Benefits: What’s Your Snow Day Policy?

Last year we had a horrible winter. Cities across the country, including those that rarely see any kind of winter weather, got slammed with snow, ice, and dangerously cold temperatures. Who knows what this year will bring weather-wise. But whatever that is, it’s essential that you have a clear snow day policy in place before it’s needed.  Here are the points you should consider and questions to answer.  The A to Z Nanny Contract can help you outline all the information into your agreement.

No Snow Days Allowed
Some nanny employers have to work regardless of the weather. This group usually includes first responders (e.g. fire fighters, police officers) and medical personnel (e.g. emergency room doctors, nurses). In these cases, there’s not an option for the nanny to stay home due to bad weather. She has to make it to work to ensure her employer can make it to work. This usually means the nanny stays over the night before the storm hits.

Who decides if the nanny needs to stay the night? Of course, the best case scenario is that it’s a mutual decision between the parents and nanny but that isn’t always the case so there needs to be one, ultimate decider. And since it’s the parent’s need driving the decision, it’s usually the parent’s choice.

When will that decision be made? It’s important to lay out how much notice the nanny will be given for a required overnight.

What will the nanny be paid? Although the nanny isn’t working during her overnight stay, she’s there because her employers need her to be there. Because they need that guarantee of availability regardless of the next day’s forecast. Since it’s a requirement rather than a choice, the nanny generally receives a stipend that covers the off hours spent at her employers’ home.

Where will the nanny sleep? A guest bedroom with private access to a bathroom is the best set-up. If that’s not available, go with whatever gives the nanny the most privacy. Crashing on the couch and showering in the kid’s bathroom isn’t fun for the parents or the nanny. Although the kids would probably love it!

Does the nanny have a child or pet that need to be considered? If she does, make sure they are part of the plan. Some employers welcome the nanny’s child or pet into their home for the night. Other employers give extra notice and dollars so the nanny has time to coordinate back-up care and pay for the back-up caregiver. And other employers simply pay an overnight stipend that reflects the added expense and inconvenience the nanny may incur.

What Does a Snow Day Policy Include?
Many employers have the option of taking off work for bad weather but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a snow day policy. In fact, because there are so many questions that come with that time off, it’s especially important to have a plan of action in place before the snow or ice hits.

How is a bad weather day defined? Some employers base their policy on school closures, local government closures, the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, or an assessment of the local road conditions. Whatever your “it’s too bad to come in” standard is, make sure the definition is clear and easily assessable. And remember, this standard answers the question ‘Should the nanny go to work?’ and also ‘Should the nanny go home early?’

If you’re relying on an assessment, who makes the final call? This can be a tough decision. It’s important for the employer because it determines if she’ll have childcare. And it’s important for the nanny because it determines if she’ll have a safe commute to and from work. Hopefully this can be a mutual decision, however the parents and nanny often have different perspectives around how bad is too bad to come in. So it’s important to decide in advance who will make the final call.

Remember that there may be outside factors that you need to consider in your assessment. If the nanny takes the train or bus to and from work, her ability to make it to work and the time she’ll arrive will be determined by how the weather affects the public transportation system. If you live in an area that rarely sees winter weather, the nanny may have a car that’s simply not safe for even mild winter driving. All these factors need to be considered when creating your snow day policy.

Will the nanny be paid for snow days? This is a pretty straightforward question. For employers that live in an area where harsh winters are the norm, it’s standard to offer 3 to 5 paid bad weather days per year. In other areas, paid snow days are a value add to the compensation package.  Even if the nanny isn’t paid for snow days it’s important to outline a snow day policy.  There will be times, paid or not, when bad weather keeps the nanny from attending work as scheduled.

Does the nanny have children or pets at home? When the weather is bad, even if the roads are considered safe for travel, the nanny’s commute time can easily double or triple. If she has a child or pet relying on her to be home at a certain time, it can be impossible for her to work her typical schedule simply because she can’t afford the extra commute time. If this is the case, will her schedule be shortened on bad weather days and how will that affect her pay?

Should the nanny work if a parent is home?  Many parents feel that if their nanny can make it to work, she should come in even if the parent is taking the day off or working from home. Many nannies feel that if a parent is home, she shouldn’t have to chance unsafe roads or deal with the hassle of traveling in bad weather. It’s important to talk about how both sides feel about these issues and develop a policy that’s fair to both parents and caregivers.

Have additional questions about employment policies that support a successful nanny / parent employment relationship?  Please contact me at about my consulting services.