Ever wonder if the minimum wage applies to elder companions? The rules are getting more complicated. The Fair Labor and Standards Act is a federal law that states the minimum wage and the rules for paying overtime. It contains a limited exemption – casual babysitters and companions for the aged and infirm are not covered by the law. Live-in domestic workers were entitled to minimum wage but were not covered by overtime requirements.

New regulations go into effect on January 1, 2015. They limit an exempt companion’s duties to fellowship and protection – such as playing cards, watching television together and taking walks. They also allow some incidental personal care services, such as dressing, grooming and driving to appointments. Any work benefiting other members of the household, such as preparing meals or performing housekeeping or laundry for other members of the household, does not fall within the allowable incidental duties of an exempt companion. Companionship services likewise do not include the performance of medically-related tasks for which training is typically a prerequisite.

Live-in domestic workers employed by an individual or family are exempt from overtime pay, but accurate records of hours worked must be kept.

The new regulations will mean a huge change to home health companies, because the companionship exemption will apply only to companions employed only by the family or household using the services.

Third party employers who provide home care and companionship services will no longer be able to claim the exemption, so their employees must be paid minimum wage and overtime as of January 1, 2015.

An update on changes in the Social Security Administration will be featured in our next article.