Pandemic shows how NJ home health aides are undervalued, Rutgers report says
New Jersey's home health aides have been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, caring for seniors and people with disabilities, all while earning low pay, according to a new report by The Center for Women and Work at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations.
The largest group of domestic workers in New Jersey are home health aides. What the study found is that these workers are predominantly women (95%), immigrants (51%) and non-whites (69% black, Hispanic or Asian), even more so than the national average and more so than other workers in New Jersey.
Home health aides have responsibilities such as checking vital signs and assisting clients with bathing, dressing, preparing meals, administering medications and other daily activities and even providing companionship and emotional support.
These home health aides are now facing a lot of risks to their own health and doing work that is not valued, the report says. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the country and New Jersey. The average home health aide in New Jersey earns between $23,380 and $25,330 a year.
Faculty director Yana Rodgers said there are close to 40,000 home health aides in New Jersey. Their care work is undervalued for both paid care workers as well as unpaid care in the home. Universally, this work is one that's either not paid or undervalued with some of the lowest wages around, she added.
She said there's a movement to get a bill of rights for domestic workers, which include nannies, house cleaners, child care providers as well as home health aides.
There is also pressure for the state government to pass a wage theft legislation for home health aides if they're not getting paid overtime or if they are not getting paid for all the hours that they worked, said Rodgers.
Rodgers said what's important to remember is that while home health aides may seem invisible because they are not in the public eye and do their jobs from inside homes and not hospitals, they still need to be protected from COVID-19.
"They are legally entitled to personal protective equipment in their jobs and we can't forget them as we talk about the need to protect our health workers," Rodgers said.