The process of hiring nannies can be overwhelming, but one tool you can utilize as an employer is a nanny contract, which will help to ensure that all of the terms and conditions of employment are understood by both you and the nanny candidate before hiring. The biggest mistake that you can make during the nanny hiring process is being vague or unclear about expectations. Communicating in a straightforward and direct manner with your nannies from the start will help to ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises down the road for either party.
Communication is Key
One of the most essential components of a successful parent-nanny relationship is clear and open communication. Families who foster an environment where communication is not only expected, but praised will set a precedent for the nanny and the children as well. A thorough nanny contract that is agreed-upon before the hiring process is complete is the first real step in a successful nanny-family relationship.
Due to the untraditional working environment of most nanny jobs, nannies are often expected to work odd hours and the boundaries of expectations between the family and the nanny can easily blur. This is true for all nannies, but especially for live-in nannies. A nanny contract should establish these boundaries right from the beginning so that both parties are comfortable in knowing what to expect. One of the primary causes of disputes and, ultimately, high nanny turnover tends to be parents who make unexpected, and, for the nanny, unreasonable requests in the form of extra hours or additional tasks. On the family’s side, parents are often displeased with nannies that use their cars for personal errands, leave the house without permission, invite overnight guests into the home, or make unapproved purchases. Oftentimes, nannies tend to be non-confrontational, while parents can be quick to reprimand a nanny who is behaving outside of the terms of what the family expected. Many nannies will avoid conflict and decline to discuss their issues or dissatisfaction with their jobs, letting tension build to the point where they will leave the job abruptly rather than attempt to resolve a dispute.
You and your nanny can avoid these types of issues by agreeing on a mutual nanny contract before the hiring process is complete. An effective nanny contract should contain an itemized statement outlining the nanny’s responsibilities and your expectations pertaining to discipline, growth and progress of your family. It should provide a thorough explanation of your nanny’s salary, benefits and pay dates, along with any deductions for applicable taxes, Social Security, and health insurance. One mistake that many families make with nanny jobs is declining to file appropriate taxes and paying nannies “off the books.” This is a bad move that can jeopardize the family and the nanny and comes at a high price financially due to fees and fines if you are audited. Including an outline of who is responsible for the various types of employment taxes in the nanny contract ensures that each party knows what taxes it is responsible for covering. In addition, it is important to check into your state’s requirements for disability, unemployment and worker’s compensation insurance for nannies.
Furthermore, the nanny contract should specify working hours and whether or not you expect some flexibility in terms of when you will return home each evening or when you need your nanny to be on-call. When you specify hours, you need to include how many hours per week qualify as overtime and what wages nannies will receive for additional work.
The following list itemizes important issues to address and include in the nanny contract:
- Salary: State the nanny’s base salary as well as the family’s expected timeline for salary reviews based on the nanny’s accomplishment of agreed-upon goals.
- Benefits: How many sick, personal and vacation days will the nanny get? Is there a provision for paid time off in case of personal or health emergencies? Will the amount of time off increase based on the time the nanny works for the family?
- Set the expected schedule of hours and include provisions for pay and necessary requirements for notification if special circumstances require extra, unexpected hours.
- Rules for use of the family car, including provisions for automobile insurance–if the nanny will be using her own car, detail the amount of mileage the family will pay.
- State which children the nanny will be responsible for during what hours. One child may be in school every weekday, while an infant will be at home with the nanny all day, every day.
- State the children’s out-of-residence activity schedule, including times that the nanny will be responsible for transporting them to and from school, activities and the residence.
- Boundaries for family-approved approach to discipline; i.e. time-outs, loss of phone or television privileges, etc.
- An outline of expected chores and housework–stating that “light housework” is expected is not specific enough! Itemize specific chores that you would like the nanny to complete and how often.
- Expectations for children’s arts and crafts and other supplemental, educational activities, including tutoring and specialized learning projects.
- Expectations for meetings to review children’s activities/daily accomplishments. Setting recurring daily, weekly, or monthly meetings encourages ongoing communication between parents and nannies.
- Rules for obtaining permission to leave the house, or take children outside of the residence, other than for outlined expected activities.
- An agreement concerning the nanny’s mealtimes and what food items will be provided for the nanny in accordance with his or her dietary needs.
- An agreement concerning the children’s dietary needs and what meals the nanny is expected to prepare.
- Expectations for overnight care: How often it is expected and what additional pay will be provided per hour.
- A detailed vacation schedule for the year that includes dates that the nanny is expected to leave town with the family, what provisions will be made for the nanny’s comfort while traveling, how many hours of work will be necessary while out of town, and what additional pay will be provided.
Your nanny contract should be agreed upon and signed by you, your spouse, and your nanny. You and your nanny both should have original copies on file, and you should not hesitate to refer to or even to amend the contract, with mutual consent, if you are dissatisfied with the original terms.
A detailed and mutually satisfying nanny contract is an important step to achieving a successful, long-term relationship between families and nannies. Keeping the lines of communication open and upfront will lead to a nurturing environment that holds no unpleasant surprises for the parents, children or nanny. A fair contract will ensure that all parties involved with the care of your children understand and agree upon the terms and expectations of the nanny jobs, increasing the chances of a good fit between nanny and family.
About the Author
Steven Lampert is the president of eNanny Source, an online nanny agency that brings together families and nannies. Lampert previously ran a successful, award-winning nanny agency in a major city for over 10 years, during which time he worked with thousands of families and nanny candidates. Through this experience, he became familiar with the important steps in a nanny search, which he continues to apply to his business today. To learn more, please visit www.enannysource.com.