Have to un-hire a nanny for covid reasons. What’s a good severance?
December 29, 2020 11:05 AM   Subscribe

We hired a nanny to start in mid January, but the spikes in void in our area have us scared, especially because the nanny lives with roommates. We are actually thinking of going without childcare until this wave crests. She hasn’t started yet and we don’t have a contract but we don’t want to leave her completely high and dry. What would be a fair amount to give her?
posted by malhouse to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *spikes in COVID, not void
posted by malhouse at 11:06 AM on December 29, 2020

That's very nice of you. I believe that since you have no contract and she hasn't started, technically you owe her nothing. The general guideline is a week of pay for every year she's worked for you, which still leaves you owing her nothing. But I'm sure she would appreciate a week of pay.
posted by ubiquity at 11:13 AM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Minimum two weeks' pay.
posted by mareli at 11:13 AM on December 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

We have paid the person who normally cleans our house on the theory that we can afford it and presumably if she didn't need the money she would not be taking on a poorly paid job. Can you afford a month's salary without it having a meaningful impact on your finances? I would go with that if I could. If the money would be to put food on the table you don't truly owe anything. FYI, IANAL but you have a contract any time you agree on something and exchange something of value. That thing doesn't have to be monetary, it could be clearing ones schedule and not taking other jobs. But on the other hand a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on.
posted by wnissen at 11:24 AM on December 29, 2020

This is going to depend on a lot of factors - how long ago did you hire her? Did she decline other offers? How difficult is it right now for nanny's to find work? Would you like to hire her later?

A fair amount would be $0. As with any job search, the market is wrought with disappointment for the applicants.

A fair amount would be a weeks pay. That could cover the week it could potentially take to find a new client.

If I were applying to be a nanny, and someone said they hired me, what I would actually want is a promise of future work. A week pay for the trouble, and then a statement like "If case positivity rate is below X% on February 3rd, we are interesting in hiring you at that time." That helps illustrate you are interested in a future interaction and makes it not so bad.

Last - for what it's worth - precautions are important, but so is having a nanny. If her only interaction is with her roommates and she is otherwise isolating, that's actually a pretty low-risk contact. It feels unintuitive, but interacting with her on a daily basis is much lower risk than you'd expect, because that's two points of transmission that Covid would have to cross. Typically live-in roommates only have a 30% chance of infecting each other, and spouses 50% per week. Her roommates will potentially alert her of coming into contact with someone, and she could isolate before becoming contagious. Microcovid suggests this interaction is a 0.2% chance per week in Minneapolis: https://www.microcovid.org/https://www.microcovid.org/?distance=close&duration=360&interaction=repeated&personCount=1&riskProfile=contact4&setting=indoor&subLocation=US_27053&theirMask=none&topLocation=US_27&voice=normal&yourMask=none

which Microcovid says is "dangerously high", but if you expect the current surge to go down within 4 weeks, that's less than a 1% risk of getting it. That's personally within my tolerance level.

Everyone makes their own decisions here - but in some ways, having roommates is actually safer than not having roommates sometimes. It gives her an early alert system, allows fewer trips to the store, etc.
posted by bbqturtle at 11:25 AM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

You are in a position to hire full-time personal child care. She, on the other hand, is in a position where she has to do that kind of work and lives with more than one roommate. The nanny-hiring process tends to be involved and she hasn't been looking for other work because you promised her work. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Clearly, you can afford to pay her a month's salary. If you have any belief at all, whether religious, supernatural, or humanist, that your conduct has consequences for you even if you have the power to "get away with it," give her the month's salary.

(Technically, you DO have a contract--just not a written one--it's just that she won't have the power to enforce it. Which puts you in the position of every corporation whose evil you may have decried in the past year. Something to think about.)
posted by praemunire at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2020 [61 favorites]

I agree with praemunire.
I would go for a month.

She probably hasn't looked for another nanny gig, because she'd start in January with you.
It's impossible to get anything done in the days between christmas & new years, leaving her stranded until at least mid, probably end of January.
posted by Thisandthat at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2020 [11 favorites]

I assume this isn't an option since you didn't mention it, but could you offer her a live-in job instead? Even converting an office or another room for her?
posted by pinochiette at 11:57 AM on December 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

I've had a nanny, whom I had to let go, and then rehired with my second child, so I'm speaking from that perspective.

If she were going to start in mid-January, and you were planning to have her for say a year, and you plan to rehire in say, March, think of the time and effort you spent to find this person with whom you were planning a longer term relationship. Is it worth 4-6 weeks of pay, truly, for the hassle and everything else?

If you had a hard time hiring (I did), I'd consider paying her to be your nanny whether she comes in or not, so that if you decide the numbers aren't good or you need to get work done or whatever, you can just have her come in. Then re-evaluate at the halfway mark. She may leave in between.

If you're not up for that I think two weeks would be the absolute minimum I'd be comfortable with - she hasn't been looking the whole time because she's reserved that time for you.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:14 PM on December 29, 2020 [16 favorites]

pay her to stay home a month like readonable employers who can afford it are doing. hurray for you for being both covid-wise and sensitive to this person's predicament.

presumably if she didn't need the money she would not be taking on a poorly paid job

this smells terrible. it's the justification for every shit minimum wage job, and the pittance agricultural workers get paid. it's possible I'm reading it all wrong. if so, sry.
posted by j_curiouser at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Talk to her, how long ago did she take the job? 2 weeks pay at least, thank you for doing right by a low wage worker.
posted by theora55 at 12:54 PM on December 29, 2020

If it were me, I would actually have them come work. But, if I was that concerned about the odds of them transmitting covid to my family, I would pay them to stay home. I would give them their weekly salary for at least a month. I would tell them to look for another job, but ask for the right of first refusal. If they have an offer to start somewhere else, you can decide then to have them start coming in or lose them. I do not know the size of your home, but I would consider having them live in with you for a few weeks at the start so you are not exposed to others. Have them take a test.
posted by AugustWest at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

If you *would* consider paying her during this time in order to keep her as your nanny, could you set up educational zoom sessions for her and the kid(s) so you at least get a 30-60 minute break per day? Depending on the kids age she can read a book, sing songs, play Simon says, teach rhyming words, dance, etc, or can split it into 2 sessions?
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 9:55 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

this smells terrible. it's the justification for every shit minimum wage job, and the pittance agricultural workers get paid. it's possible I'm reading it all wrong. if so, sry.
Is it a controversial statement that most people who choose to work as a nanny are relatively hard up for money? The folks who work at our child's day care are educated professionals, yet many live with their parents, and the ones that don't mostly have partners with higher paying jobs. That seems to be the regrettable norm. My point is simply that if you know someone needs the money, and you know you don't, that should enter into the calculation. Thus why I recommended one month if practical. Thus why we have fully paid the person who cleaned our house for nine months despite their doing no work. I'm not trying to justify the unjustifiably low pay of any profession (and whether I am or not is irrelevant in any case), and having a hard time understanding how what I wrote could be interpreted that way. Conversely, if you know someone doesn't need to support themselves, and paying their wages would cause you hardship, then you don't pay the month. There's a tradeoff of need here.
posted by wnissen at 10:47 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't pay anything as she hasn't started. The ethical thing to do is to cancel the job, and give said nanny notice ASAP.
posted by GiveUpNed at 5:43 PM on December 30, 2020

I would pay her the full amount for Jan out of decency, plan to reassess and let her know by Jan 15 if you want her to start working on Feb 1.

And during Jan, make some use of her services since you’re paying her- ask her to zoom to teach / entertain the kids, take them on a walk in the woods, read some child development books, maybe shovel snow or do grocery runs or errands for your family.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:19 PM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

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