Pink-collar problems
November 14, 2016 6:50 PM   Subscribe

Posting for my wife: I was recently hired as a nanny by a lovely family. Our initial arrangement was for four days per week; but over the past month or more, due to the kids' illnesses and other unexpected events, I've probably worked about half of that. Am I justified in wanting a more regular schedule for this kind of work? And if so, what's the best way to broach the subject with my employer?

I recently decided to change careers and start working as a nanny, and my employer & I connected via The mother had not been working, but wanted to return to work at a family-owned business while I looked after her two-year-old daughter. (The other two children are in school.) When we were working out the details, we said that I would be working four days a week; and that my primary task would be looking after the two-year-old, but I would also look after the school-aged kids on those days should the need arise.

However, what has happened is that whenever any one of kids has gotten sick, or she wants to pack for a trip, or she's not really needed at work, the mother decides to stay home from work and I get an (unpaid) day off. Now that cold & flu season is upon us, this has gotten rather frequent, and I have been working only 2-3 days per week for the last few weeks. I understand her desire to be with her children when they're ill, and my being there is essentially for her convenience; but at the same time, I would be rather be working a larger portion of the time (or at least being paid for a larger portion of the time.)

Am I within my rights to ask for a guarantee of a certain number of hours per week? Or some kind of cancellation policy? What is standard in these situations? Since this is the first time I've worked as a nanny, I have no idea what is usual and what's unheard of in these situations.

And if I do want to ask for a more regular pay schedule, how do I broach the subject? I love the kiddo I'm taking care of, but it's frustrating to not feel like I'm living up to my potential.
posted by Johnny Assay to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Our nanny was paid weekly, period. If one of us stayed home for whatever reason, we would typically give her a half-day off ("Here, take the car, go have fun, be back after lunch.") or let her take the lead and just be there playing with the baby. But, as I say, the paycheck did not vary. I think it's absolutely reasonable for you to say "Hey, this is a job, and I would like to be able to rely on the money."
posted by Etrigan at 7:03 PM on November 14, 2016 [24 favorites]

In my experience (NYC) the normal arrangement is as Etrigan describes: the nanny is paid weekly, and if the parent happens to also be home on a particular day, the nanny still works. Even when the parent is there, a nanny is a huge help! I think it's totally fair to have this conversation. And if they aren't willing to accommodate you, it's totally fair to start looking for another gig.
posted by lmindful at 7:13 PM on November 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

Do not wait another second to implement what is suggested above: you are on a weekly rate. You can say, "(Lady's name), I really enjoy working for your family, but our current pay structure isn't sufficient for my financial needs. I'm not able to continue working like a babysitter, on an ad hoc basis. If you'd like me to continue as the nanny, we need to commit to a guaranteed weekly rate, starting now. If that's not possible, I understand, but will have to give you my two-week's notice, which starts today."

Stand up for yourself. A great, reliable nanny who is liked by kids and parents is a TREASURE. If that is you, you need to be compensated in a realistic manner worthy of your status, not like a rando teen they call up whenever they need a babysitter.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:36 PM on November 14, 2016 [44 favorites]

Since they use, you might ask them to read about, and take, the Fair Care Pledge. It's a set of best practice guidelines around paid time off, mutually agreed expectations, etc. Maybe you could use this to start a conversation.
posted by cushie at 8:29 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

another option that might work is to have a set number of hours (rather than a set schedule.) When I had nannies and a variable work schedule, I would make sure that, say, if I had them leave early one day, they could make it up with evening babysitting for a date night -- and of course I scheduled this around their availability, I didn't just up and decree that they'd have to work saturday night or whatever. Basically we had an agreement of what they could expect to make per week, and I made sure that if it dipped one week I'd get them more hours the next.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:40 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is really crummy. You're not a sitter, this is your career. You gotta get a serious contract.
posted by k8t at 9:02 PM on November 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

If mom decides she doesn't feel like going to work, you either come in anyway or it's a paid day off.

If the kids are sick or there's another unforeseen emergency, I think it's fine for that to be unpaid unless it ends up happening too often. And then it should be paid. Like, twice a year, sure, cancel and don't pay me. Once a month or more, I agree with the Etrigan plan.
posted by Sara C. at 10:29 PM on November 14, 2016

I had a boss in college that would occasionally give everyone the afternoon off. Whee!
Except that unlike her, I was hourly and so an afternoon off just meant that I didn't have grocery money. I was too chicken to say anything, but it was also pretty infrequent.

You are absolutely within your rights to set terms that you need. Be prepared for the possibility that what you need and what she needs just aren't going to sync up, and that you might wind up needing an employer who has a more consistent schedule, while she needs an employee who has more flexibility.

The Fair Care Pledge is a great resource, and they have some tips about planning ahead for holidays.
Check out NDWA, too.

Start by figuring out what you actually want here. And then make a list of acceptable compromises. Do you want a flat weekly rate? A cancellation policy? Makeup hours? A weekly minimum?

But when you sit her down, ask for what you really want. That is going to vary because everyone is a rare and special ❄️❄️ but figure out a time to say you need to check in about hours and schedule. This is a great moment to start that conversation because there are a lot of holidays coming up, so it is 100% reasonable for you to want to make a plan and know when you'll be working during Thanksgiving, Xmas and New Years. That's an easy way into the bigger conversation.

And keep in mind that asking to be work on days when she's just decided to stay home is hard. It's extra awkward because you've now got a month or two of her staying home whenever she wants and presumably it hasn't occurred to her that this is probably not a great arrangement for you. So don't feel bad that it is awkward. Just lay it out: "I also want to clarify our weekly schedule. In the last two weeks you've opted to stay home unexpectedly at the last minute three different times and while I certainly understand your choice, I need to be able to count on a steady schedule. So I'd like to settle our schedule in two week increments and stick to it."

And then (and this is important) you want to say "Great. Thank you! So I'm going to do X, Y and Z, and you'll be sure to A and B." -- that is an incredibly useful management tool for any project and person management. Just making sure that the thing you end on is not just "i'm so glad we had this chat" but "here's me reiterating what we just said."

You should also think about how urgent this is: if she's not willing to budge, you probably want to start shopping for a new client, or find a second 1-2 day per week client, or a new full time client. Now that you've had a little time in this business, you can set the ground rules at the start, cancellation policy included.
posted by amandabee at 10:40 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a nanny. We agreed when she started that she would be guaranteed 3 days of work a week, every week. Exceptions are Christmas break (2 weeks), and public holidays we would play by ear depending on what our plans were. If we were going away, we agreed to 2 months notice so that she could plan on getting extra work. This is exactly how your employers should be treating you.
posted by shazzam! at 4:37 AM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Any sort of long-term arrangement should have a contract that outlines these specific things. The basic rule for us was if it was US that canceled a planned day, we paid. If the nanny canceled, we didn't pay. Here is an excerpt from our nanny contract that we drew up:

III. Compensation and Benefits
a. Pay is to be $XXX per week. This is to be paid weekly, at the end of each Friday.
b. Nanny will work part time (approximately 27 hours per week). The typical schedule (although it may vary by a few minutes) is Wednesday through Friday, 8:00am MST to 5:00pm MST.
c. Employer and nanny will make best efforts to coordinate vacation dates (i.e. during the holiday season). Should this not be possible, the following guidelines apply:
i. If employer chooses to take vacation, nanny will still be paid for the time employer and child are away.
ii. If nanny chooses to take vacation, nanny will not be paid for those days on vacation. Nanny should give no less than 2 weeks notice for upcoming vacation.
iii. Nanny will give employer two weeks notice of any upcoming vacations.
d. Paid holidays include: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, day after Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.
e. Sick days should not exceed 5 per year. Nanny should notify employer no later than 7am the day of sick leave. Any possible advance warning is appreciated.
posted by LKWorking at 7:46 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Of course! As Seinfeld would say, you need to "cover your nut"!

However, since working in somebody's home is an intimate setting, please be aware that some people will drop you just for asking. This is because they harbor the illusion of a cheerful helper with no needs of their own, such that any challenge makes them uncomfortable.

(Next time, you'll know to ask for these things up front, because that is the acceptable time and place to state terms and negotiate.)

Now first, decide what you want. Here is a list of potential outcomes:
1. Doing 4 days a week - obviously what you wanted
2. Not working for them at all, and find another job
3. Setting up a regular "nanny share" with another family that they know - this way they coordinate among themselves on the schedule, and jointly provide you with full hours.
4. Being "on-call" for them, and doing however many days they want - the way it is now

Look at each of this and first decide if it's acceptable to you.

Next, here are some ways to approach it as an informational query rather than a demand:
1. "Can I ask you something? I was wondering if you could help me. When we talked at first, you had mentioned 4 days a week. Is everything going OK? Has something changed?"
2. Let them talk for a while : "oh, it was crazy last month, it'll be 4 from now on", or "yeah, it seems like it will be more like 2 doesn't it", or even "I don't have time right now, we can talk about that later."
3. Now you can say "It's just that I'm getting a little worried because I am getting behind on my hours. It puts me in a bit of a bind. What do you think? Do you know someone who might want to set up a nanny share? Do you want to pre-reserve all 4 days so I can keep my schedule open for you?"

Hopefully they really want you to stay, and they make that happen, by guaranteeing hours, or by setting up a nanny share.

It's wonderful that you've already integrated well into the family. I hope you can continue the good relationship. Best wishes!
posted by metaseeker at 3:35 PM on November 15, 2016

You should absolutely set the terms that are acceptable for you, just be aware that the family may respond by terminating your employment.
posted by Julnyes at 9:00 AM on November 16, 2016

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