The nanny profession is unlike any other. There are laws and standards that apply specifically to the nanny profession, and because of that, things can get really confusing. Unlike other professions, nannies do not have an HR Department. This means, for the most part, nannies are solely responsible for being their own HR Department. This can be incredibly intimidating and oftentimes nannies simply do not prioritize nor put in the effort, to be their own advocate. But here’s the thing, being your own advocate can literally make the difference between you being paid illegally and getting taken advantage of and you working for a family who pays you completely legally and treats you the way you deserve. So, let’s dive right in and talk about the 3 steps you can take to become your own advocate:
1. LEARN THE NANNY LAWS/INDUSTRY STANDARDS. The first step in becoming your own adovacate, is to learn what it is you are advocating for. If you don’t know your own profession like the back of your hand, it’s going to be really hard to fight for what you deserve. This step takes a lot of work, but it’s really something every nanny should do. There are many resources out there to help you learn the nanny laws and industry standards, it’s just a matter of reading through article after article to ensure you know what you’re talking about! There isn’t enough time to delve into all these laws and industry standards in this article, but here is a brief summary (including links for more info) of the topics you NEED to be well versed on if you’re in the nanny profession:
Nannies cannot be paid salary. Per the FLSA, nannies are non-exempt hourly employees. This means, legally nannies must be paid hourly for every hour worked and cannot be paid a weekly/yearly salary.
Legally nannies must be issued a W-2, not a 1099. Many parents think that their nanny is an independent contractor and can be issued a 1099, but they can’t. When nannies receive a 1099, they pay double taxes — they pay their portion of taxes (employee taxes) and their nanny family’s portion of taxes (employer taxes) as well. Never ever ever, under any circumstances, accept a 1099 from a family.
Because nannies are hourly employees, they are entitled to overtime on anything over 40 hours in a 7 day period. So, if you work 50 hours per week, 10 of those hours should be at a rate of time and a half.
Banking hours is illegal. Banking hours is when parents have their nanny “make up” hours without pay. For example, if a family goes out of town for a long weekend and the nanny gets Friday off and is still paid because they have guaranteed hours, the family cannot save those hours from Friday and have the nanny make them up at a later time. As mentioned above, legally nannies must be paid for every hour worked.
Guaranteed hours. This is not a law, but an industry standard that just about every nanny receives. Guaranteed hours means in exchange for guaranteeing your availability to a family, they will in return guarantee your pay. So in the banking hours example above where the nanny has Friday off because the family goes out of town and doesn’t need them to work, because the nanny has guaranteed hours, the family still pays the nanny for the day.
It is industry standard for professional nannies to receive 1-2 weeks paid vacation per year as well as some sick days (less for newer or part-time nannies and more for experienced/full-time nannies).
If you use your personal car for work, you should be getting reimbursed at the IRS reimbursement rate (53.5 cents/mile as of January 1, 2017). It is completely unreasonable for parents to expect their nanny to drive their kids all around, and not reimburse them mileage. It’s not recommended to agree to a flat gas stipend, because it’s not just gas that needs to be accounted for, but also the wear and tear on the vehicle.
2. Once you’ve thoroughly learned all about the topics listed in step 1, it’s time to make sure you’ve got a solid contract in place that addresses all these items. This step is actually pretty easy because there is an amazing free nanny contract out there to help you. Nannies refer to it as “the learning contract”, because you literally learn the laws and industry standards as you fill it out. It’s a great option for nannies who are nervous to speak up and ask for what they deserve, because the contract does the talking for you. This contract covers everything mentioned above, plus more. Click HERE to download your free copy.
3. Now that you’ve learned the laws and industry standards and have a comprehensive contract in place, the only thing left to do is gain the confidence to clearly communicate with your employers. Even with steps 1 and 2 in place, it is still possible to get taken advantage of! Oftentimes parents start adding more responsibilities to a nanny’s plate that are not listed in the contract, and suddenly the nanny is doing significantly more work without a pay raise. Another common problem is parents habitually arriving home late and not respecting that their nanny has a life outside of caring for their kids. Because of issues like this, it is imperative nannies learn how to communicate. It can be really intimidating to confront your boss when you feel you are being mistreated, but if you don’t, you’re only going to get resentful and start to dislike your job. A great way to reduce the anxiety of having to confront your employers, is to practice what you’re going to say with a friend. For these types of role plays, practicing with a nanny friend who “gets it”, is the best option. In fact, connecting with other nannies in general, is a great way to hold yourself accountable and ensure you are properly advocating for yourself.
As a nanny, having to advocate for ourselves can be exhausting. It’s a huge responsibility and if I’m being completely honest, takes a lot of practice. It will take a while to become truly well versed on the nanny laws and industry standards. It will also take while to learn how to effectively and professionally communicate. But, if you’re passionate about being a nanny and this is your career choice, it’s worth putting in the time to make sure you are taking care of YOU.
Brooke Weglarz is a professional nanny of 10+ years with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. She is a passionate nanny advocate and the creator of nannycounsel.com, an advice blog for nannies and parents. Her goal is to help foster fair and harmonious relationships between families and nannies. She resides in Nashville and in her spare time is a lifestyle portrait photographer. You can also find her on instagram @nannycounsel.