Live-in care has always been an area associated with cash payments, undocumented workers and high risks of abuse. As such, it is interesting to see some home care companies starting to aggresivly offer live in care services. This is arguably, on the back of the woes of the nursing home sector during this pandemic.

Putting a loved one into a nursing home is always a very difficult decision, especially as numerous surveys show, people’s first choice is generally to age at home for as long as possible.

However, because of this crisis, that decision has been made even more difficult with increased worries associated with doing so.
Hence presumably, the entry of some traditional home care companies into the live-in care sector, seeing an opening for a lucrative opportunity.

If you are contracting live in care through a home care company or indeed if you are a carer delivering live-in care, there are a few important issues you should be aware of.

Live-In-Care as opposed to 24hr care, is where a carer moves in with the person needing support, usually into a spare room and then provides care and support during the day. They are also there at night time but really only as emergency cover. If the client gets up several times during the night and needs assistance, a separate night time carer would be needed as the expectation is that the live-in carer should get a good night’s sleep.

Firstly, the Working Time Directive (WTD) insists on workers getting a break of 11hrs every 24hrs, away from their place of work. That break can’t be sleeping in a client’s house at night time. With this in mind, it isn’t legal for a carer to work in your house during the day and then have to sleep over that night, even if they aren’t getting up.

An additional complication is, that even if it was allowed by the WTD, carers would have to be paid at least the minimum wage for all hours spend at the client’s house including hours where the carer is sleeping. Minimum Wage cases have clearly found that once a worker is obliged to be physically somewhere, even if they are resting, they have to be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour. This would mean that the minimum payment to a carer doing live in care for a week’s work would be roughly €1,700.

What a home care company employing the carer would have to charge a family, taking into account taxes, overheads and profit margins, would be around €3,300 per week.

When you see that nursing home costs are around €1,200 per week through the Fair Deal Scheme, it is difficult to see how the offering stacks up unless companies are being very creative with how they run their schemes. Some possible creative but troublesome solutions would be to;

  • Over pay a carer for work during the day and then plead ignorance with regard where the carer stays at night but ensure there is an informal arrangement between the family and carer that they do stay, with maybe a top up from the family in cash.
  • Set up a contract with the family and carer outlining their daytime hours and that clearly states the carer is not obliged to stay in the client’s house at night and that they are allowed to leave the house if they want. At the same time, they put in place a dubious on call service for the family if they need help during the night, which backs up the theoretical ability of the live-in carer to leave if they so wish.

Families and carers alike, should be very wary of getting involved in questionable practices in the area, as they could end up paying a high price through Revenue inspections and labour law prosecutions. The Au Pair scandal of a couple of years ago springs to mind, when a lot of families got unexpected bills from the revenue commissioners, as well as inspections from the Workplace Relations Commission.

If families are paying a lot less than the €3,300 mentioned above, for live-in care through an agency, it could be a red flag that they need to ask some pointed questions about insurance, responsibilities and carer pay, especially for night times.

Insurance claims for a carer falling or pulling their back when in a family’s house but not on the homecare company’s’ payroll for that time, such as nights, could be very expensive for the family. Any time the carer is not demonstratable on the company’s payroll through time sheets or payroll records, it is the family who are responsible.

Likewise, if carers aren’t being paid at least the minimum wage for all hours where they are present at a client’s house, including night time, they need to ask why. This contravenes the Minimum Wage Act.

If live-in care is to be organised legally, the family need to set themselves up as an employer, with a clear contract of employment, pay the relevant taxes and organise relevant insurance cover or they also have the option of working through a platform like Home Care Direct, where carers work for themselves in a fully legal and tax compliant manner.

Carers are already treated very poorly within the home care sector, earning barely above the minimum wage and most being on “if & when” type contracts. Some unscrupulous home care companies offering live in care with dubious arrangements for carers, further devalues and undermines caring as a career, as well as putting families in an extremely hazardous legal and fiscal situation.