November 16, 2016
Voters in four states passed minimum wage increases through ballot initiatives during the presidential election. Two of these initiatives also extended mandatory paid sick days to all workers. Direct care workers, who largely earn poverty wages and often lack paid time off, will benefit from these new laws.
Arizona, Colorado, and Maine will increase their minimum wages to $12.00 by 2020, a marked increase from current wage floors of $7.50 in Maine, $8.05 in Arizona, and $8.31 in Colorado.
Current median wages for home care workers range from $10.33 in Arizona to $10.81 in Colorado. Higher median wages for nursing assistants, ranging from $11.76 in Maine to $13.80 in Colorado, make the increase less significant for this group of direct care workers. Nonetheless, many nursing assistants earning less than the median wage will benefit.
Washington voters approved raising the minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 by 2020. A large portion of Washington’s 26,330 home care workers, who currently earn a median wage of $11.46, will see substantial gains as a result. Nearly half of the state’s 24,920 nursing assistants, who earn a median wage of $13.68 an hour, will also see higher wages.
The 31,000 independent providers employed directly by consumers to provide personal care services through Washington’s Medicaid program will be largely unaffected by the increase. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU)—the union that represents independent providers in Washington—recently negotiated a contract with the state that includes large wage increases for independent providers. By 2019, independent providers will receive a base salary of $15.00 per hour, and experienced caregivers will earn $17.65 per hour.
The new minimum wage laws in Washington, Colorado, and Maine also require their state legislatures to increase the minimum wage annually starting in 2021 based on the increase in the cost of living. Arizona already has such a requirement in place.
Paid Sick Leave
Washington and Arizona also passed new provisions that require employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees, including direct care workers. Washington’s new law will allow workers to accrue one hour of paid sick for every 40 hours worked, while Arizona will allow workers to accrue one hour for every 30 hours worked.
Washington will require employers of any size to offer a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave. Arizona’s new law has tiered requirements based on establishment size: employers will be required to offer 24 hours of leave if they employ fewer than 15 people, and 40 hours if they employ 15 or more people.
For more information on the direct care workforce in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington, visit the PHI State Data Center.
--by Stephen Campbell