Common Problems Between Employers and Nannies During Summertime

36180841_thbThis time of year I get questions from employers of full-time nannies about how things change during the summertime. Here are the answers!

Hourly Rate
One question that often comes up is how does a nanny’s wage change during summertime? If the kids are home from school, does she earn more? If the kids are in a day long camp, is she paid less?

Unless specifically detailed in the nanny contract, a nanny’s hourly rate is the same throughout the year and reflects the typical changes that happen with kids’ schedules such as spring break, summers off, and camp. Two factors go into the thinking behind this.

When deciding on a rate, the parents and nanny base the rate in part on the expected time the nanny will spend with the child. This isn’t an exact science. It’s a guesstimate based on assumptions. So if the nanny cares for a 7 year old, it’s assumed the child will be in school for most days and home for breaks. If the nanny cares for a 2 year old and the parents plan on enrolling him in a 2 day a week preschool program in the fall, it’s assumed the nanny will have a few hours of toddler-free time during the week in the near future. So part of the rate decision is based on these assumptions. The same nanny will often make less caring for school-aged kids than she would caring for an infant and a toddler because with school-aged kids, it’s assumed she’ll have off several hours each day which is an addition to the benefit package. However none of these things are guaranteed. Things can change and often do. A school-ager can get sick and be out of school for 2 weeks. A toddler can have a hard time with transitions and preschool can be scraped until the next year. So the rate is influenced by the amount of time the nanny’s expected to spend with the child but it’s not completely determined by that factor.

Factor two; nannies are paid for their availability, not for the actual time they spend with each child. Guaranteed hours means nannies are paid for the hours kids are in dance class, school, or at Grandma’s for vacation. Guaranteed hours also means nannies have committed to being available to provide care during work hours if needed. So if the 2nd grader is home sick or the parents decide to opt out of preschool for their toddler, that availability kicks in.

Extra Time Off for the Nanny
Another common question is what does the nanny do when the family is away on vacation? For most nannies, that’s extra paid time off. (Yes, it is one of the best perks of the job!) However some families do ask their nanny to come to work during her regular hours and complete “catch up” chores like cleaning and organizing the play room or rotating seasonal clothes or provide pet care (e.g. feed, water, walk), or provide basic home maintenance (e.g. water plants, bring in the mail).  Anything that’s included in the nanny’s normal job description or simple pet or home care is an appropriate task for her to do while the family is on vacation. However anything else is off limits unless it’s discussed and agreed on in advance.

But what about the nannies who have more free time in the summer because the camp schedule is longer than the preschool or school schedule? Again, unless you and your nanny have talked about and agreed to additional duties during the summertime, those extra hours are hers. If you’d like her to do some errands or organizing, build it into the job description.

Balancing Family Assistant and Nanny Duties
If your nanny also does family manager tasks like grocery shopping, family cooking, errands, or household management, recognize that not all of those tasks will get done in the summer if your kids aren’t in camp. A nanny’s first priority is always providing great care for the kids. So make sure to talk with her and detail your priorities so she knows which non-childcare tasks are most important to you and which ones she can put on the “if you get time” list.

Most nannies’ schedules don’t change during the summertime. Since a nanny’s schedule is built around the parents’ work schedule, it stays the same throughout the year. If you’re in a job where your schedule gets lighter or heavier during summer months, make sure to detail that in your nanny contract and agree on how to handle any changes in compensation.

Other Children
Visiting children can become an issue during summer vacations. The best way to avoid problems is to talk with your nanny before the visit and agree on how it will affect her hourly wage and job description.

If the nanny will be responsible for additional children for a significant period of time during the summer (e.g. step-children at home for 2 months, cousins visiting for a month), she should be paid a higher wage for that time. How much depends on how much extra work it will be for the nanny.

It gets a bit more dicey when the visits are drop-in or for short times. Technically a nanny should be paid extra for all the hours she’s caring for children not listed in her job description. However I feel those situations most often fall under the give and take of a successful nanny / family relationship. When I worked as a nanny and my employer’s nieces stayed over for a few days, I never charged them extra. I loved that my charge got to spend time with her cousins. However when I needed a Friday afternoon off to attend a workshop, I received it with pay. So how you and your nanny decide to handle extra children during the summer months will have a lot to do with the type of relationship you have. But your policy should always be discussed and decided on in advance.

Household Account
Often your nanny’s expenses will go up during the summer. She’ll be taking more trips to the zoo, the pool, the water park and other fun places. She’ll also be doing more outdoor crafts and activities. If you have a spending limit, make sure you detail that in your nanny contract so your nanny knows the budget she’s working with. Often families will just require prior approval to give the nanny flexibility while still maintaining control over the budget. A great way to save money is to talk to your nanny about the paid places she frequents. In most cases, a season or yearly pass is a cheaper option than several individual admissions.

Often your nanny will drive more during the summer months.  At the IRS rate of 53.5 cents per mile, summer trips can add up to a hefty reimbursement bill at the end of the month.  If you’re concerned about this added expense and want to limit the number of miles your nanny drives, talk to her about it before she starts to make plans for the summer.   That allows her to make good use of the miles she has available.

Safety Rules
It’s always a smart idea to review safety rules before summer kicks into gear. Assuming you have a quality caregiver, none of this will be new information. She’ll already know the best practices of summer safety. However it’s still a good idea to review these things so you’re both on the same page about the rules you’re implementing with the kids. Especially since the rules will change as your child gets older.  And it’s the perfect conversation to include kids in so they get a rule reminder too. Here are some of the things to cover and some examples of the rules you might put into place.  Of course the rules will be different for every family.

Safety rules around:
water: for example, the nanny must be in the water with the child and within arm’s length at all times, the child is allowed to be in the pool by himself with the nanny providing “never out of sight” supervision.

home pool: for example, the upper lock on the door leading to backyard must be latched at all times, any additional children invited to play in the pool must be accompanied by an adult who can swim.

things with wheels (bikes, blades, scooters, skateboards): for example, helmet must be worn at all times, the child must stay in sight of nanny.

extreme heat: for example, if the heat index is over 100 degrees the child should stay inside, on afternoons when the temperature is above 90 degrees the child should only play in the shade.

sunscreen and bug repellent: what kind you use and how often it needs to be reapplied to protect your child’s skin type.

independence rules for older kids: for example, the child is allowed to walk to best friend’s house 2 doors down by himself, the child is allowed to play in the back yard by himself.

screen time for older kids: for example, the child is allowed to watch X minutes of TV each day, the child is allowed to be online X minutes each day.

This is also a good time to check the first aid kit to make sure it’s fully stocked and to review and update the emergency contact and procedures sheet.

If you’ve found this post helpful, please share it with your friends.  Then go and enjoy the summer!