4 Tricky Salary Situations to Discuss with the Family You Work For

Make sure you're getting paid for the work you do with these helpful solutions.

woman negotiating salary with employer

Working as a nanny or other type of caregiver can be unpredictable. The parents both work late one night and then they also need you on that weekend. In a blink, you have a 55-hour work week under your belt. What if your paycheck doesn't reflect the extra hours?

If you find you're working so many hours that you aren't even being paid minimum wage, there are laws in place to prevent that. According to Stephanie Breedlove, head of Care.com HomePay, managed by Breedlove, the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1974 to specifically include domestic workers. Nannies, senior care aides, housekeepers, tutors -- that's you! If you work in a home, you're entitled to minimum wage and overtime protections. Minimum wages differs by state, so make sure you know what the requirements are where you work. Check this website for minimum wages by state.

But how do you solve a paycheck issue with your employer without offending anyone? We understand how hard it is to speak up. A couple of approaches will make these tricky conversations easier. "You have to view what you are doing as a professional job and that comes first," says career coach Marilyn Edelson of OnTrack Coaching. "Being professional comes before everything else."

Here are four awkward money conversations and suggestions for solving them.

  1. You're Working Longer Hours -- and Not Being Paid
    : Remember, you're not asking for anything more than you deserve. Start the discussion with your employer with this type of opener: "When I applied for this job, we talked about being paid $X for five days.But lately I've been working Y-hour days, without overtime. With the extra hours,my salary doesn't meet our state's minimum wage. Can we talk about renegotiating my salary or changing my hours?"

  2. You're Driving the Kids -- and Need Money for Gas
    : If they say they only need you to do it for a week, you have the right to say no if it makes you uncomfortable, says Edelson. If they ask you to drive on a regular basis, you need to have a discussion about extra insurance coverage, gas and mileage. But if you don't want to use your car, then don't. Try saying, "I'm happy to drive the kids, but only in your vehicle. If anything happened, I would be liable."

    For more information on this situation, read this article on How to Handle the Car Situation with Your Nanny

  3. You're Helping with Events -- Should You Get Paid?
    : Remember, you're a professional and your time is important. Let them know you expect to be paid more because you went over your normal 40-hour week. Bring up the event and the pay. You might say, "I'm glad I could help with the kids during the party on Saturday, but I noticed I wasn't paid overtime. Since that was beyond my normal week, I would like to clear this up."

    Note: If it's a child's birthday party, and you're invited as a guest, but you still help out (because you don't really fit in the bounce house), don't expect to be paid. You're being a helpful guest.

  4. You're Working Unpredictable Hours -- Often at the Last Minute
    : Busy parents often have busy work schedules, which is exactly why they need a dependable nanny like you. But you wouldn't show up late without calling, and parents should extend the same professional courtesy to you. However, if these parents need a more flexible nanny, you might not be the right fit for them. Try making it work by saying, "I enjoy taking care of your children, but I've noticed the day ending an hour or two later than we originally discussed. I know unexpected delays can happen occasionally, but I need to know when you'll be late because sometimes I have other plans. I also need to be paid for this time."

There are a couple of steps you can take to head off any future problems. Whether you're starting a new job or already a year into one, draw up a contract that specifies your expected hours, salary, holidays, benefits and overtime stipulations, suggests Edelson. "It is a lot easier to deal with things up front, instead of after the fact," she says. It also may be helpful to check out our free Nanny Tax Calculator so you can show the family you work for exactly how much you should be paid in taxes.

In the end, don't be afraid to tell your employer when something isn't working. Hopefully, you have a good relationship where you both want to make the situation work for the family. Then start keeping good records of your hours, your mileage or whatever might be in question. Create time sheets and receipts for each week. When you're underpaid, bring it up. If you're inconvenienced by repeated late hours, tell them. If you're the right caregiver, your employer should want to pay you for the time you are devoting and eliminate any possible problems.

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Comments (39)
Erica W.
I really found this article to be helpful. I liked when it said "you are not asking for anything more than you deserve". I have to keep this in mind. Because it is true, esp when you are using your own vehicle and paying for gas to do your job OR when they are late on a regular basis (all those 15 min add up). I've also been shorted on hours (about $8 because she didn't have change!) That is not ok! I have to learn to speak up and this actifule was very helpful!
Posted: March 19, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Care.com Member Care
Hi Marsha! Great question! Conversations about gas reimbursement can get tricky - and it sounds like you've really been driving a lot! Here's a great article on how to reimburse a nanny for gas http://www.care.com/child-care-how-to-reimburse-a-nanny-for-gas-and-mileage-p1017-q31518687.html
I hope this helps!!
Posted: February 05, 2014 at 2:59 PM
Photo of Marsha C.
Marsha C.
Hello there~
Need some advice from other Nannys or from the Care.com offices. I drive over 100 miles twice a week to take my 3 nanny~kids to dance and music lessons. With auto costs/prices so high, I don't feel comfortable just charging for gas ($15/per time). Is there a proper formula I can use such as "cents per mile" that would be reasonable for this kind of work? I know the government rate varies from the 50 cent to 51.5 cents and so on, but I think that is too high to charge our Parents that we work for. PLEASE give me some much needed INPUT on this important matter. I did look for articles, etc., that would pertain to this, but found nothing.
THANKS much!
Posted: January 29, 2014 at 11:59 PM
Stephanie Breedlove
Hi Christine!

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the family is allowed to deduct your meal time only if it is 30 minutes or longer and you are "relieved of all duties and free to leave." This doesn't usually apply to nannies unless a parent comes back home during the nanny's lunch hour to watch the kids. If you're in a situation where your lunch time is spent in the family's home alone with the children, you must still be paid for this time even if the children are napping because you are technically still on duty.
Posted: January 08, 2014 at 12:17 PM
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Christine P.
Are employers required to pay for lunch hour? Meaning, I'm caring for a newborn and a 1 year old so naps arent regular and occasionally only last 15-25 mins. In other words, I'm caring for the children 45 hours a week but only get paid for 40, is this correct?
Posted: January 07, 2014 at 9:56 PM
Stephanie Breedlove
Hi Jane!

There is no tax law forbidding you from being paid by check. Ultimately it's the family's responsibility as a household employer to be withholding and paying taxes. You should also be claiming this income on your taxes and if the family has not withheld all year, you will have to pay those taxes when you file your personal income tax return. Moving forward, the family needs to be following the IRS' payroll and tax requirements outlined in Publication 926.

What I'm more concerned about is if you're not being paid on the books, you won't have Social Security and Medicare credit being built up for retirement. You also won't have access to unemployment benefits if you are let go from the job due to no fault of your own. These benefits are very important to you and you should have access to them. I wish you the best of luck moving forward Jane and please let the family you work for know that Care.com HomePay can get the tax and payroll straightened out for both them and you.
Posted: November 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM
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Jane G.
Is it safe for me to get paid by check if the employer doesn't claim me?
Posted: November 09, 2013 at 9:15 AM
Stephanie Breedlove
Hi Robin!

My name is Stephanie Breedlove and I am the head of Care.com HomePay. A caregiver providing part-time or occasional care does not have to worry about taxes being withheld as long as they earn less than $1,800 during the calendar year from each family they work for. They will need to keep track of their earnings from each family though because the IRS requires all income to be reported on your income tax return. So if you earn $800, $900 and $600 doing occasional work for 3 families, you would need to report $2,300 as "Other Income" on your personal federal income tax return.

If you do earn $1,800 or more from any family you work for throughout the year, the family must withhold taxes on the entire amount of wages you earn and pay the appropriate employer taxes. That's why it's so important for both the caregiver and the family to keep track of the wages the caregiver earns. You don't want to be caught off-guard during tax season and end up doing a lot of additional work to catch up on your tax responsibilities.
Posted: October 28, 2013 at 11:19 AM
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Robin V.
Are caregivers that only provide occasional care or part time care responsible for ensuring taxes are taken out?
Posted: October 26, 2013 at 6:29 PM
Photo of Laura L.
Laura L.
My question about the $5-$10 pay rate was finally answered!
And for all who have been treated badly, I feel for you. The women who interviewed with unreasonable/rude care seekers, GOOD FOR YOU for not taking the job!
Posted: October 01, 2013 at 3:20 PM
Photo of Kathryn D.
Kathryn D.
Just wondering in Goldsboro NC what the avg rate is for caring for 3 kids at the age of 5,12,14?
Transportation is also involved when their.
What would you charge say weekly from 20-30 hours?
How much for overnight stay?
3 children.
Posted: August 18, 2013 at 9:44 PM
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Rosa C.
I recently moved to Arizona and I'm wondering how much to charge for weekends and overnight. Thank you!
Posted: July 27, 2013 at 4:34 PM
Stephanie Breedlove
Hi Bobbie D!

Unfortunately the large majority of families are still paying their household employees cash. This is against the tax laws set forth by the IRS and the penalties can be very, very expensive for families who are caught paying under the table. On top of that, an employee who has no taxes withheld is not contributing to a tangible employment history or building credit toward their retirement. This means things like a home mortgage or car loan are very difficult - if not impossible to obtain. I would suggest taking a look at the following page to understand how being paid legally benefits you both in the short and long-term.
Posted: July 24, 2013 at 9:54 AM
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Bobbie D.
Great comments, I have a question about the family paying cash with no with holdings. does this happen?
Posted: July 23, 2013 at 2:55 PM
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Julie L.
Wow. I've been in all four of these situations and each time I said something I was told, "if you don't like it, then leave." Not all families are willing to be reasonable with their nannies. Especially the ones who pay the most.
Posted: July 08, 2013 at 1:04 PM
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Michaela B.
To Daniell
I hope you know you can explain yourself on the review page to "tell your side" For the record you are lucky you learned the mom was nuts then as apposed to after you took a job. PS I would also report the Person $3 an hour is wrong any way you want to look at it.
To all above me thank you for your posts and good luck to all above me and to all reading this.
Michaela Bennett
Posted: July 02, 2013 at 2:17 AM
Photo of Catherine D.
Catherine D.
Hello everyone! I was wondering, what do you ask to get paid for overnight sleeping hours? I have heard other nannies say they charge their hourly, still, considering they still have to be there - the family is paying for their time. I agree with this, even though we are sleeping, we are still required to be there in case the child wakes up in the middle of the night, or in case of emergency. I, however, in the interest of fairness, have always charged a flat rate of 100 dollars for the overnight hours verses 15 dollars an hour. Am I short changing myself? There is only about a 20 dollar difference here.. I have twenty plus years experience as a professional nanny and substitute preschool teacher, just in case this helps in your answers.

Thanks so much!!! Just wanted to get other nannies take...
Posted: July 01, 2013 at 8:44 PM
Photo of Danielle H.
Danielle H.
I was recently talking with a lady who was requiring 50 hours of care for her special needs 13 yr old child(with mentality and actions of a toddler). We had set a day/time for an interview and then when I had found out what she was willing to pay ($150 a week for 50 hours of care) I kindly declined the interview. She became extremely rude with me and told me that is average wage and I would never receive $10 an hour as I was asking. She went as far as to trying to ruin my name on this website by leaving a snarky review on my profile. I have since lost an opportunity for a child care position, I am guessing due to her comment.
Posted: May 14, 2013 at 1:49 PM
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Missy S.
I didn't find my issue here: I've worked several weeks waiting for pay, but it still hasn't come. I have since been fired, mostly because she can't afford to pay me. Between 4/18 and 5/2 I worked a total of 19 hours, $152. She told me to expect it 6/1, but we originally agreed I'd be paid every other week. She also threatened to get my profile taken off this site because her baby was wet when she got home.
Posted: May 13, 2013 at 2:05 AM
Member Care.
Hi Mary H,

That is correct. Families are required to upgrade to a premium membership in order to get communication features through their account. This is something that they are made aware of upon enrollment and generally it is not an issue as they move forward in their job search. Thanks for your input!
Posted: April 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM
Photo of Cassandra K.
Cassandra K.
Mary H. - I just found out today that the families that post jobs cannot respond back to you or see your contact information (even if you provide a phone number in your application) unless they pay for a membership. This may be why you don't get responses. A lot of families I know don't have the money to buy a membership to maybe hire a sitter.
Posted: April 21, 2013 at 3:51 AM
Member Care.
Hi Mary H!

Thank you for your feedback about our pay rate ranges. They are currently listed in increments of five partly due to each state having it's own minimum wage law and we want to make sure our ranges cover all of the variations. Care.com certainly does encourage that its members comply with the law and we are sorry to hear that you do not feel this is being reflective on the site. Ultimately, you have the decision to pass on a job that does not fit your needs, which is why posting a pay rate is required.

I hope you have better luck with your job search moving forward!
Posted: April 10, 2013 at 6:06 PM
Mary H.
I was happy to come to this page on Care.com and read your experiences. I too was more than a little shocked at the $5 to $15 dollar range in every section of the site, especially given that Care.com says they follow minimum wage law. I think this "choice" for employers gives people a false sense they can underpay for services for their children, their seniors, and their pets and their housekeeping. It should be removed. Language should be added that this is merely a starting guideline and salaries will be negotiated between the parties according to market rates. I don't think any provider's value should be established by the site, since they are not an employment agency.

I'm hoping there are great employers out there, but the rates offered for many of the jobs are completely unrealistic. Those few jobs I have applied to have not been acknowledged. It is beginning to feel like the same process of applying to office jobs on the web - sending resumes into a black hole. Can anyone advise if this is "normal", if it necessary to pay to be seen? My thanks to anyone who can provide some guidance.
Posted: April 08, 2013 at 7:57 PM
Photo of Jennifer J.
Jennifer J.
I truly love reading everyone's experiences and Care.com has really been great to have. The biggest problem I have had is when it comes to random days taken off during the week or not wanting to pay for these days.

This is one of the toughest things to deal with as a nanny because you have no security and no one is policing these parents on what they are responsible for when they have an employee working for them in their home. It is mind boggling to me how you want the best nanny for not only your child, but your household, and think nothing about the needs of your nanny. One thing that I will not do, is sink to your level and not do what is expected of me in your household even when you are not being fair and honoring our agreement.

I will just come back on Care.com, find another family or situation that will work for me and give you 30 days notice to find someone else. You have to let your parents know up front and throughout your relationship what is not working anymore or what needs to change. The easiest way to do this is to have a contract in place with what is important to you as the nanny such as hours, days available, hourly rate, vacation, sick days, etc.

If they don't understand that when they employ a nanny to come into their household that they have to pay you the same way as an employer pays them, then you definitely do not want to work with them. Many times they are in agreement until the situation comes up and I have had a family rewrite the contract to benefit them. Don't let it bother you because there are so many great families on here and you never have to worry about finding another if you have a great spirit about yourself and handle yourself as a professional.

Posted: March 22, 2013 at 5:08 PM
Photo of Rosemary G.
Rosemary G.
The above comments about parents taking advantage of caregivers if given an opportunity to are right on! It is difficult keeping a relationship professional when the job is so personal. Remember, the best caregivers look out for themselves as well as their charges. I suggest to parents that if they want a responsible, intelligent influence on their family, they will need to expect a responsible, intelligent compensation arrangement request. If this is not respectfully agreed to, you must move on to a better fit for everyone.

Posted: March 09, 2013 at 6:14 PM
Susan S.
Though I have not done any babysitting in many years, I was fascinated reading your stories and how parents do not want to pay for good help for their children. I remember a neighbor of mine who has done child care in her home for 20 years or more. A neighbor asked if she would do daycare for her 2 children before they were in school. They lived in the same neighborhood, so there was no driving involved in getting the child to the childcare. My neighbor wrote out her contract as follows....she asked for sick pay, 2 weeks paid vacation, and if the child didn't come to her home on any given day, she would still be paid, and she got all holidays off. The neighbor balked at this, and the first thing she said was...isn't that how you are paid with your job? She set the rules, and got it. I was so amazed at how she set out to get what she needed and how she expected to be paid as any other person would working a good job. I have always had such respect for her and how she set up her business of childcare. She was very coveted by all the neighbors, as she was so good with all their kids. I firmly believe we let people treat us how we allow them to. People need to stand up for their rights. All the good babysitters, nannies, caregivers out there need to stand up for themselves and not allow themselves to be taken advantage of. Unite for respect and the loving care you give these people's children. It's so true that these are some of the most underpaid jobs out there. We want quality care for our children, and the elderly, but unwilling to pay for it.
It is true we are all in difficult times these days, but when you need a service, and you want it to be good, you need to pay for it.
Posted: February 27, 2013 at 7:07 PM
Anne A.
I totally agree with the comments on $5.00 an hour is way too little. I wouldn't watch anybodies children for that. My daughter watches 2 children in the Phoenixville area and she gets #16.00 an hour. I think the people in this area think they can pay as little as someone will agree to.
Posted: February 26, 2013 at 9:37 PM
Photo of Emily M.
Emily M.
I think some families on care get a power trip from all the applications coming in and it makes them think "let me get the biggest bang for my buck!" Maybe the power trip causes them to forget that the nanny is a person, with bills and needs too. I'm looking for a nanny job that I can offer as a nanny share and bring my children with me but work for a lower rate. That's why I'm looking through care. Otherwise I would be using an agency so I could have them weed out the stingy ones for me. Agencys will not touch a nanny who wants to bring her kids along, so care has been really helpful! I hope these articles help me to gain the edge that I need!
Posted: February 18, 2013 at 1:03 AM
Photo of Ashley H.
Ashley H.
Should a childcare provider get paid a weekly rate. And if they dont need you one day should they still pay you for it? Considering any after school program would make you pay whether you need them or don't to hold their spot. And if the kid cant go to school and they need you for 11 hours that day shouldn't they pay you for the extra hours???? My family they want me to choose a weekly rate or hourly. I dont think that's fair. It should be a set in ston weekl rate. And if i work more than what the weekly rate covers. I drive the kids everywhere to baseball,hockey,basketball practices.. And orthodontist,sick doctor visits, and allergy shot visits. I only get paid for $10 extra a week for gas and overtime and she is always atleast 15 minut late everyday. Of course not every wk do i take the kids to all of those activies but im always availab and i never complain i just feel like i deserve to get paid for every hour i work and they pay for the days THEY choose to not need me. A Daycare wouldn't accept you to only pay for the days you take them.
Posted: February 16, 2013 at 5:41 PM
Photo of Ann D.
Ann D.
I am with you on that one.It seems that these parents feel we owe them something. I would be ashamed to offer the wages that they are offering and expect someone to clean my house, watch my kids, and drive all over town at 3.75 a gallon for gas. Many parents care more about how well you will clean the house than about how well you will care for their children. About 2 months ago,when searching for a job I had a parent brag to me about the wonderful jobs she and her husband both have, how they dine out every Saturday evening which would give ME the opportunity to earn extra money. Because she was only offering 10.00 per hour to care for her 18 month old and drive him to classes every day with my car,do the laundry, and she made it quite clear that her previous 3 Nannies didnt wash the floors but she would expect me to. 3 Nannies and he is only 18 months old. Let me add, the entire time I was with her she got herself a coffee and never offered me one, and her child smelled. He had pooped in his diaper and after 1 1/2 hours of being in it she huffed and puffed that she had to change him, (he is your child) and when she was finally going to the ladies room to change him she wanted to know if I was coming with them. She wanted ME to change his diaper. A STRANGER. When she returned he still smelled, she never changed him. When I asked her how she would be handeling the additional cost for my insurance upgrade to cover her child, she walked out!!!!
How do these people expect anyone to live on these wages?? I truly believe that they figure that jobs are few and far between and they will use that to their advantage. What makes anyone think I should pay for the gas to tote their children all over town? I also had one family not only expect me to use my vehicle and gas, but to provide 3 CARSEATS!!!! Who has 3 car seats, again for THEIR kids???
Allison, I did find a great family and although I am not making what I am used to making, they are 1/2 mile from my house and I really love the baby. This economy has hit us hard and for those who have the money certainly arent paying for quality child care. You will find something, just don't let these people take advantage of you, let them get someone worth what they are paying, something better is right around the corner for you!
Posted: February 12, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Photo of Agnes B.
Agnes B.
Hi Denise M. I'm thinking the same thing. I work also with another large company that does the same type of work for about 15 years. And they start out with $ 12.00 for an infant. Older kids $ 11.00 per hour. This 5-10 is slavery. I Nanny now for 23 years. It's their kids your talking care of. You should want to pay for the best service possible.
Posted: February 12, 2013 at 2:45 PM
Photo of Ashley K.
Ashley K.
I would like to know how much I should charge for two children? I will be taking on another child (newborn) while watching the current child (9 yrs). The children are cousins, so the parents will be splitting pay. Any advice?
Posted: February 11, 2013 at 5:06 PM
Allison C.
I would like to know why so many parents are on Care.com looking for a nanny that do not want to pay minimum wage even or provide gas and mileage? I have been a professional nanny for quite awhile and families are expecting me to work for nothing.
Posted: January 28, 2013 at 1:54 PM
Photo of Monica R.
Monica R.
It should be arranged with the two parents if it is going to be an every day position. Your work load is going to be more, so if you are being paid fifteen dollars an hour, you should be getting twenty five dollars an hour fort two children since they are not from the same household.
Posted: January 27, 2013 at 12:46 PM
Photo of Denise M.
Denise M.
I would like to know why care.com has the $5.00-$10.00 per hour range for parents to check off when submitting a job post. Where in the U.S. is minimum wage $5.00 per hour?
Posted: January 27, 2013 at 1:37 AM
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Keri-ann J.
Hi Dawn M,
I've been a Nanny and Babysitter for a long time and in this situation you should consider a 'raise". If the Nanny is being paid say(e.g.) like $15/hr. then you and your friend(together) should consider $18-$20/hr.for both children instead of paying $15+$15=$30/hr. You do not pay separately for the childcare.Think of it as you having another baby.
Posted: January 26, 2013 at 4:06 PM
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Lillian L.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the support that Care.com provides,it is obvious that they are indeed looking out for all parties concerned. Thanks, lilly
Posted: January 26, 2013 at 11:57 AM
Photo of Sandra I.
Sandra I.
You should be paid for the "extra" child by the family that he/she belongs to, after all you would be caring for 2 families children and should be paid accordingly.
Posted: January 25, 2013 at 2:51 PM
Dawn M.
I was wondering what a nanny should get paid if they are asked to watch a friends child along with the one your already watching. (two different families). Thanks
Posted: January 24, 2013 at 12:56 PM
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