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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Tip: Crafting a Successful Nanny Share

Tip for Crafting a Successful Nanny Share
by Kathy Webb

Many families team together to share the services of a single nanny. The nanny share concept arose out of the “Dot Com” crashes in the late 1990’s, and accelerated in 2008 with the multiple crises of rising gasoline prices, rising unemployment (especially in professional sectors such as banking and legal) and the Fall 2008 stock market declines. A nanny share is a wonderful way for the families to rein in their childcare expenses, and also for the nanny to maintain her income in troubled economic times. The biggest pitfalls of a nanny share are failure of the parties to adequately communicate terms/conditions in advance and failure of the parties to plan for the end of the share arrangement before it actually starts.

A three-way work agreement is a best practice when nanny cares for both families’ children simultaneously. While the nanny technically has two jobs, the arrangement has to be harmonious. The agreement insures that nanny and all parents are on the same page relative to the terms and conditions of employment. Additionally, sometimes the parents themselves find it useful to put their "agreement" on paper to include supplies, food, diet, baby equipment, and the like. A more traditional nanny work agreement is recommended when nanny works certain days for one family and the other days for a second family - this is not a traditional share.

Items to spell out in the three-way Family-Family-Nanny agreement include:

  1. Compensation: Nanny's total compensation and how this total is calculated between each family. Discuss frequency and tax treatment - if deducting income taxes be careful to coordinate the deductions to consider the nanny's total income.
  2. Payment to nanny for times when one or both families don't need the nanny on a scheduled day(s): Best practice is that nanny should be paid by all parties for all scheduled days that she is available to work.
  3. Notice/severance agreement at end of arrangement by either family: If family A decides to leave the share, there should be either a notice or pay to the nanny in lieu of notice provision that allows nanny and family B to make arrangements to either find another family or end the share completely. This is the stickiest part of shares in my experience.
  4. Coordination of paid time off: How will sick time be handled? Vacations? Will nanny have at least one week of vacation time at her choosing? What is the notice provision for vacation scheduling? When nanny is sick, how early do the parents require notice and who is notified?
  5. Overtime compensation, especially when only requested by one party: For example, a nanny may earn $18/hour for a 40 hour week, split evenly between each family. If one family requests 3 hours of overtime in a week, how will it be compensated? $27/hour? Legally it can be no less than $13.50 ($9/hour at time and one half) in this situation. As a practical matter, nanny may be unwilling to work any hours, especially overtime, at less than her regular $18 per hour. Spell it out - details count. What about off-hours babysitting? First come, first served?
  6. Where does the nanny work? If family A hosts the share but takes a week vacation, does the share relocate to family B's home? Is this geographically friendly to the nanny?
  7. Childcare duties and expectations: What are the expectations regarding activities, naps, diet, transportation? How is a sick child handled? Iron out these details in advance. Look forward - when the babies are on table food what will it be? If family A is happy with PB&J on white bread and family B wants their child fed organic quinoa salads for lunch, this is not going to work.
  8. Transportation: Will nanny be taking the children to activities, pre-school, etc.? How? Whose car? Car seats?
  9. Parenting styles - establish this up front. It is generally easier for nanny if all parents on the same page - whether it be CIO or attachment or Baby Wise. She may struggle in a situation where families have dramatically different expectations on this front.
  10. Nanny's notice requirements: Should not exceed the notice that parents are willing to agree to in item 3 above. Two weeks is a minimum - 4 weeks by all parties is more reasonable.

Lastly, consider crafting a coordinated emergency plan. 9/11 was a wake-up call for many nannies and their employers. If nanny needs to evacuate, where should she go, how will she get there, where will you meet up, who should be contacted, etc.? Are there medications or special equipment that she needs to grab on the way out? Does nanny need to deal with pets? Cell phone systems get overwhelmed in emergencies but text messaging systems are generally more stable and reliable.
Remember, details count. Putting it down in writing gives everyone a frame of reference, avoids misunderstandings and ambiguity, and generally just makes the share go more smoothly for all.

About the Author:

Kathleen Webb is the President and Co-founder of HomeWork Solutions Inc. ( and has worked in the nanny industry since 1993. Ms. Webb is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College. The mother of three thriving young adults, she too employed nannies for many years to care for her children when they were young.


Marsha Halperin Epstein October 27, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

This is a fabulous post with fabulous tips and lays out the groundwork that parents need to follow. Compensation is important here as many nannies see that as a way for families to get a qualified nanny on the "cheap". Communication is crucial as is the airing of all of the hidden expectations that four parents might be sitting on.

These tips are excellent. Thanis.

Candi October 28, 2009 at 3:42 PM  

If you’re preparing to hire a nanny, putting together a childcare contract will ensure both parties are clear about everything from job duties to wages. If you’re not sure what you should put in your childcare contract with your nanny, check this basic list to make sure you have all the important items covered:
1. Spell out the hours you expect your nanny to work
2. Include the benefits, if any. These items can include paid vacation days, health insurance, sick days, etc.
3. Include job duties down to specific items.
4. Include the specific wages and when you expect to pay them. For instance, if your nanny can expect payment on the 1st and 15th of each month, note it in the childcare contract.
5. Include verbiage about every special situation you can think of. For instance, if you expect your nanny to drive your child to and from preschool, note whether you’ll be covering gas expenses and how much, etc.

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