A contract can be an awkward point in hiring a nanny, but why? Some people think it makes the relationship feel impersonal, overly formal, or like a transaction. Some people are worried about the commitment. Some people just don’t know where to start- it’s a lot of content and important to get it right. It seems like it might just be easier to wing it- but here’s why a contract is actually vital to every party involved.
1. It outlines responsibilities and expectations.
As a former nanny who has had positions with and without a contract, I can say it is much less stressful if the job expectations are outlined on paper and agreed upon ahead of time. With my first family I didn’t have any kind of agreement. I went into it thinking my job was childcare and cleaning up after the kids exclusively. The family was expecting my help with things like vacuuming and walking the dogs. It led to contention, because I felt I had new responsibilities added every week and wasn’t being paid more for the extra work. The family felt I wasn’t doing my job because I wasn’t doing the tasks, they had assumed I would. We weren’t on the same page, and it was uncomfortable to hash out. Even though I adored the kids and the parents, we were left in an awkward position where we had to come to a mutual understanding, and it would’ve been much less painful had we all adhered to a premade outline of duties from the very beginning. Now as a parent, I think about things like how I would want a childcare professional to dress, what kind of language I want around my kids, rules while driving, and what my expectations of phone and media while working are. These are all things a contract can address to avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding right off the bat.
2. All Legal Jobs Involve a Contract
Every legal job you’ve ever had has likely involved signing a contract that detailed your job description, wages, and benefits. Even your high school job working fast food or retail! Occasional help like yard work, pet sitting, and babysitting don’t necessarily involve a contract. However, a nanny is not a babysitter. A babysitter is someone who occasionally watches kids and keeps their basic needs met while their parents go on outings or get their own errands accomplished. They don’t make enough money to meet the threshold of needing to pay taxes, and they are not considered employees. Nannies are trained professionals, they work on a consistent, scheduled basis. They have to pay social security and income tax if their pay reaches the threshold. A nanny does more than meet a child’s basic needs in the parent’s absence. A nanny is an extension of the parent, caring for the child’s social, emotional, and developmental milestones. They curate the child’s day based on their individual needs. For all these reasons, nannying is a professional job and should involve a contract just like all other careers and positions.
3. A Contract Protects Everyone Involved
Let's say you find out your nanny has been playing on her phone instead of playing with the kids- if you have a signed contract that includes phone use expectations, you can point this out and remind her of the terms you all settled on. If it persists, you have grounds for termination that everyone agreed on, and you are legally protected if you choose to go that route. If you don’t have a signed contract stating this, you have no ground to ask for a change in behavior. Additionally, with compensation outlined clearly, it’s straightforward to calculate exactly how much is owed in situations involving sick days, emergency absences, PTO, and arriving late. On the flip side, from a nanny perspective, I worked for a family where it was in my contract that if the family took an unplanned vacation that they did not bring me on, I would be paid for those days. When the first impromptu vacation took place, the family did not pay me as agreed. I was able to bring the contract to their attention and they apologized, as it had been an honest mistake. The following year when we renewed my contract, we added a section about house sitting when they left for their vacations, which gave me something to do and felt like a fair compromise. No tension, no conflict, no drama. You and the nanny can set specific guidelines and then have recourse if those are not being followed. Usually, these kinds of things are not malicious- it’s easy to forget the details over time! This way any disputes won’t devolve into he-said-she-said situations with no way to resolve.
So now you know why a contract is so crucial- but what exactly does a contract include?
Pay, Benefits, & Holidays
Social Media Posts Involving the Child
Meals and Snacks
Bonuses/Raises & Reviews
Termination and Providing Notice
Travel Compensation and Expectations
CPR & First Aid Certification Requirements
On the Clock Behavior
All these things are vital for a well-functioning family, and so it is paramount that everyone involved be on the same page and working cohesively. A contract doesn’t have to be intimidating! At Rochester Poppins, we help families create a contract that fits their needs, step by step, while also making sure nannies are treated at industry standards. Our whole process is custom made to ensure a great fit because we know families aren’t one size fits all. A great nanny-family relationship is one where everyone feels safe, valued, respected, and heard. We are honored to help facilitate that process and ensure the best care for your kids.