Domestic caregiving is a highly personal profession where the rules are often thrown out the window when it comes to employee rights. Clients often ask for more than your employment contract or established policies cover. Clients often expect more time than is on your schedule and for your services to cost less because they are inside the home.
The best way to protect yourself, your wages, and your rights is to negotiate a fair contract at the beginning of your employment relationship. As employment rights experts, the Aiman-Smith and Marcy team have seen more than a few unfair employment contracts, and contracts just plain ignored in violation of caregiver rights. We’ve put together seven smart tips for domestic caregiver contract negotiation to ensure your rights and wages are safe right from the start.
1) Never “Just Sign” a Contract – Always Review and Revise
Always read an employment contract before you sign. Just like a rental lease, you’re stuck with whatever policies are written at the time of signing. Often, these contracts are cookie-cutter templates that don’t cover all the bases to keep you safe. At worst, pre-written contracts are exploitative and intentionally exclude clauses that would help to protect your legal and financial rights as a domestic caregiver.
Always read, review, and revise an employment contract so your rights (and preferred work policies) are included before signing. An employer who won’t negotiate the contract is one who is also more likely to violate your rights later on.
2) Ensure Your Pay is Fair and Above Minimum Wage
Do the math and make sure your pay (with any deductions and costs) is more than minimum wage. If you traditionally charge a certain amount more for your services, be firm about your required wages. Domestic caregivers are often underpaid and this low pay is set in the employment contract. While it’s illegal to pay you less than minimum wage, you can avoid a legal battle by establishing fair pay in your initial contract.
3) Discuss and Establish Enforceable Overtime Policies
Domestic caregivers are often expected to work overtime hours for no extra pay or at the usual rate. Don’t let this happen to you. Not only should your employment contract clearly state that overtime starts when you work over nine hours a day and over 40 hours a week, you should also review this with your client so they understand that asking you to stay late means paying for your time at the 1.5 overtime rate.
4) Have a Plan Ready When Overtime Services are Requested
Make sure your contract includes a clear policy on how clients can request overtime and how you will clock it for fair pay. Leave nothing unspoken or assumed. This will establish your route to document and claim overtime and help your clients know when they are entering overtime hours. When the policies are clear and everyone follows them, you are more likely to be paid fairly every week.
5) Negotiate Fair Room and Meal Compensation
Do your clients expect you to live in the house or in provided lodgings? Will you be sharing meals with the client or taking private lunch and dinner breaks? If rooming or meals are part of your service, be sure they are included properly in your employment contract as part of your wages. Clients who decline to include meals in the contract legally cannot later deduct meal costs from your wages.
See the chart on this page to see the maximum pay that can be calculated as room and board for domestic caregivers.
6) Establish a Wage Correction Route If/When Mistakes are Made
Domestic caregiving is one of the most likely careers to see a few miscalculated weeks. Overlooked overtime, meals with the client, and other discrepancies are common. So write an approachable wage correction policy into your employment contract that makes the process easy and transparent for both you and the client if mistakes ever need to be quickly fixed.
7) Create an Exit Strategy
Finally, write an exit strategy into your employment contract. Establish a two-week notice, a replacement-training period, and deal-breaker policies that allow you to formally end your caregiver-client relationship when the time comes. Having these clauses in your contract will make it easier (and less emotional) when it’s time to sever ties with the current client.
The legal team of Aiman-Smith and Marcy are dedicated to helping all California workers defend their rights and receive fair pay. The best approach is preemptive negotiation, ensuring your employment contract protects your rights, and that both you and the client understand those legally fair policies as written. Contact us today for assistance drafting or negotiating your domestic caregiver employment contract or help dealing with an existing contract that is unfair or being violated by a client employer. We are here to help.