Nanny Bonuses, Time Off and Other Holiday Questions from Nanny Employers

Here are the questions I get most often from parents around the holidays. If you have a questions that’s not covered here, let me know!



Q. How much should I give my nanny as a bonus?

A. It’s standard in the industry to give your nanny a bonus equal to 1 to 2 weeks’ pay. But really, the most important thing for employers to understand about the holiday bonus is that for most nannies, it has a dual meaning. On one hand, it’s a gift and the amount doesn’t matter. It really is the thought that counts. But on the other hand, it’s a measurement of performance and the amount does matter because it represents how much the family values and appreciates the nanny.

The bottomline is if you’re happy with your nanny, if you’re grateful for the care she gives your child, if you value the contribution she makes to your family each and every day, give her as much as you can genuinely afford. If you can’t swing the standard 1 to 2 weeks, get as close as you can. Believe me, your nanny knows your budget. She knows if you’re struggling and sacrificing just to pay her a good wage. And she’ll be happy with whatever you can afford even if that’s $25 or $50.

But beware, she also knows if you drop $200 each week on Friday night take out and a bottle of wine. A $25 or $50 bonus will not go over too well in that case. It’s all relative. If you spend a lot of money on everything except your nanny’s bonus, it sends the message that you don’t really value the work she does.


Q. I give my nanny a bonus on her yearly anniversary. Do I need to give her a holiday bonus too?

A. First off, good for you. I’m a big believer in separating the bonus, which is emotionally tied to performance, and the holiday gift. It just makes things easier and clearer. But back to your question. If you give your nanny a bonus on her nanniversary, you don’t need to give her an end-of-year bonus too. However this is the perfect time to give her a card with a handwritten note, a simple gift from your family, a gift made by your child or a kid-related keepsake.


Q. What are some good Christmas gift ideas for my nanny?

A. Every year, agencies survey nannies about what gift they most want from their employers. Money is always number one. Always. If you want to get your nanny a gift, I highly recommend cold, hard cash. That may seem impersonal but it really isn’t. You’re giving your nanny the opportunity to buy exactly what she wants. You can make your cash gift a sentimental keeper by adding a card with a handwritten, heartfelt note. The one non-cash gift nannies do love receiving is something made by your child or child-related. A handmade keepsake or a personalized frame with a favorite photo will melt any nanny’s heart.


Q. Do nannies generally get Christmas and New Year’s Day off as paid holidays?

A. Yes, it’s standard for full-time nannies to receive all federal holidays off with pay. Part-time nannies normally get the day off with pay if the holiday falls on one of their regular work days. If you require your nanny to work, she normally makes 1.5 to 2 times her normal rate. How you’ll handle holidays should be clearly outlined in your nanny contract.


Q. Our family isn’t Christian and doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Do I still have to give my nanny the day off?

A. You don’t “have” to give your nanny any paid holidays. Legally, employers aren’t required to provide any paid time off. However what’s legally required and what’s standard in the nanny industry are two different things. Unless your nanny doesn’t celebrate Christmas and has clearly said she’s happy to work it like a regular day, she expects to get what other nannies get; the day off with pay. By taking the long view and offering your nanny standard benefits, you’re building a give and take employment relationship that will benefit you and your family over the long haul.


Q. I’m taking off work Christmas Eve but I’ll be spending the day getting last minute stuff done. I need my nanny to work but I’m afraid she’ll be miffed if I’m home and still expect her to take care of the kids?

A. As an employer, you have every right to expect your nanny to happily work her regularly scheduled hours, regardless of what you’re doing. But that doesn’t always happen. Some nannies do get miffed when their bosses take off work and still expect them to come in. That attitude usually reflects a bigger issue: mismatched expectations, feeling taken advantage of or feeling unappreciated. If you’re getting that vibe from your nanny, have a conversation with her to clear the air and make sure you and she are on the same page moving forward.

Remember, the best relationships are about give and take and that applies to the nanny world too. If you can let your nanny off early, especially around the holidays, do it. And don’t dock the time from her pay. These small gestures will carry a lot of weight with your nanny. Of course she’ll love getting the extra time off. But what will mean even more is knowing she’s working for a considerate boss that values her beyond what she can do for the family. And she’ll remember it when you’re running late or need a quick favor. Reciprocity is the name of the game.


Q. We’re taking off the week of Christmas. Am I supposed to pay my nanny for those days even though she won’t be working?

A. Guaranteed hours, when the nanny is available to work but the parents don’t need her to, are standard in the nanny industry. However “standard” doesn’t mean automatic. Just like other standard benefits such as paid vacation and CPR / First Aid training costs, guaranteed hours should be agreed upon in advance. (And of course outlined in your nanny contract.) If you didn’t talk about this with your nanny beforehand, do it now. Don’t assume she’s willing or financially able to take the time off without pay. And hopefully she won’t assume that you’re going to automatically pay her for the days she doesn’t work. (You know what they say about assuming…) Share your perspective on the issue, listen to hers, and work together to come up with a solution that works for both sides.


Q. I told my nanny a few weeks ago that I was going to take a couple of extra days off right after Christmas so she’d get those days off too. I just found out that I have to go into the office so now I need her to work those days but she says she can’t. What should I do?

A. The change in plans has put both you and your nanny in a bind. You told your nanny that she’d have that extra time off and she made plans for those days. It’s not fair to expect her to abandon her plans because yours fell through. Unfortunately, it’s up to you to find back-up care. She has to be able to count on you to stick to the agreements you make. Just like you have to be able to count on her. Without that, the relationship will go down in flames.


Hope this short Q and A post answers your questions. If you have a question I didn’t cover, please let me know. And I hope you, your family and nanny a wonderful holiday season. Enjoy!

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