With passage of the new and improved White Collar Rule, many seniors and their caregivers can only wonder what the impact will be on senior living. The US Labor Department’s newest statute will allow weekly workers who earn $46,476 or more per year or $913 per week to earn overtime pay for hours logged beyond 40 hours a week. Until the law goes into effect on December 1, 2016, these workers do not earn overtime.
Since witnessing mother’s residency in her terrific senior living community, I have been amazed at the number of hours, managers and supervisors seem required to work. Long workweeks make sense because people in authority need to be on the job around the clock with workloads that easily surpass 40 hours per week.
If you are a caregiver, guardian or senior resident, you quickly realize that one key to success in managed care communities is consistency. Consistent personnel and consistent community policies make for happy senior residents in happy senior communities.
The only way to ensure consistency is with long-term employees. As with other industries, turnover presents challenges, especially when seniors quickly attach to staff and community policies. Change is also nerve racking for caregivers who understand how inconsistency and change affect their loved ones.
So, how will new White Collar Rules impact happy Moms and Dads living in safe and healthy senior communities?
White Collar Rule Overview
The changes that drive the new White Collar Rule are subtle and do not affect all senior community staff members but will eventually affect managers, supervisors and administrators who earn $913 or more per week. The law is a bit more complicated than in this overview that is solely intended to highlight the importance of the White Collar Rule on senior living communities.
Hourly employees are not affected by the new rule because, by federal law, hourly workers in senior care facilities must earn overtime pay if their workweek exceeds 40 hours. To avoid paying overtime, senior communities try to have enough qualified hourly workers to keep individual workweeks under the overtime threshold.
Because weekly workers have not qualified for overtime in the past, administrators, supervisors and managers are routinely expected to work long workweeks. Many of these weekly workers earn more than $913 per week and until the new law goes into effect will not earn overtime pay, regardless of how many hours they work.
This has long been a sensitive topic for medium income workers. Until now, the US Labor Department has permitted this policy which is often abused by employers inside and outside the senior living industry.
To allow a smooth transition, the Labor Department’s White Collar Rule implements a limited non-enforcement policy for providers of Medicaid-funded services to individuals with intellectual or development disabilities in residential homes and in facilities with fewer than 15 beds. The exclusion is authorized from December 1, 2016, when the White Collar Rule is implemented, through March 17, 2019.
The new rules apply to all other employers, regardless of number of employees. As implied, the law is intended to treat the weekly worker with more balance and prevent employer abuse. To ensure fairness, the new rule wage threshold will be reviewed every three years.
Is the White Collar Rule Fair
It’s only natural to fear that this law might change employment standards and possibly cause senior communities to raise their prices. Having seen the long workweeks that supervisors, managers and administrators work at Mother’s senior community, the present system seems abusive.
Consistency is worth so much! Senior communities may have to choose whether to pay overtime to weekly workers or to hire more of these management-type weekly workers to avoid overtime. Either solution will increase the cost of operations at senior communities.
Then, the challenge becomes how the senior community can stay price competitive. As senior care requires “round the clock” service, trimming staff does not seem a reasonable or safe solution.
This is a tough call. From the caregiver – guardian standpoint, the White Collar Rule means we have to ask the right questions when considering the most appropriate senior community. I want to know if weekly worker staff levels will be consistent and if the community is committed to retaining consistent levels of care and service after the White Collar Rule is implemented.
In my experience, senior living is one sector where less is not more. I want Mother to enjoy the level of safety in which we have invested. I understand change is coming to the industry but, as with every other aspect of senior planning, surprise is not an option.
Join me and ask about supervisory, administrative and management staff levels for the present and in the future of the senior community where your loved one will reside. This is one of those factors that can be a decision-maker. Good luck!