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GUEST COMMENTARY: Fair Wages Result in Lower Turnover and Better Care

January 19, 2012

Karen Kulp

Karen Kulp, president and CEO, Home Care Associates, and PHI board member, explains that paying home care workers minimum wage and overtime is fair and smart.

I recently had the honor of traveling to Washington, D.C., to stand with President Barack Obama, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and home care workers from across the country, as the President announced the proposed regulations to ensure that home care workers have minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The new regulations amend a law that dates back to 1974, which exempted employers from paying minimum wages and overtime for “casual babysitters” and “companions for the aged and infirm.”

Pennsylvania is one of 21 states (along with Washington, D.C.) that require employers to pay minimum wage, and among 16 of these states that also mandate paying overtime. This leaves 29 states — and nearly 1.4 million workers — without these basic labor protections.

I was asked to go the Washington in my role as president of Home Care Associates in Philadelphia, which has been in business since 1993. We have over 175 workers who provide services to people in their homes and other settings.

Kulp (L) with President Obama

We believe that that providing quality care requires creating a quality job. A quality job means providing appropriate training as well as decent wages and benefits. This not only makes sense because it is the right thing to do — we believe it is the smart thing to do.

Our experience is that in the long run, paying decent wages leads to greater investment by workers resulting in lower turnover rates and better quality of care.

More people are seeking home care for themselves or loved ones. Today there is greater competition to provide those services — from franchise businesses, providers who offer minimum wages but no benefits, and independent home care workers who are hired directly by consumers or their families for their services.

Home Care Associates has a workforce that is experienced and committed to doing this incredibly challenging and important work. It takes a special kind of person to do this work day in and out. Workers stay when their work is respected and adequately rewarded. At our company our aides average over four years on the job, which benefits the individuals for whom we care.

As a nation, it is time for us to recognize the valuable role that home care workers play in caring for our loved ones. Many of us would not be able to work to support our own families without the assistance of a home health aide.

The success of our company is proof that you can have a successful business and still pay workers decent wages and provide them with benefits. The need for quality workers will only increase in coming years. That is why we support these proposed regulations to assure that workers across the country receive fair pay for the critical services they provide.

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