How to Keep Your Nanny (and You) Holiday Happy

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For many new parents the holidays are a time of both excitement and anxiety.  Holiday plans present a season of “firsts” which includes plenty of unique challenges for the newly expanded family.  If you’re like most people, you’ll be taking some time off around the holidays . . . but what about your nanny?  Hopefully  you and your nanny negotiated paid holidays and other time off  at hiring, and you have a signed contract that outlines your agreement.  If not, don’t panic—but do find time to sit down with your nanny today  and get on the same page about scheduling and expectations.  Although nannies’ terms of employment vary greatly, here are some FAQs on the subject of holidays to think about:

Do I have to pay my nanny for holidays?

The short answer here is “yes.”  If your nanny’s schedule coincides with a major national holiday (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas) then she should have that day off and it should be paid.  If you have to work on that holiday then it’s best to discuss your needs with your nanny well in advance of the holiday, and be prepared for her not to be available .  If she does agree to work on a national holiday, some employers choose to pay overtime (i.e. time and a half).   Leave on all other holidays (MLK Day, President’s Day, various religious holidays, etc.) is at the discretion of you, the employer.  Again, the key here is to make sure you’ve outlined in advance which holidays will be granted so there are no surprises (or disappointments) on either side-don’t assume that just because you don’t celebrate a certain holiday she doesn’t, either.

Do I have to pay my nanny when I go on vacation?

Again, the short answer here is “yes.”  The key here, though, is in the contract.  Some families make it a requirement that the nanny take her vacation at the same time as the family so as to minimize costs.  If you know you always take one week off in December, for example, then you can require your nanny also take this week as of one her paid vacation weeks.   But if you haven’t set this up as an expectation,  don’t be surprised if your nanny’s vacation schedule doesn’t always match up with yours—and realize you’ll pay her salary regardless of which one of you takes vacation.

Do I have to give my nanny a bonus or a present?

A holiday bonus and/or gift is not required, but it does go a long way toward keeping your nanny happy.  Most families do give their nanny a bonus and/or gift at Christmas to acknowledge the amazing job she does, so if you’re feeling like your nanny doesn’t deserve a bonus, then maybe it’s time to consider making a change.  If you’re curious about what or how much to give, ask around, but note that bonuses vary greatly depending on the amount of hours worked and the circumstances of the employer.  The important thing is to make sure your nanny knows how much she is valued in whatever way feels right.  A happy nanny = a happy family.

Nanny Driving Conventions

When you hire a nanny, there’s a good chance she’ll be driving your child at some point – to school, to playdates, to doctor appointments.  You’ll want to ensure she is a safe and qualified driver and definitely establish driving expectations with her upfront.

Driver’s license – There are nannies out there who know how to drive but who are not licensed, possibly due to concerns about eligibility (for non-citizens) or because of a lapse in renewal.  NannyTrack always recommends our clients obtain a copy of their nanny’s driver’s license to keep on file. Also, if your nanny has her own car and will be transporting your child, make sure you know the make and model of her vehicle, as well as her license plate details.

Driving history – Has your nanny been involved in traffic accidents? Been fined for speeding violations? Been charged with a DUI? Start by asking her – then fact-check this by ordering a copy of her driving record. Availability and coverage varies by state, but these records typically cover at least the last three years’ of a person’s driving history. Also included is information about when her license is set to expire. Note that motor vehicle-related civil lawsuits typically do not appear in driving history records, so NannyTrack recommends our more comprehensive litigation search for the sake of diligence.

Insurance – If your nanny is driving your car, your automobile insurance will likely cover her actions, but it’s always best to double-check with your policy provider. If your nanny is driving your child in her car, it’s prudent to ask her if her inspection and registration is up-to-date and if she, too, is insured. And, you’ll want her to back up the assertions with documentation. 

Child safety seats – Make sure your nanny knows how to correctly restrain your child in his car seat. And if you are buying additional child seats for her car, make sure they are correctly installed.

State the obvious – Having a sit-down with your nanny about driving safety protocol is a must, even if what you’re saying seems obvious. Let her know it is unacceptable to leave the child in the car unattended ever, even to return a shopping cart, or to “run in” for a quick errand. Ask her to leave her purse and other personal belongings in the backseat so no child is forgotten in the car. Remind her never to talk on the phone, text or read directions while driving. Finally, make sure your nanny understands she must contact you before taking your child on any previously unscheduled trip in the car—even a short one.

Your Nanny and Social Media

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We live in an age where social media seems to permeate every facet of society. These days, most people have not only a Facebook account, but also Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and the-list-goes-on accounts with which to share every picture, activity, thought, story, and recipe idea. And your nanny is unlikely to be an exception!

Social media, while fun and engaging, can also be risky.  And while we all have different ideas about what we consider acceptable to post online, by sharing snippets of her day, your nanny could inadvertently share your child(ren)’s whereabouts, living situation, schedules and/or photos with strangers. In order to avoid a situation that can be (at best) uncomfortable and (at worst) dangerous, it is important for parents to be aware of your nanny’s social media presence and to discuss expectations and rules regarding social media use.

Before the interview:

  • It’s never a bad idea to look up potential hires on various social media sites to see what they’re doing and saying in a non-professional atmosphere. (NannyTrack can do this for you, too!) If you notice a candidate tweets or posts excessively and/or too candidly for your taste, follow your instincts and move on to another candidate. If possible, take this step before wasting valuable time interviewing someone who you know from their online presence isn’t going to be a match—joking tweets about careless driving? Nope!
  • Figure out where you stand on social media use and your nanny. Would you like to be a Facebook friend or Instagram follower, for example, of your nanny so you can monitor her use of the various social platforms? Or do you feel this creates a familiarity you’re not comfortable with? 

During the interview:

  • We suggest a straightforward approach: Tell your potential nanny exactly what is and isn’t okay to share on social media when it comes to the job. No pictures, stories, tweets, etc. about your children, at all, ever? State that, explicitly, rather than assume your nanny knows what you consider proper social media etiquette.  Some parents go farther, and ask their nanny to sign a social media contract declaring that she understands and acknowledges the rules, or incorporate this into a broader employment contract.  Here at NannyTrack, we always encourage parents to use caution and this is no exception.  Having a written agreement signed by both parties is an excellent way to avoid future misunderstandings.
  • The interview is also a good time to make clear to any potential nanny that time dedicated to caring for your children should not instead be spent using social media (whether it’s about your children or not).

Going forward:

  • Be sure to stay proactive, even after you’ve decided on a nanny! Check in on her social media accounts periodically to make sure she’s following the agreed-upon rules.

 P.S. If you’d like to see what we’re Tweeting and Facebooking about, follow us online!

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Summer is here!

It’s that time of year again . . . the schools are closed and playgrounds, swimming pools, and parks overflow with excited kids of all ages soaking up the sun. But even though the summer vibe is laid back, preparations for your children’s safety should never be. Here at NannyTrack we’ve put together a checklist of safety precautions to consider as we dive into the season:

  1. Driver Safety:  Who is going to be driving your children around this summer? Whether it’s a friend, a babysitter, or a full-time caregiver, you’ll want to see a copy of that person’s driver’s license to make sure it is valid and up-to-date. Don’t be afraid to ask directly “Have you ever been involved in an accident?” and, if the answer is “yes,” to follow up. Many States allow third-parties to search Department of Motor Vehicle records; NannyTrack reports always include such searches where available.
  1. First Aid: Is your caregiver certified in infant/child CPR and/or first aid? Summer is the season of boo-boos, and while most kids won’t need more than a Band-Aid and a kiss to make it all better, it’s reassuring to know your primary caregiver can provide the basics of emergency care if something does goes wrong. The American Red Cross offers classes nationwide.  If your caregiver is already certified, you’ll want to confirm the certification; NannyTrack always pursues verification of all licenses and certifications claimed by the subjects of our reports.
  1. Camp: If your child is attending any type of camp this summer she’ll be coming into contact with a lot of new people, from counselors, to support staff, to bus drivers and beyond. Make sure you understand your camp’s background check policy, including both what and who is searched. States have differing requirements about who can legally be employed to work with children (and which types of organizations are required to have all staff pass mandatory background checks), and you’ll want to make sure your camp is compliant. If your child will be taking a bus to camp, it’s likely the camp contracts with a separate, private company, so make sure you find out the contractor’s background check policy, too.

Here at NannyTrack, we understand sometimes it’s easier to just hope for the best—but a few phone calls might be all it takes to give you the peace of mind that your children are in the best possible hands.  And the sooner that happens, the sooner you can sit back and enjoy your frosty beverage! Happy summer!

Nanny or Daycare? Which is Right for My Family?

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Though it might feel strange to start thinking about childcare when you haven’t even met your baby yet, once you know you’ll need some coverage (either full-time or part-time), it’s best to determine as soon as possible whether your child will be taken care of at home by a paid caregiver or at a daycare facility. The details might seem overwhelming at this point, so we’ve outlined some of the key differences to consider below:

Cost: The hourly cost for a nanny can be up to twice as much as for daycare, with possible additional associated costs such as social security payments, transportation reimbursement, or meals. With either mode of childcare you’ll likely pay even when you go on vacation, although a nanny can sometimes be more flexible, for example scheduling her vacation around yours. If your child is sick and can’t attend daycare, you’ll pay both for daycare and an emergency babysitter (or with personal/vacation days), costs that can add up over the course of several years. If you have more than one child, the associated nanny costs go down (though a nanny’s salary increases with additional children, it doesn’t double), while daycare costs will increase somewhat exponentially.

Convenience:  Having someone arrive at your home 15 minutes before you need to leave for work is certainly easier than getting yourself and a baby (and whatever supplies the daycare may require) out the door. If you’re late returning in the evening, it’s nice to know there’s someone staying at home with your baby who can start the dinner and bedtime routine. On the other hand, if your nanny is sick or delayed, this can leave you late and/or scrambling for coverage. Daycares keep fixed hours and have an entire staff ready to take care of your child during those hours, pretty much no matter what.

Control:  At home you and your nanny work together to make sure your child adheres to a desired feeding, eating, and sleeping schedule, and you can control activities and environment. At a daycare center often children are taught to adhere to a routine that works better for the group as a whole; most daycares are sensitive to the desires of parents, but it’s simply not practical to have each child on an independent schedule. Plus, your nanny works for you – at a daycare you are one of many parents, each with distinct desires or needs.

Health:  Daycare obviously puts babies and kids into contact with other babies and kids, and there’s little doubt that babies in daycare generally get sick more than those taken care of at home. Some parents think this builds up a baby’s immunities, ultimately making them healthier and less likely to miss school later on, while others disagree. Either way, it’s important to know your daycare’s policy about bringing a sick child, and to understand there will be some days when you’ll need a back-up plan.

Social:  At a daycare your child will have plenty of opportunities to interact with other children and adults, and to experience an environment other than home. The best daycares also offer lots of fun activities and classes to fit every personality, such as music, dance – even yoga! With a nanny, children won’t necessarily come into close contact with their peers, so it’s important to make sure you and your nanny integrate play dates, classes, or other age appropriate activities as your child grows.

And finally, remember:  No decision is final.  It may take more than one try to find the fit that works best for your family, but you’ll get there, even if what you need is more than one fit! Some families, for example, find that starting with a nanny in infancy and switching to daycare later when the child is older works well.

Ready for the next step? Check out our earlier post “When To Start Looking for Childcare.”

We have a winner!

As mentioned, we were thrilled to meet so many expectant and new parents at the New York Baby Show. We also had the fun opportunity to give away a FREE NannyTrack report (a $555 value). We’ve contacted our winner and look forward to helping this mom (and you!) select the nanny that will best fit her family’s needs.

Stay tuned next week for a new post weighing the differences between in-home childcare and daycare.

When to start thinking about childcare

You’re pregnant! When do you need to start thinking about childcare?

So much of our planning surrounds trying to get pregnant, sustain a healthy pregnancy, and bring baby home that expectant parents sometimes don’t know when to start planning for childcare. Returning to work after having your first (or second, or third…) baby is a sensitive time in parents’ lives. Some of us have the luxury of several months’ leave from our career responsibilities, while many of us have to take far less time. Follow this timeline to achieve quality childcare:

Pregnancy, Months 0-6: Decide on institutional or individual childcare.

Some parents have strong feelings about whether a nanny or daycare program is the best fit for your family. Research and discuss your options before the baby is born, while considering finances and work flexibility.  (Stay tuned for next week’s NannyTracks post which discusses the differences between in-home and outside childcare.)

If you’re choosing institutional childcare, start researching and reserving a spot as soon as you know your return-to-work date, and check with them about phasing your child in part-time for a few weeks before that so all of you can settle into a routine.

If you’re looking to hire a nanny, put out feelers around your second trimester with mention of your ideal start date.

Pregnancy, Months 7-9: Look for recommendations from friends and neighbors.

Whichever type of childcare you opt for, talk to people you know about people they know. Ask friends and neighbors if they know of any nannies who are looking for new work (especially useful if you’re working part-time as many parents enter into “nanny share” agreements with other families). Remember, the best nannies don’t need to advertise their availability—they have new jobs lined up when their old ones expire. And a family who no longer has a need for their beloved nanny always wants, and typically helps, to find them a new family. Regardless of how strong a recommendation is, you should always be conducting additional reference calls for a full-spectrum representation of any nanny candidate.

If daycare is your chosen route, do your due diligence here, too. If you’re cold-calling daycare centers, hang around the parking lot or stroll by at pick-up time and ask parents about their feelings about the program. You can ask for references, too, though clearly these are cherry-picked families who would likely have only positive comments about the facility and staff.

Baby, Months 0-3: Don’t wait too long to commit.

Do the daycare centers in your area involve a lengthy registration process or have waiting lists? Does your dream nanny know that her current job is wrapping up in 2 months? Starting early, while it may seem an overwhelming endeavor while caring for your newborn, will ensure a more seamless back-to-work transition. If you’re interviewing daycares or individuals to hire, you’ll want to start setting up these meetings at least 6 weeks prior to work, so commitments can be made at least a few weeks before you go back to your other job. Conducting necessary and thorough background checks, like the NannyTrack Report, will also take time. Having childcare in place early enough allows for a getting-to-know-you period which provides both you and your baby with a sense of security and comfort.

 

 

 

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