How much should I pay?
Fair pay can look different depending on the details of the job and the cost of living in your area. We recommend starting with the guidelines below instead of trying to find “the going rate,” since low wages are all too common in this critical —yet undervalued—field.
Why fair pay really matters
By paying a fair wage you are ensuring that your employee has what she needs to sustain herself and her family. You’re also doing one of the most important things you can to create a positive, long-lasting relationship with your employee.
Offering the worker you employ the highest wage you can shows how much you value their work. It’s reinvesting in your own household and doing all that you can to ensure the best childcare, cleaning, or home attendant support for yourself, your home, and your family.
Make it a priority
We know that it can be a challenge for some of us to align what’s fair with what we feel we can afford. But try looking once, twice, three times at your budget; consider how you might shift funds around.
We believe that our wellbeing cannot justify low-wage jobs or poor working conditions for those who make that wellbeing possible. Domestic workers have homes and families to care for just as we do.
We believe there are enough resources to go around, and we reject arguments that pit employers against workers: Every person needs support in order to thrive, and that we all have a stake in building a society that cares for everyone—families, children, workers, employers, seniors, people with disabilities, and every member of our communities.
Whatever wage you are paying now, we hope this gives you some guidelines as you consider if you can do anything to improve the way you pay.
Guiding principles around fair wages:
- For housecleaner employers, a general guide for living wages in metropolitan areas is to employ a self-employed worker for no less than three hours per visit, and to pay no less than $25/hr for that time. This amount takes into account that some house cleaners often have long commutes between jobs and don’t receive most benefits. The ALIA program enables employers to make a nominal contribution to a benefits fund for housecleaners.
- For housecleaner employers, you should also consider the degree of difficulty of the work, such as the size of the home to be cleaned, and if there are any deep cleaning tasks such as cleaning an oven, fridge, baseboards, inside windows or in-between window panes or doing laundry. If you expect cleaning products to be provided by the cleaner this cost should be included in their compensation.
- If you need to reschedule or cancel a cleaning appointment or are going out of town, consider that the housecleaner may lose opportunities to work with other clients if they are scheduled with you. Many cleaners are flexible with rescheduling as long as you notify them within a reasonable amount of time, usually 48 hours before the scheduled job. Decide on a timeframe that works for both of you, and commit to pay for their time if you can’t meet your notification commitment.
- For childcare providers and home attendants, in a metropolitan area, a living wage is at least $15/hr.
- When calculating wages, consider the cost of living, and calculate what a living wage might look like in your area.
- Provide (at least) annual cost of living (COLA) raises.
- It is fair practice to increase a wage when responsibilities increase, for example if you have a second child.
- If you employ a worker for very few hours per week, compensate your employee for transportation time.
- Prepare to pay overtime pay (time and a half = 1.5 x the hourly wage) whenever your employee works over 40 hrs/week or over eight hours/day.
- Workers should be entitled to a rest break after 3 hours of work, and at least a 30 minute meal break after 4 hours of work. These breaks should be uninterrupted. If it is not possible for there to be an uninterrupted break, the worker should be paid overtime during their break period.
- Live-in domestic workers employed by private households should have 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep and written agreements before 8 hours of sleep can be deducted from hours worked.
What else can you do to support domestic workers? You can connect them to the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), an association for cleaners, nannies, and home care providers across the country. Cleaners can connect with their peers and access training and professional development opportunities by becoming a member. You can connect them to NDWA’s Membership website and, if they want to join, you can offer to pay for their first year of membership as a token of your appreciation.
What do I need to know if a worker accompanies me on a trip?
When you’re determining an employee’s compensation for a trip, always keep in mind that this is time that an employee will be spending away from her home and family. Even if you are taking a worker with you on your vacation, remember that it’s work time, not vacation time for her.
- For employers of home attendants: Find out about regulations from the Federal Department of Labor, effective January 1, 2015, here. It is important to pay at least the rate that these regulations outline. In addition, please make sure to reimburse the worker for any costs related to the travel (meals, etc.) and it’s good practice to augment the hourly rate with a bonus.
- For employers of nannies/childcare providers: You should pay a worker her regular hourly wage for all time worked—in transit or otherwise. You should be explicit about how many hours your employee will be expected to work during the trip, and what the sleeping arrangements will be. In addition, please make sure to reimburse a childcare provider for any costs related to the travel (meals, etc.) and augment the hourly rate with a bonus.
Remember: If you choose to travel without your employee on days you originally hired her to work, you should compensate her for this time, even if she is not working.
English language classes or other benefits
If you and your employee agree that she would like to take ESL classes and you feel inclined to pay for them, that’s wonderful. But it’s not wages. Wages are the money she’s paid directly and can use at her discretion, whether for ESL, ice cream, or anything.
Note: there might be a local organization that provides free ESL classes. If she is interested, you can direct a worker to an affiliate of the National Domestic Workers Alliance to see if that’s the case.
Should I pay a holiday bonus?
The principles of the Fair Care Pledge can help guide you when making your end of year bonus. Check out our simple how-to here.