The Massachusetts Au Pair Ruling: What Host Families Need to Know

Dec 20, 2019 | Domestic Workers' Rights, Labor Laws, Tax & Wage Laws

massachusetts au pair ruling

A recent court ruling means au pairs in Massachusetts must be paid at least the state’s minimum wage rate and time-and-a-half for overtime among other domestic worker protections. Here’s what host families in the state should do now considering the court’s decision.

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit means au pairs in Massachusetts must be paid at least minimum wage and time-and-a-half for overtime. Host families in Massachusetts must now follow the state’s domestic workers’ bill of rights, maintain timesheets and obtain workers’ compensation among other requirements.

Litigation was initially brought by Cultural Care Au Pair after Massachusetts passed its Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in 2015. The agency was seeking an exemption from the law, which provides a number of employee protections including being paid at least the prevailing minimum wage and for overtime hours. Au pairs typically wind up earning much less than minimum wage and are not eligible for overtime. Cultural Care Au Pair argued that au pairs are part of a cultural exchange program managed by the U.S. State Department and not subject to domestic worker protections. The state said that since au pairs are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, they are also entitled to be paid the state’s minimum wage, which is higher than the federal rate.

This ruling in the state’s favor has left many host families wondering what they should do to comply with the rules around household employment. Host families generally did not have to abide by the tax, wage, and labor laws that applied to households with nannies or other domestic employees.

With the Massachusetts au pair ruling, here are six things host families need to know.

GTM Payroll Services is also here to help. Call (800) 929-9213 for a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with a household employment expert.

1. Au pairs need to be paid minimum wage

Au pairs will need to be paid at least the highest applicable minimum wage rate. While the federal rate is $7.25/hour, Massachusetts’ minimum wage is $12.75/hour as of January 1, 2020.

2. Au pairs need to be paid overtime

Another requirement when paying au pairs is compensating overtime hours at a rate of at least time and a half. In Massachusetts, overtime pay applies to all hours worked over 40 in a seven-day workweek. Your overtime rate would need to be at least $19.13/hour.

Host families can deduct up to $42/week for meals provided to the au pair and take a room deduction of up to $35/week.

For an au pair that works the maximum 45 hours in a week, their pay will be no less than $528.65/week (40 hours @ $12.75/hour + 5 hours @ $19.13/hour – $77 for room and board).

3. Au pairs need to be paid for all “working time”

In Massachusetts, “working time” includes all the hours that the au pair is required to be on the host family’s premises or on duty. This includes meal, rest, and sleep periods. If the au pair is required to be on duty, that time needs to be counted as hours worked for overtime and minimum wage purposes.

During meal, rest, and sleep periods, if the au pair is free to leave the host family’s premises, able to use the time for their sole benefit, and relieved from all work duties during the time then those hours are not considered hours worked.

4. Host families need to purchase workers’ compensation insurance

Under Massachusetts law, families that employ someone to work in their home must have a workers’ compensation policy. Coverage can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. GTM Payroll Services can obtain quotes and manage a policy for you. Request a quote on workers’ compensation or call (800) 929-9213 and ask to speak with our insurance team.

5. Host families need to follow the state’s domestic workers’ bill of rights

Passed in 2015, the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights bundles together a number of worker protections including:

  • Right to be paid for all working time (when required to be on duty) including meal, rest and sleeping times (with exceptions)
  • Right to at least 24 consecutive hours rest/week when working at least 40 hours/week
  • Right to maternity leave of up to eight weeks for the birth or adoption of a child
  • Right to a written employment agreement that includes rate of pay (including overtime); working hours (including meal breaks and other time off); any provided benefits such as days of rest, sick days, vacation days, holidays, health insurance, severance, etc.; responsibilities of job; and process for addressing grievances
  • Required notice of termination by employer
  • Right to request a written evaluation after three months and annually thereafter
  • Employer document retention of notices and agreements for at least two years
  • Right to protection against retaliation when seeking to assert rights to fair wages and overtime

6. Host families are required to use timesheets

Tracking an au pair’s hours and pay will now be required for host families. GTM Payroll Services offers a timesheet template that can be uploaded and saved in your client account.

GTM can help

GTM offers comprehensive payroll services to au pair host families so they can comply with these new regulations. We’ll take care of paying your au pair by direct deposit or live check and filing quarterly, annual, state, and federal taxes on time, every time… 100% guaranteed. GTM can also handle your workers’ compensation coverage from obtaining a policy to managing claims, audits, and invoices.

Our service is backed by an experienced team of household employment experts. For nearly 30 years, we’ve been managing household payroll and taxes for thousands of satisfied families across the country.

Call (800) 929-9213 for a free, no-obligation consultation or to get started with signing up.

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