Biden to DOL: Workers have ‘guaranteed right to refuse a job’ if they feel unsafe

During President Joe Biden’s first days in office, he signed a slew of executive orders, some of which could have an immediate effect on health and home care agencies.

An executive order, for example, laid the groundwork for a minimum wage of $ 15. The “fight for $ 15” has long been a complicated issue for home care operators in the United States, many of whom want to pay their workers more but are struggling with stagnant reimbursement rates.

On top of that, Biden also plans to increase the UI supplement from $ 100 to $ 400 per week once the current spending program expires in March.

Anecdotally, the suppliers weren’t too concerned about the additional benefits. But there’s another aspect of Biden’s plan that could make him a bigger issue.

A fact sheet released by the Biden administration on Jan. 22 states that “workers have the federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will endanger their health, and if they do, they will still be entitled to unemployment insurance “.

This is part of the “executive’s new actions” to “bring economic relief to American families and businesses amid the COVID-19 crisis,” according to the backgrounder.

Specifically, Biden is asking the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to consider clarifying that workers have the right to withdraw from work if they fear it might be dangerous to them or their families.

Further guidance on the types of workers that would apply has not yet been provided.

“The Biden package could certainly create additional headwinds for home care staff, as we saw over the summer months of last year after the first version of the CARES Act implemented. unemployment assistance of $ 600 per week “, Scott Fidel, analyst. for financial services firm Stephens Inc., Home Health Care News said in an email last week. “However, we wouldn’t expect the staffing issues to be not as big as what we saw last year as a result of the CARES Act.”

But with this potential DOL provision, things could get tricky for home care and home care providers.

Theoretically, if the DOL made it clear that workers can stay home and collect unemployment if they don’t feel safe, it could put thousands of home care workers in a position to retire from their jobs for the time being. .

Home care agencies have used the risk premium of Paycheck Protection Program (P3) loans to try to alleviate some of these problems.

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Likewise, the government’s risk premium was supposed to fill in the gaps on the home health side.

However, especially when it comes to Medicaid reimbursement, the risk premium came late and was subject to high taxes. At least that’s the case in Virginia, where checks arrived up to three months late and 35% was taken for taxes, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The risk premium may encourage workers to stay at work and risk their own well-being, but it is often not enough to overcome fears of potentially exposing high-risk family members at home.

In 2019, 43% of U.S. households reported having at least one limb with pre-existing conditions.

“President Biden believes that workers should have the right to safe working environments and that no one should have to choose between their livelihood and their own health or that of their family,” the fact sheet said.

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