A nanny’s duties divide into practical matters — meals, naps, baths, etc., — and child development: activities to develop physical, emotional, cognitive and social skills. A nanny contract must also cover pay and benefits and, especially for live-in nannies, some kind of house rules: parts of the house open to her and any that are off-limits, whether and when her friends are welcome, any limitations on dress or car use or late night arrivals. The International Nanny Association (INA) sells a Family & Nanny Contract for $50.
The following list includes items that a detailed nanny contract should include, depending on age, number, and (perhaps) gender, of the children in care. Some families do well with a brief outline and a sense of trust, leaving details to evolve. Others will write virtually a handbook — up to 20 pages — explaining how the household runs and how and where the nanny fits in. It’s all up to you, but:
Leaving everything “to be determined” puts the nanny into the awkward position of never quite knowing what’s expected. Try to pin down what you want in a nanny contract so that you are on record.
You will learn from experience, which is to say that regardless of experience, employers typically regret not having made more of their expectations clear from the start.
That’s why experienced employers prefer a detailed nanny contract.
personalities/preferences/special needs (allergies, meds, etc.)
Include a Daily Schedule — all in one or a separate schedule for each child, as needed. Post it in the kitchen next to the family calendar. Color code activities for parents as well as for children.
outdoor play ____
activities with other children ____
school schedules ____
extracurricular activities ____
additional notes ____
Developmental goals, or which child needs help with what:
Name: goal(s), timeframe for accomplishing them:
toilet training, please-and-thank-you, sharing, making friends, making beds, doing homework, not biting nails, getting outdoors more.
Housekeeping — will parents clean up after themselves, make their own beds? What meal preparations will be required of the nanny? Does someone else do the basic cleaning? What and when?
family style (lots of takeout? meals all in the freezer every week? vegetarian?)
any allergies or special issues?
where is the shopping list to add to as needed, and who will shop?
petty cash for food, meals out? limits on junk food? receipts? (don’t ask your nanny to advance petty cash — that is your job)
A nanny usually eats with the children, whether at home or out with them, but she may need refrigerator space.
A live-in nanny is entitled to have all meals provided but must participate in some way — helping with children, food prep or cleanup.
Since discipline is not the same as punishment, it takes a disciplined person to teach self-discipline.
Essential skills for the nanny are re-direction, praise, affirmation, and example, all combined with an understanding of the particular child.
How you handle your children’s misbehavior
arrival — allow for overlap if you will be leaving for work yourself.
breaks — if you are at home the typical schedule is 4 hours on, 1 or 2 hours off (useful for lunch, errands, appointments, and 4 more hours on (this shouldabout cover the children’s dinnertime, usually the most hecteic part of the day
day’s end, including how often you are apt to be late and her pay rate for overtime.
number of hours and rate, if hourly or if extra hours are expected
pay reveiw at (3 months? 6? year end?)
IRS requires employment taxes for all regularly employed caregivers. Baby-sitters, defined as working occasionally or for only a few hours a week, are exempt. (This is not a loophole to be exploited).
You must provide a weekly paystub or, if pay will not vary, a one-time written explanation of amounts to be paid and withheld. Also:
IRS W-4 for nanny to sign and declare dependents
an SS number/employer ID, to accompany tax payments
year-end W-2 summarizing pay and withholding payments made for the year. You must provide a W-2 by the end of February of the following year and within 2 months of termination if employement ends sooner.
If this is all more than you care to deal with, consider a payroll service [prospective advertising link] or your own accountant.
I. Health insurance — This is the #1 preferred benefit, and the more portable the better. Since the nanny is vulnerable to your children’s illnesses, from strep to chicken pox to the common cold, expect the worst and provide for it.
A nanny cannot be covered as a family member under your policy.
You may pay all or part, from day one (strongly recommended for live-in nannies from out-of-state) or after a probationary period or as an incentive to remain after the first year. Be sure to note who will pay any deductibles or co-pays.
Policies specifically designed for nannies vary from state to state.
The only broker providing health insurance specifically designed for nannies and on a nationwide basis is Eisenberg Associates, Newton, Massachusetts.
II. Paid days off: vacations, national holidays, sick days, personal days.
Since your availability to your own employers may depend entirely on child care arrangements, try to keep a backup plan: a neighbor, a temporary nanny agency, a friend, a relative, or take your child to work with you. (Urge your employer to provide backup care or suggest a rotating playgroup at work with your co-workers.)
Most families require that their nanny’s vacation coincide with theirs. Since her hours may be desifgned to cover your work and your commute, her workday may be 10 hours long. She will need a good vacation: two weeks is recommended.
If you get many paid vacation days, consider sharing them with your nanny: the morning for you, the afternoon for her. Nannies have their own families to be with, so if you must have help on Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s doubletime pay.
III. Relocations Expenses – For live-in Nannies
You should offer this to out-of-state applicants. You may then be able to withhold 50% from pay through a 6-month probation; when it’s returned, it feels like a bonus. Since probably 50% of jobs that fail, fail through the fault of the employer rather than the nanny, don’t expct her to pay 100%.
Unless you live in a self-contained neighborhood where all is within walking distance, driving is basic to most nanny jobs, even with babies, once they reach six months or so. If you were at home with children all day, you’d have to get out; so does a nanny, and so do the children.