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Hiring a Nanny: Should I Offer Vacation and Sick Time?

Kate Spenser uses her experience as a nanny to help guide parents through the process of hiring the best person to watch their kids.

When Hiring a Nanny, Details Matter!

You've created a vision of your family's ideal nanny. You've decided on a salary range. You're ready to hire a nanny, right?

Well, not quite.

Before you take the next steps toward hiring a nanny, it's important to work out as many details about her future contract as possible. That way, you can avoid getting caught during your interview by questions you hadn't considered yet, and you can present yourself to potential nannies as thorough, well-prepared, and understanding of the nanny's needs—in short, as an ideal employee.


Vacation Time

Do you want to offer paid vacation time to your nanny? That will depend on several factors:

  • Is your nanny working full time (or more)? If she's going to be working five days or more a week, take into consideration how the occasional break will help her do her job better. Take it from someone who has been there: full-time nannying is tough work! Nanny burnout is a common problem, and you can help keep your nanny from burning out by making sure she gets some time during the year to rest.
  • Do you plan on asking your nanny to commit to one year of work? If so, I would highly recommend offering her some paid vacation time. Think of it this way: would you want to accept a year-long contract at a job, knowing you weren't going to be allowed to take any time off?
  • Does your family take a regular vacation each year? Keep in mind that while most nannies are in this business because they love taking care of kids, they're also doing it because they need to make a living. Your nanny will be counting on a regular weekly income. If you spend a week at the beach each summer or visit your parents between Christmas and New Year's and you aren't planning on bringing your nanny on vacation with you, it's a good idea to give her that week off as a paid vacation. As a general rule of thumb, if you take time off from your nanny, she should be paid for that time anyway.

If you're like most parents, your major concern at this point is probably cost - if you pay your nanny to take a week off, you may also have to pay someone else to take care of your children during that time—so vacation time is an added expense to you. It may help to think of benefits such as vacation time as an investment: the more you are willing to put in, the higher your "return" in the form of a reliable, responsible, professionally-minded nanny.

How much vacation time should I offer?

If you decide to offer your nanny paid vacation, think about your own budget as well as your family's vacation schedule in deciding how much time to offer. Two weeks paid vacation is a fairly standard rate for many professional jobs, and depending on the standards in your area, may be seen as very generous from the perspective of potential nannies. You might consider offering any two weeks of her choosing, but specify that they cannot be consecutive. You may wish to offer her one week off when you are taking your vacation plus one week of her choosing. If you don't feel you can afford two weeks, you might offer her one week's paid vacation plus one week's unpaid.

The organization Momsrising estimates that employees coming to work sick costs our national economy $180 billion annually in lost productivity.

Do you want your nanny to come to work when she's sick? Decide ahead of time what you want your sick policy to be.

Do you want your nanny to come to work when she's sick? Decide ahead of time what you want your sick policy to be.

Sick Days

Whether you offer paid sick leave to your nanny or not, it is a good idea to consider what you will do in the event that your nanny is sick and can't make it to work. One advantage of specifying a number of sick days is that it is an easy way to work a sick-leave plan into the nanny contract from the beginning so that you and your family aren't caught off guard if your nanny calls out sick.

While the United States does not require that employers offer paid sick leave, and nanny employers are not covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act, it's still a good idea to offer at a minimum several unpaid sick days to your nanny. Why? Because if your nanny gets sick but comes to work anyway, your kids may get sick too—and if they pass it along to you and you get sick, you may need to miss work as well. Allowing your nanny to stay home if she is sick can help contain contagious illnesses and save the family money in the long run.

Why would you want to offer paid sick days? Well, because your nanny most likely depends on her income to make a living! If she is depending on a certain amount of income to make ends meet, that factor may weigh heavily in her decision whether to come to work sick or stay home. Giving your nanny a few paid sick days will allow her to decide whether to come to work based on her health, not her finances.

Offering paid sick days demonstrates to your nanny that you value her, not just her labor - and when your nanny feels valued, she'll be a better nanny!

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Read More From Wehavekids

How Many Sick Days Should I Offer?

Keep in mind when deciding how many sick days to offer that because kids get exposed to a lot of illnesses, nannies get exposed to them, too—you should plan for at least one illness a year. Some employers offer a set number of paid sick days for the year—anywhere between 2 and 12—and some prefer to have them accrue at a rate of one or one half a day per month. Others will offer their nanny every other sick day paid—so if she takes 2 days off in a row, she gets paid for one of them, or if 3 days over the course of the year, she gets paid for 2 of them. Make sure when you work up a contract with your nanny that you put into place a procedure for calling out sick—such as which parent she should call and how far in advance.

You Get What You Put In

The bottom line is to remember that as the employer, you set the tone for the nanny's workplace. Offering potential nannies paid vacation time and paid sick leave can serve as a way of demonstrating that the job you are offering is a professional position, with professional benefits as well as professional expectations. If you want to hire a reliable and professionally-minded caretaker for your children, you will need to make the job attractive to someone with that mindset.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


nicole on February 27, 2012:

I have been a nanny for a year, no call offs yet and I was recently sick, my boss insisted I go home. I didn't realize I wouldn't be getting paid. I also don't get health insurance. I am a bit stung by the whole experience. My advice, show your nanny you care and give at least 3 days a year of sick days, even if its half pay. I feel if I didn't call off for a whole year and needed just two days- that's not fair to short me $200/ week. That's half my pay and I cant afford certain bills now. Also moving in a week and needed the money. If you employ a nanny realize that we love kids but this is our living. The worst part was that she didn't pay her friend that watched the kids both days. She pocketed the money. Lost respect for her.

Kate Spenser (author) from Austin, TX on November 04, 2011:

Thanks for the input, thefamilytoolkit! I agree that it's a tricky thing to figure out, because most parents don't want to isolate their kids completely from germs...but on the other hand, if your nanny is too sick she might not be able to put in her best work. I think your policy is a really interesting one!

thefamilytoolkit on October 19, 2011:

We offered our nanny vacation and sick time. The vacation aligns to my work schedule so I would want to be home with the little man anyway.

So, that leaves the sick time. It is a little challenging to manage but we gave her 2 sick days and asked that she only use them in dire emergencies. At the time when we built the contract, the little man was only a few months old and I was petrified of him catching something. Now that he's older, I would rethink offering sick days and expect that she come in. He needs to be exposed to germs, I think. So, I'd suggest for the first year offer a few sick days and then phase them out over time.

cate p on June 16, 2011:

As a parent I never thought very good about asking anyone, nanny, sitter, friend, relative, to care for a sick child and avoided it all all costs. Just like sending a sick child to school, it sets up a cycle of illness that ends only during vacation and it is unfair to everyone involved.

Kate Spenser (author) from Austin, TX on June 15, 2011:

Thanks, anne! Yes, I have taken care of sick kids before, though I never had to take care of them in my own home as I've always nannied at the families' houses. And I've caught their illnesses from them on several occasions...I've always thought of that as just one of the hazards of the job, but I'd be curious to see what other people think, so hopefully others will weigh in in their comments!

anne on June 15, 2011:

Very well done; this article contained so much useful information. Kate, you have so much insight. I would like to know if you have been required to take care of really sick children? (ie high fever, vomiting, etc.) When I was a more casual sitter in my own home for a neighbor for several years I had a policy that if I cancelled due to illness they didn't have to pay me, but if their child was sick, she stayed home so as not to spread the illness to me and my own children and I continued to be paid. Thanks.

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