Often, HHAs find themselves wondering, “Where does this number come from?” “What does it mean and how was it calculated?”
Home Health Aides (HHAs) spend their workday traveling between patient appointments and attending those appointments. Under MA law, employers are required to compensate HHAs for travel time and any related travel expenses.
Reimbursement for Travel Expenses
Every year, the IRS sets the standard mileage rate which is based on an annual study of fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle. The current rate for 2021 is $0.56 per mile driven. This standard amount is what is used to calculate the travel expenses. Travel expenses include fuel costs, vehicle depreciation, and vehicle maintenance. However, many employers neglect to adequately reimburse their traveling HHAs for these expenses. Many times, employers will consider the travel expenses as part of an HHAs gross pay when in fact these reimbursements are not to be considered compensation. In other words, travel expenses are to be reimbursed to the HHA directly, not factored into gross pay to later be subjected to taxes. These reimbursements are especially important for employers to complete as new IRS regulations no longer permit employees to deduct unreimbursed business expenses from their taxes.
In Massachusetts there is no fixed mileage rate, which results in employers creating the mileage amount. Most employers do not base this number on the IRS standard and in fact, have a substantially lower standard. The amount is essentially “made up” by many employers when they should be basing the mileage amount off the IRS standard, or calculating the amount based upon the local fuel prices and maintenance costs.
*IRS mileage rates from the last 3 years
Lastly, all employers are required to keep accurate employee time and pay records. They are also required to provide pay statements to their employees, which disclose travel time and expense reimbursements. Many HHA employers keep track of HHA appointment times through phone applications or phone calls. This allows for close approximations of travel times in between each appointment and therefore makes any excuse an employer has regarding lack of travel time records simply false. If an employer cannot explain an amount or has not properly provided for reimbursements on a paystub, they may be in violation of wage law.
If you have questions regarding your paystub and whether your employer has adequately paid and recorded pay, click on the contact form or post a comment below. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.