paid sick leave fund and asking friends and family to help. This fund can be used if a worker is sick with coronavirus symptoms, if you are sick and the worker does not come, or if you and the worker decide it is best to not be in direct contact.  Also, they may be eligible for other income support.

Key recommendation: Communication!

There is no easy or standard way to manage attendants during a pandemic. We urge you to have honest and difficult conversations with the people who work for you, listening to their concerns and needs, sharing your own, and coming up with creative solutions to make sure everyone gets what they need. Discuss whether people prefer to self-isolate and not work for you. Talk about financial and community resources available for people who cannot work or who lose work because of the coronavirus.

Basic precautions to keep from transmitting the coronavirus:

For attendant employers:

  • Get vaccinated and boosted.
  • Wear a N95 or KN95 mask when with others, whenever possible.
  • Provide paid time off for the worker in your home to get vaccinated.
  • Wash your hands regularly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Try not to put your hands or face on your attendant’s body, clothes, face, or belongings.
  • Try to only see people outside your attendants and housemates outdoors and masked, or indoors masked and with ample ventilation while staying 3-6 ft apart.  Before gathering with new people, be sure everyone tests or is without symptoms and has been vaccinated and boosted.
  • Open windows and doors, weather allowing, while the attendant is working with you in the home. Think about critical services you need, to limit the time a worker spends in your home. Or, if there are tasks like cleaning or cooking that you are not needed for, and you’re able to go outside or leave the premises, do so to avoid prolonged time together in your home. If there are other people in your household, talk to them about helping with some basic tasks. Try to limit the time a worker spends in your home, to minimize potential exposure. 
  • Provide gloves, soap, hand sanitizer, and good quality masks such as N95 and KN95. Sanitize your home, or ask your family to do it, or ask the worker to do it upon entering.
  • If your attendant is uncomfortable traveling via public transit to and from your home, offer to pay for a taxi or rideshare.

For attendants/caregivers:

  • Get vaccinated and boosted.
  • Wear a N95 or KN95 mask when with others, whenever possible, to protect yourself and the people you work with.
  • Wash your hands as soon as you come into the home of the people you work with and before you leave. Use soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Minimize the number of people you’re around. Try to only see people (other than your housemates and people you work with) outdoors and masked, or indoors masked and with ample ventilation while staying 3-6 ft apart. Before gathering with new people, be sure everyone tests or is without symptoms and has been vaccinated and boosted.

How to self-isolate if you have attendants coming in and out of your house:

  • Ask a family member or housemate to fill in as much as possible. Plan to pay your attendants who do not come, so they do not lose needed wages. If you are hiring them through an agency or they are an IHSS worker, support them to apply for unemployment insurance. 
  • Think about how to minimize contact for everyone. If an attendant lives with or works for other people over 70 or with compromised immune systems, try to arrange for them to stay home or not work for you. If another attendant lives alone and agrees to not see anyone besides you, ask them to fill more shifts. 
  • Consider whether someone, who can provide you with attendant support, can stay at your home and self-isolate with you. 
  • If an attendant is not working for you currently, to minimize the number of people you’re around, check with people you know about whether that person could work for someone else in need, and refer them to financial resources we list on the top of page four.

What if either you or an attendant feels sick?

  • If this happens in the middle of a shift, both of you should wear masks and be extra careful to wash hands and limit contact. 
  • If you or a member of your household is sick, get tested for COVID-19. Tell the attendant and protect their health by not asking them to work (if possible), or honoring their request not to work. If they do come to work, follow CDC guidelines, minimizing contact between the person who is sick and the attendant.  
  • If your attendant is found to have COVID, you may have been exposed. Do whatever you can to self-isolate and limit the number of people you come into contact with and the number of people they come in contact with. 
  • If your attendant or someone from their household is sick, give them paid time off and assist in covering health care costs if you can. 

Income support for domestic workers who don’t work during this crisis:  

If your attendant is…

  • laid off, they may be eligible for unemployment insurance.
  • is sick, they may be eligible for paid sick time.

For more information on these resources, contact these worker organizations:

Private-pay workers: National Domestic Workers Alliance

State-funded home care workers: United Domestic Workers 

SEIU 2015 / other locals

Actions To Take:

Included above are individual actions you can take. But we can’t do this alone. We need to reach out to each other to offer support. Talk to people in your community to see if a mutual aid network exists, or consider starting one. Take a look at the Disability Justice Culture Club’s network as a model. And please contact Hand in Hand and Senior & Disability Action to join local, state, and national policy efforts, such as:

  • Establishing back-up registries — can be developed by relaxing requirements, doing online background checks, allowing family members to serve as paid caregivers, reaching out to therapist/nursing/medical schools, etc. 
  • Providing extended paid sick leave for home care providers.
  • Providing protective equipment for workers.