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How to Find the Perfect Nanny by Nicola Magrath

Whether you’re first time parents or seasoned nanny employers, finding the perfect nanny for your family can be extremely time consuming and often times challenging leaving parents fatigued and settling on someone who “seems good enough.” We are going to share a list of 10 questions to ask yourself and answer before beginning any nanny search.

(Disclaimer: While there is no such thing as perfect; we actually love things that are imperfect. There is such thing as finding the perfect fit for your family, especially if you are willing to put in the effort and time to do so. We are firm believers that if you want something, you can truly manifest it into your life… We love how life can be very magical that way.)

Determining Your Family’s Needs & Wants. Before starting any search, we believe determining your family’s needs and wants (with your partner and children depending on their age) is the single most important factor for a successful search. By doing so, you will have a clear understanding of what to seek out when you begin. One might ask, how do I determine our needs and wants? What shall we take into consideration? How much do we pay our new nanny? Are we really becoming parents and employers for the first time? The questions can be endless… to make this process less daunting we are providing a list of questions to ask while determining your family’s needs and wants.

1. How many children will the nanny be responsible for? Whether you have one or four children, or a child at home full-time and one in school most of the day, it’s important to know how many children the nanny will be responsible for throughout the day. The number and ages of children and the nanny’s responsibilities can affect her requested rate and what type of nanny to search for.

2. How many hours do we need her/him to be here? When calculating the hours, be sure to include your commute time to and from work, and we suggest a 30-minute overlap time at the start and end of each shift

We highly recommend allocating time for this overlap. It allows the space for recapping the day’s events; reviewing any plans for the upcoming day/week; time to settle in for both nanny and parents; time for your children to see you interact with their nanny – so important; time for unpredictable traffic delays.

3. What duties will we ask the nanny to do? Will she realistically have time to do everything we’d love to have done in a day? Depending on the nanny’s childcare responsibilities, she may have time to offer support around the home. When asking a nanny to handle the extra duties, do not expect every candidate to say yes. Occasionally, some nannies prefer to solely take care of the children, and if that’s the case, respect her wishes and know that she can still tend to ALL child related tasks.

List of acceptable tasks to ask from your nanny: ALL CHILD related tasks; including but not limited to, laundry, changing sheets, organizing toys and closets, grocery shopping, restocking items, meal preparations, cleaning dishes and bottles, creating arts and crafts ideas, creating schedules, following and implementing routines, organizing play dates, scheduling after-school activities, camps, etc., cleaning and tidying after self and children – ideally, having the children participate in the tidying up of their toys and mess!

Household Duties: As long as you set the expectation from day one, you can ask your nanny to help with the following tasks; family’s laundry, unloading/loading dishwasher, cleaning and tidying space, organizing pantries and closets, pet care, grocery shopping, running errands, airport drop offs and pick-ups, etc. Remember, if you want your nanny to assist with these additional duties, expect to pay a higher hourly rate and be sure she has time without the children to manage such tasks.

4. How much experience do we want her to have? Experience is important, but is it the most important factor?  An experienced nanny can offer her knowledge and support especially to first time parents. She can be a valuable asset to a growing family. However, there are also really spectacular less experienced nannies who are willing to go above and beyond to gain more experience with a specific age range. During The Nanny Matchmaker’s search and hiring process, we occasionally meet less experienced nannies, who at first receive many reservations from parents because of their lack of experience, that actually end up getting hired by the family. With this being a regular occurrence, we always recommend keeping an open mind during your search. We believe finding the perfect nanny (or nanny family) is a unique blend; connection, experience and intuition.

5. What age groups should she have the most experience in? It’s highly recommended that your new hire has experience with the ages of your children. However, occasionally you may find someone who connects so well with your family, better than anyone else, but they lack the experience you were ideally wanting. Knowing that experience can be gained, and especially if the nanny is proactive and resourceful – her references will tell, she can learn and develop her skills each day she is with your family.

The exception to the aforementioned is if you have multiple children, it’s best to hire someone who has previous experience working with multiple children and/or someone with a big personality. Again, this is tough for us to say it should always be the case because as mentioned above in number 4, there are great nannies who you connect with so well but lack the exact experience you want your new nanny to have. Instead of instantly passing on a candidate, we suggest inviting the candidate to trial with your family before extending a job offer.

Whether you have one or four children, or a child at home full-time and one in school most of the day, it’s important to know how many children the nanny will be responsible for throughout the day.

6. Do we want her to drive? Can we provide a nanny car?  More often than not, there will be a need for the nanny to drive your child to and from different activities and outings. Even if it’s just to and from the park daily, we recommend allowing your nanny and child the freedom to be mobile, unless you live in a community where everything is accessible by foot. Asking a nanny to drive your child can be an extremely terrifying thought. If you are considering allowing or need your nanny to drive your children, we strongly advise incorporating a test drive into your interview process. Additionally, asking your nanny to drive in her day-to-day will come at an extra cost. You will be responsible to reimburse all the miles accumulated for on the job driving. (The IRS rate is approx. .54 cents per mile). This can very quickly become an additional expense not originally budgeted for. Another alternative is to provide a nanny car. By offering the nanny the use of your own safe, reliable vehicle with car seats securely installed, you do not have to reimburse mileage. Instead, you just have to remember to fill up the gas tank and provide proper maintenance for the car.

7. Do we want our children speaking a second language?  We highly encourage having your child learn a second language. It’s just as important that your child learns to effectively communicate in their native tongue. If your family speaks a second language at home, then hiring a nanny who speaks the same two languages is ideal. However, if your family does not speak a second language regularly and you do not have capacity to continue teaching a second language to your child, we suggest teaching a young child your family’s primary language and American Sign Language (ASL). (I personally love teaching young children ASL – such an effective tool to help you communicate with your toddler who has not mastered the art of speaking! You can find videos on YouTube)

8. How many sick days, paid time off should we offer her? Do we require her to travel with us?  Your nanny is considered an in-home employee (domestic worker) so that means she may be entitled to paid time off including vacation, sick and/or personal days, even if she works just part-time hours depending on where you live. We recommend checking your local laws regarding this topic as laws vary from city to city and within each state. And yes, you read that right, you become the employer of your new nanny.

Sick Time

Federal law does not require that employees be given sick leave, nor does federal law require that sick leave be paid leave. Currently, there are only ten states that mandate sick leave; Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont Washington, and Washington D.C. All sick time is earned throughout the employment but each of the states’ law vary. Earned paid sick time should be compensated at the same hourly rate the employee (in this case, the nanny) receives. See below for more details.

Arizona | Full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees are entitled to sick leave. Employers with 15 or fewer employees must offer at least 24 hours of paid sick leave annually. (If a company has more than 15 employees, each employee is entitled to accrue a minimum of 40 hours yearly.) Employees can earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  For more information visit: https://www.azica.gov/labor-minimum-wage-main-page

California | Employers must provide all employees*, including part-time, at least 24 hours (or three days) of paid sick leave per year (*there are exemptions. Nannies are not exempt). Any person working for 30 days or more in a calendar year is entitled to sick time. Employees can receive all their sick time up front or accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 days worked in a year. Any unused sick leave must roll over each year and can be capped at 48 hours at the employer’s discretion. For more information visit: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DLSE/ab1522.html

Connecticut | Although Connecticut has sick leave it only pertains to employers with 50 or more employees. The law states the employee accrues one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked and is capped 40 hours per calendar year. For more information visit: https://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/wgwkstnd/SickLeave.htm

Massachusetts | Most employees can accrue up to 40 hours of “job-protected” sick time each year earning one hour for every 30 hours worked. Not all sick leave is paid. Employers with more than 11 employees are required to provide paid leave. Employers with fewer than 11 employees are not required to provide paid sick leave, but must allow the employee to take the earned time off without running the risk of losing their job. For more information visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/earned-sick-time

Oregon | All employees must be provided with protected sick leave. Employers with 10 or more employees (6 in Portland) are required to offer their employees up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each calendar year. Employers with less than 10 (less than 6 in Portland) must provide employees with up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave. Just like Arizona, California, and Massachusetts, Oregon employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. For more information visit: https://www.oregon.gov/boli/WHD/OST/pages/index.aspx

Washington | All employees are entitled to paid sick leave accruing at least one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked. Any unused hours of 40 or less are carried over into the next year. From our understanding of the law, there is not a capped amount of paid sick time an employee can accrue; however, employers must notify employees how much sick leave they will earn each year. For more information visit: https://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/LeaveBenefits/VacaySick/EmployeeInfo.asp

Vermont | Employees can earn up to 24 hours of sick leave per year. Starting January 1st, 2019, employees can earn up to 40 hours of paid leave per year. Employees accrue one hour of sick time for every 52 hours of actual work, including overtime. Employers can also elect to give all the sick time hours up front each year. There are exemptions but domestic employees do not fall under the exemptions.  For more information visit: http://labor.vermont.gov/learn-more-about-vermonts-new-earned-sick-time-law/

Washington D.C | All employees are entitled to paid sick leave which accrues over time. The employee can begin using their sick leave after 90 days of employment. The amount of sick leave depends on the size of the employer. Employers with 1 – 24 employees must provide all employees with 3 days of paid sick leave each year; employee accrues one hour for every 87 hours worked. Employers with 25 – 99 employees must provide 5 days each year; employee accrues one hour for every 43 hours worked. Employers with 100 or more must provide 7 days each year; employee accrues one hour for every 37 hours worked. Any unused sick time carries over each year.  For more information visit: https://does.dc.gov/service/office-wage-hour-compliance

Although sick leave is not mandated in most states, we strongly advise offering your nanny paid sick leave where possible. Being a nanny means being surrounded by children and ALL their glory on a daily basis, including providing care to sick/unwell children. If a nanny has to take off unpaid days from work to recover from a cold/flu, she may not be able to afford that ability and choose to power through the week using the weekend for recovery time. While that may seem like a good idea to some, we believe a nanny or any person who is caring for children while they are not feeling 100%, can be a liability for all parties involved. Additionally, allowing your nanny the appropriate time off, with pay, to focus on her health can encourage a happier and more productive nanny.

Finally, as an employer you can choose to provide a more generous package to your nanny, after all she/he is taking care of one of the most precious parts of your life.

Asking a nanny to drive your child can be an extremely terrifying thought. If you are considering allowing or need your nanny to drive your children, we strongly advise incorporating a test drive into your interview process.

Vacation Time

The amount of vacation time an employer provides its employees each year varies from state to state. Some states package all sick time, vacation and personal days together. We strongly recommend checking your local laws to see what is required of you, and suggest that any nanny employer living in a state that does not require paid sick leave, to offer their nanny at least two weeks of paid time each year she is with you that can be used after the first 90 days of employment.

As a general rule, we ask the clients we work with here at The Nanny Matchmaker to offer their nanny two weeks (10 days) per year capped at their guaranteed worked hours. For example, if the nanny regularly works 55 hours per week, she should receive two weeks of vacation at 55 hours per week. Whereas if the nanny works a 25-hour work week, she should receive two weeks (10 days) paid at 25 hours per week. We suggest asking your nanny to take her vacation to coincide with your family vacations where possible.  Another alternative is allowing the nanny to choose to take five days at her leisure and five days to coincide with your vacation.

Moreover, if you are a family that travels often throughout the year, then you may want to consider bringing your nanny with you. If you choose not to bring her, expect to pay her the guaranteed weekly hours for the entire time you’re away. In return, you can ask your nanny to do odd jobs around the home, house sit, pet sit or take her vacation while you’re away. Also, keep in mind, your nanny is not a superwoman although she may seem like one, giving her a much-deserved break during your travel time is extremely beneficial to all parties. (Everyone benefits from much needed R&R).

If you choose to take your nanny with you while traveling, remember this is your vacation and although she is on vacation with you, she is still working. As the employer, you must cover all travel expenses for the nanny, including providing her own separate room, a per diem for daily food/necessities and appropriate time off.

9. How much can we afford to pay our nanny?
The answer to this question will vary depending on where you are located. Federal laws require a nanny is paid no less than the federal minimum wage. Each state then has its own minimum wage law which varies drastically between each state and changes from one city to another. Before deciding on your nanny’s hourly rate, we highly recommend researching your local city and state laws. To find out what your state’s minimum wage law visit: https://money.cnn.com/2017/12/29/news/economy/2018-minimum-wage-increases/index.html

As nanny pay rates can vary from state to state, we believe a nanny should set her rate based on her previous experience and not what other nannies are earning or what agencies say the “going” rate is. Quite a few Nanny Agencies here in LA have a starting rate of $20 – $25 per hour for one child, which is on the high end, but their candidates tend to have at least five years of full-time nanny experience. That said, just like any other professional position, the starting rate of a nanny should be set based on your local nanny pay rates (to determine this research local laws and/or speak to other neighborhood families to see what they pay their nanny), on the nanny’s experience, their child responsibilities, and the duties they are being asked to perform. If you have the ability to pay a higher rate, we strongly advise doing so because the result can be employing an incredible nanny. However, if you want a nanny and cannot meet your local nanny rates or minimum wage laws, we suggest considering a nanny share. (A nanny share is where two or more families employ the same nanny to care for all their children, typically together at one of the families’ homes, splitting the entire cost of the nanny.)

In addition to budgeting for an hourly rate, there are “hidden” expenses you may not be aware of. Federal law requires nannies to be paid via payroll, having taxes withheld. As the employer, you are responsible for a portion of the nanny’s tax withholdings, the payroll expense and worker’s compensation. If not budgeted for from the very beginning, this can become an overwhelming expense.

Furthermore, if you want your nanny to be with you through the coming years, expect to pay her for all Federal Holidays that fall on a regularly scheduled work day, bonuses during the Holiday Season, and offer rate increases each year to reward her work as a token of appreciation and an incentive to stay on with your family.

When calculating the budget, be sure to include the any additional expenses mentioned above and all paid time off.

10. What are our deal breakers? Last but not least, be sure to sit down with your partner (and your children depending on their ages) and write a list of deal breakers. This is something that should remain confidential between your family. By writing out the deal breakers, it can alleviate any frustrations and help immediately eliminate any applicant. Deal breakers can vary with each family. Additionally, if you have previously hired a nanny and are now seeking a replacement, we suggest writing out everything you liked about the nanny and everything you did not – we call this exercise Rose and Thorn. By completing this exercise, it can help establish your deal breakers and the qualities and characteristics to look for in your new hire.

Understanding we’ve only touched the surface on each of the topics, we welcome you to email us with any questions you may have. Our email is info@thenannymatchmaker.com.

Next month, we will be discussing Nanny Search sites and Profile Creation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

NICOLA MAGRATH began her professional nanny career eight years ago working for a local family that she still keeps in touch with to this day. While working as a nanny she connected with many different families and nannies and often heard similar stories of the struggles that come with finding the right person or position, some of which she experienced herself. Being a problem solver and eager to serve, she started thinking of ways to solve these issues. In 2014, she met a nanny in a West Hollywood park and they immediately connected on this topic and began creating a solution. After two years of establishing their agency, the other nanny decided to pursue her other passions. Being extremely passionate about her work and the families and nannies she had helped, Nicola rebranded the business and continued providing Los Angeles families with an exceptional nanny search and hiring experience. http://www.thenannymatchmaker.com