A bill establishing a fifteen dollar minimum wage for home health workers has passed the Illinois senate by a 34-16 vote, moving next to Illinois house for review. Illinois bill SB2931 was drafted to negotiate higher wages, no less than fifteen dollars per hour, for home health workers through a collective bargaining agreement.
Wages for home health workers have been getting increased attention in recent years as the Fight For $15 movement, which began in the fast food industry, continues to gain support among home health workers. The demand for these workers is on the rise due to an aging population and the cost savings of care at home, but wages remain stagnant for variety of reasons.
In 2015, the mean annual wage for home health aides was $22,870, or $11.00 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the same time, median annual earnings for all wage and salary workers in the U.S. was $42,025. Demand for home health aides is high- the BLS expects to see more than one million new workers added by 2022- but the industry struggles to find and retain workers as a result of low wages. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), almost half of home health workers are on some form of public assistance- and many are compelled to change professions or to take multiple jobs to make ends meet.
Already facing challenges of low reimbursement, many home health agencies simply cannot afford to pay higher wages. Some argue that the legislation may cause workers to lose their jobs, and drive employers to replace labor with less costly technology solutions. Others believe businesses will be forced to adapt and rearrange resources to accommodate the higher wages. If SB 2931 becomes law, it is uncertain what its effect may be, and what will happen to the agencies affected by the legislation.
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