Given the longstanding exclusion of domestic workers from basic labor laws, which has just begun changing over the past 20 years, the labor laws pertaining to domestic workers are minimal compared to those for other workers and look different across the country.
Each state defines domestic worker differently and has a different set of domestic employment laws on the books.
Thus, we recommend you take a closer look at the laws in your state (see legal resources below), and think of the laws as a necessary minimum. Let’s all aim to go above and beyond that minimum in our own homes.
Basic requirements of most domestic employers across the country include:
- Adhering to minimum wage and overtime laws
- Keeping records of employment, schedule and wages
- Having workman’s compensation insurance for your home
- Anti-retaliation protections
It is also really important that you know that all labor laws and protections pertain to any worker—regardless of that person’s immigration status.
Do I need to keep records?
As a domestic employer, what kinds of records do I need to keep? How do I do it?
Record-keeping is a minimal investment of your time that will have a significant pay off for both you and your employee. When you create work agreements, timesheets, and payment records, you will have the means to sort out any disagreement or confusion or have important information in case of an emergency. In all cases, you want reliable records at your fingertips. A work agreement is a great place to start.
Basic guidelines about what to keep a record of:
- A written work agreement.
- The worker’s name, address, phone numbers, email, and two emergency contacts
- A timesheet (the worker should also have a copy). This can be on an excel sheet, a Google spreadsheet if you both have access to the internet, or you can create it by hand on a pad of paper that is stored somewhere you both can access it. Find an example here.
- Pay stub recording dates, hours worked, and rate of pay.
There are different federal and state laws about record keeping which you can find here.
“It’s not hard. I keep track of her hours on a yellow pad that I keep in my drawer. I make a copy of it and give it to her. I do it every week. It shows how much she worked each day in 15 min increments.” – Anonymous employer of a childcare provider
How do I Adhere to the Domestic Works Bill of Rights?
In Hawaii, New York, California, and an increasing number of states and cities, workers, seniors, people with disabilities, parents, and legislators have come together to pass or advocate for new legislation to protect the rights of domestic workers; make the needs for childcare and in-home support for seniors and people with disabilities in our country visible; and ensure that all domestic work is recognized and considered valuable. Hand in Hand members have proudly joined these campaigns.
For information about how these new laws might affect you in your state or city, explore the local information on our site. [LINK TO GEOGRAPHIC INFO]
Sign the Fair Care Pledge to say that you’ll do all you can by the person you employ, and get guidance on how to put your pledge into action.
Plan Now For the Last Weeks of the Job
Making good choices about how you end a domestic workplace relationship is a way to express your appreciation for all that a worker has done for you and/or your family. Ideally, you will have established a written or verbal agreement at the beginning of the job that outlined how it would end.
Even if you didn’t do this, it is best practice to provide at least two weeks notice. If you want the worker to stop working sooner, you should pay her remaining wages for that time. You should also make a plan for severance in accordance to years worked.
Long Term Employers: Think Ahead
If you’ve employed a worker for many years or even decades, discuss a plan for her retirement as early as possible. You can help the worker to start her own IRA and contribute to it on a regular basis. After years of service to you or your family, it is important to do what you can to ensure that a longtime employee has sufficient funds for retirement, through an IRA or other savings fund, as well as Social Security.
If a worker will not be receiving social security benefits because she is undocumented and/or was never paid on the books, or if there were no other funds saved, you could consider paying severance for the entirety of a worker’s retirement. It’s a wonderful way to say thank you after a lifetime of work in your household.
When You Want To Help A Worker Find Her Next Job:
Provide her with a written letter of recommendation that includes your contact information.
Use your personal networks to spread word of her availability.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) guarantees employees the right to organize through a union. But because domestic workers (who are privately employed and paid out-of-pocket by employers directly) are not considered “employees,” many of these workers are denied the right to form labor unions.
Many domestic workers organize through worker centers, co-ops, or other non-profit organizations like the local affiliates of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Check out AFSCME and SEIU for more information about unions for home attendants and others who are paid by Medicaid or other government programs.
Many employers share resources about or make referrals to domestic worker organizing projects in order to ensure that workers in their homes feel supported to engage in organizing activities.
It’s important to know what the law says about your obligations, and it’s also important to learn about the kind of community standards and the best practices that are being developed by Hand in Hand with the National Domestic Workers Alliance that you find on this site.
Legal Resources to Consult
Legal resources to consult:
- Call our friends at Breedlove at (888) 273-3356, to get answers about the law and taxes.
- Find the relevant tax and labor laws for domestic workers in your state
- Order a guide to legal questions related to employment in your state by going here
- Find out more about new federal labor regulations for home attendants that will go into effect in January 2015
You can also find more information about paying “on the books” here.