Proposed Laws for Household Workers
Risk to safety, business climate & tax collection
(November 2011) – Recent legislative activity in New York and California is shining a spotlight on labor laws for nannies and other household employees, reinforcing the presumption that in-home workers are frequently mistreated. “The California laws under consideration (AB889) go too far and if passed, could result in an increased underground of illegal domestic workers – putting them and those in their care at greater risk – and potentially driving businesses from the state,” explains Daryl Camarillo, president of the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies – A Household Staffing Alliance (APNA).
One example of what California’s AB889 would do would be to require families to supply an additional caregiver to relieve a nanny for a documented 30 minute meal break and two, 10-minute rest breaks each day. “Families who fail to do so would have to pay their nanny more or risk being sued by their nanny and finding themselves liable for lawyer’s fees, fines and court costs,” says Denise Collins of San Francisco’s Aunt Ann’s In-House Staffing. “It’s impractical on so many levels. It almost defeats the purpose of hiring an in-home caregiver by adding additional costs and administrative duties for the family – not to mention, who will they find to take a job for 50 minutes a day – spread out throughout the day?”
“If these laws pass, parents could also be fined or sued for infractions such as failing to provide the nanny’s requested foods – even if a child in her care is allergic to one of the foods,” adds Camarillo. “The lawmakers’ intentions are good, but we predict passage of AB889 as it stands now would result in so many additional duties, risks and costs for families that many will resort to hiring under the table.”
Illegal hiring can drive down wages and reduce employment opportunities for legally-hired domestic employees. In addition, California’s business climate could suffer if it’s harder for parents to work because of burdensome childcare laws.”
A climate that encourages underground or “do-it-yourself” hiring also creates dangers people can’t foresee. “A perfect example is background checks. Most people don’t understand that the inexpensive ‘nationwide’ background check offered by many online listing services for nannies and babysitters isn’t really nationwide and isn’t very thorough,” says Camarillo.
“We’ve been working for years to sound the alarm that a proper background check involves human vetting, time and some cost. Quality agencies hire professionals to screen candidates before sending them on interviews. People who are hiring nannies, personal assistants, elder companions and housekeepers often don’t even consider that they should check for a criminal record – and they should.”
Respected household staffing agencies safeguard families and domestic workers by educating both sides about salaries, employment and tax laws that can vary widely from state to state, industry norms, and the importance of written work agreements.
“Legal, household employees are already well protected by existing state and federal laws governing human rights, disability, work conditions and overtime. Most earn more than minimum wage. In California their salaries range between $15 and $30 an hour which is taxed and contributes to their ability to collect social security, unemployment and other social safety nets tied to legal employment.”
California is often at the leading edge of social issues, so we want to communicate to its lawmakers, and those nationwide, that proposals such as AB889 might appear to increase worker protection, but unless the laws are carefully crafted, they could result in unintended consequences.”
•Daryl Camarillo, APNA president, (650) 462-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org
•Denise Collins, APNA vice president, (415) 749-3650
•Go to www.theAPNA.org to find an APNA agency in your community and valuable information for families and people seeking household employment
APNA is a self-regulating organization that helps set the bar for industry standards and practices. APNA member agencies have their contracts, applications and business practices scrutinized by peers to ensure they know and follow all applicable laws. You are dealing with a quality household staffing service when you see the APNA seal.