What is the best way to ask for pay when my employer takes vacation?
November 27, 2013 12:19 PM   Subscribe

(Posting on behalf of a friend and sending them a link to the thread. I can relay updates as needed). I am a nanny caring for a three-year old in the Boston area. The family I currently work for is leaving for two weeks during Christmas vacation. I expect that I won't work during that time and I won't get paid. I would've requested the first week off anyway because I am traveling with my family. but the second week I would have chosen to work had they been here. Is it fair for me to ask for compensation for the second week? If so, can you recommend how I can word this request so it doesn't sound like a demand? I've been writing it down and talking it out and I can't seem to come up with the right words.
posted by carpographer to Work & Money (18 answers total)
This is something that should have been clarified when you started the job, or in a contract. If not, in my frank opinion it's a bit late to be mentioning it now. I have two children in daycare and if my daycare lady stated she wanted to charge me for holidays right now, I would be finding a new daycare person immediately (I might pay her for the holiday, but I would also promptly start looking for someone new). Your mileage may vary.
posted by celtalitha at 12:28 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, it is reasonable to ask for compensation for the second week. I say that as a former employer of a nanny. We tried to line up our vacations when possible, but if that did not work, we would pay the nanny for the time she would have otherwise worked for us. Because we valued her, and understood that she still had bills to pay regardless of whether we went on vacation.

Do you work for the family full-time? Do you have any sort of employment agreement? This is the kind of thing that it is good to clarify upfront, along with sick days, paid holidays, how much notice each party needs to give the other, etc.

I am aware that not all employers take the position we took, so it is not a slam-dunk, but it is not unreasonable, and your situation differs from that of a day-care provider because they are your sole source of income. Also, for what it's worth, my kids' preschool charges us for the entire month of December, even though they close for two weeks, because again, everyone has bills to pay.
posted by ambrosia at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

This is tricky, legally in the US, her employer (the family) isn't required to offer any benefits (medical, dental, PTO, holidays, etc - see here. Other sites report the same thing, but I wasn't able to track down the official IRS document.

That being said, what was discussed when she began employment? This is generally something talked about when pay, work dates/hours, etc. is discussed?

Sorry to say this, but unless it was explicitly said that she has PTO (and that's what this would be unless the family is really kind and wants to give it as a bonus), she's kinda SOL. Otherwise, yea - she either needs to bounce and get a better position or try to renegoitate her contract to include PTO.
posted by lpcxa0 at 12:32 PM on November 27, 2013

Yeah, this ship has sailed, so I think you just have to suck it up this year. One thing you might ask your employer is if they take the two week vacation every year so "I can plan my finances / pick up some extra work / take belly dancing lessons" that second week in years to come. Phrased as a planning for the future thing might put a bug in their ear that the extra week pay will be missed...
posted by PlantGoddess at 12:34 PM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would clear up whether or not you're 'salaried' or hourly regardless. When I was a nanny the family I worked for decided to spend summer vacation in LA and not needme. Salaried meant I was there when they got back, and not working for someone else or on the street. (Depending on the situation, it may be worth reviewing and formalizing your agreement _ it's really wise to have this all written down. Visit a few Nanny agency websites and see what kinds of job descriptions/pay/work conditions are standard.)
posted by jrobin276 at 12:47 PM on November 27, 2013

What does your contract say?
posted by k8t at 12:49 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

To me, personally, it does not seem reasonable to get paid for that week. You are not working.

It would be another thing if you had a salary arrangement, or if you had discussed this previously. But, if you have not talked about it until now, I think you can not ask for it.

You might say to them, "Can we alter the arrangement for next year? I make x dollars per week, I work Y weeks per year, X times Y is Z. Can we set it up so that I get paid 1/52nd of Z each week next year. Make it a salary arrangement. I would like to do this because not getting paid for two weeks over Christmas hurts me right now. So, in the future, I want to avoid that by making a salary arrangement where I get something every week"

This might encourage them to give you something for the week now, and it will clear things up in the future.

But just straight asking for a week's pay for a week you are not working when this has not been previously discussed - that seems crazy to me.
posted by Flood at 12:49 PM on November 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

"So, I guess I probably should have thought of this stuff earlier, but what is the status of my salary when you guys are out of town or otherwise don't need my services? I'm asking because if I am not going to be paid during your vacation it is going to be a bit of a hardship for me. Maybe we can schedule a time in the next couple of weeks to sit down and hash out some of the details of my position with you guys for 2014?"
posted by Rock Steady at 12:50 PM on November 27, 2013 [38 favorites]

Another factor to consider is that it's customary to give nannies a Christmas tip, in many cases a very generous one. That might disappear if you push this too hard at this stage of the game.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:00 PM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have never heard of anyone stiffing their nanny or daycare provider for holiday weeks. Daycare centers certainly do not offer holiday discounts, and every nanny arrangement I've ever heard of involved at least a week of paid vacation in the winter and another in the summer, and if the family takes a different vacation off-schedule, the nanny still gets paid. (If the nanny needs a random week off that would be a different story.)Maybe good nannies and daycare are just at a higher premium where I live.

I think you should ask for the pay, and if you are refused, look around for a family that values your work a little more highly.
posted by xeney at 1:02 PM on November 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Contract,contract,contract. If you don't have one, you can ask but you have no rights. Is best to go in with the understanding that you know this should have clarified beforehand, and asking now is completely a lapse on your part, but the situation is such that two weeks of unpaid leave is difficult for you because of your budget constraints, etc. This is not something you can demand or even expect at this point,but if it is an amicable, healthy relationship,then asking politely, acknowledging your own lapse, might work.

If you don't have a contract, then tell them you want one starting January 1. It should clarify your vacation time, their vacation time, and time when they decide not to use you (say mom decides to take a personal day).

Former nanny in Boston. Former nanny of over 15 years. MeMail me if you want specifics.

(Sorry for the typos and weirdness. Typing on an iPad.)
posted by mrfuga0 at 1:03 PM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nanny's should get paid time off. It isn't legally required, but an increasing number of people recognize that it is the ethical thing to do.

That said, it is difficult to ask for this after-the-fact. Your best bet might be to try Rock Steady's approach: let them know that it is a hardship for you this year, and let them know that you'll want paid time off in 2014. I think that should include sick/personal days as well as paid time off during the holidays. There should also be some understanding of what happens --- how much you get paid --- if they take time off and go away.

They may not like this. They may be surprised by it. They may not have realized that this is your real job. But hey, this isn't Task Rabbit. This is your full time job. It's unfair for your employer to feel like they can just turn it on and off at their whim. They depend on you big time. Your reliability matters a lot to them: if you aren't reliable they can't go to work, their kids don't get cared for. That reliability should be a two way street.

Again, it's hard to negotiate this after the fact. But I'd encourage you to at least try. That's the only way things will change.
posted by alms at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Another factor to consider is that it's customary to give nannies a Christmas tip, in many cases a very generous one. That might disappear if you push this too hard at this stage of the game.

Came in to say this. My Christmas bonus was roughly equal to a week's pay.

You absolutely needed to work this out beforehand, what happens when the family is out of town. I was never paid for time that the family was gone, but I had [x amount] of paid days and it would often work out that we could time our vacations to overlap and I'd still get paid for part of it.

Asking at this point to get paid for that week is probably going to go poorly. A better strategy would be to ask to renew your contract after the first of the year and make sure it's spelled out for next time what happens when the family goes out of town.

(Former Boston nanny.)
posted by sonika at 3:02 PM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ask your employer to let you make up the hours somehow. For instance, what about scheduling some overnights?

I usually pay my nanny half time for the hours the kids are asleep; so if I go on an overnight with my husband, that's paid time from say 5p-9p, then half time from 9pm-7am; then full time again until we get home in the early afternoon… it adds up quickly. If I wanted to make sure my nanny had enough for her bills but didn't want to pay for "nothing", that's how I'd do it.

(And I agree it'd be best to have a contract that spells it out going forward; but for now since there isn't one, this is how I'd approach it.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:04 PM on November 27, 2013

i think it's fair to ask, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's fair to give it to you.

i'd ask them if there's any work you can do while they're gone and still get paid some money. maybe you can do some deep cleaning? house sitting? clean the gutters?
posted by cupcake1337 at 3:37 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it's possible it just hasn't occurred to them this will be a hardship, you might be able to clue them in by asking something like, "The second week you'll be out of town, I'd like to pick up some other work so I can meet my expenses. Do you know anyone who might be looking for childcare that week?" Hopefully they'll realize your relationship with them is like that of a salaried employee and just pay you, but if they take you at your word and refer you to someone else, at least you can make money that week.
posted by lakeroon at 6:08 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Help in our home gets paid when we go on vacation or their work gets rescheduled. We might reschedule our housekeeper so she tidies up before we return instead of on the day we leave. My mother-in-law has a cook/cleaner/assistant. When my mother-in-law travels we continue to pay her helper.

Help in the home works for you exclusively during those hours. If you want to retain people you need to pay them a wage which they can depend on receiving. People earning an hourly wage don't have the luxury of going 2 weeks without compensation.

Here is how I would ask, "I'm planning my budget for the holidays. We've never discussed how you planned to handle times when you don't need me for a week. How should I plan for this in my budget?"

If you ask in that way, your employer has a few options:
- No money at all.
- Some amount of year end bonus (in this area, its commonly a week or two of wages for domestic help)
- Offer to advance you salary if you'll be short this month
- Ask you to housesit for a reduced amount.
posted by 26.2 at 6:09 PM on November 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Just came in to say I super hope this works out and they pay you. If not, renegotiate or bounce.

It's pretty gross of them unless they were planning on a huge bonus unbeknownst to you (in which case, asking about your budget is a polite way of addressing this with them:))
posted by jbenben at 6:56 PM on November 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

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