How to Create a Live-In Nanny Contract

Nanny contracts sound intimidating -- but they aren't. Here are tips for making one when you're hiring a live-in caregiver.

signing a contract

You know you need a nanny contract, but creating one can seem like an overwhelming process. And the idea of a legally binding contract can be scary - what if you get it wrong?

Rest assured, it's easy to draw up a nanny contract -- no law degree required! You can write one yourself in a basic Word document.

Why You Need a Nanny Contract
You should take a contract seriously because it will help everyone define expectations and know what to do when something unexpected crops up.

"It is good to lay things out in advance in case anything goes wrong," says Ilona Bray, a lawyer and author of "Nannies and Au Pairs: Hiring In-Home Child Care." Even small glitches, like an unexpected health emergency, can have serious repercussions if no one has thought about how to handle the situation. "Just the act of talking it out, putting it in writing and going over it afterwards lets everyone know what to expect and know when expectations haven't been met," says Bray.

Every employer and nanny should have a contract, but it's especially important with a live-in nanny situation. The caregiver is living in your home, which adds on another layer of complication and detail.

Creating a contract is an important part of the 12 Tips for Hiring a Live-In Nanny

Decide if You Should Hire a Lawyer
"A contract doesn't have to be drawn up by a lawyer to be binding," says Lisa Weinberger, a lawyer and founder of Mom, Esq.

But a professional will ensure that nothing is inadvertently included or omitted, so if you have a particularly complex situation it may make sense to hire one. Expect to pay around $500 for a contract from a lawyer (which you can reuse for future caregivers).

Negotiate with your Nanny
"Something that is in writing has power," says Bray. "Don't just hand a contract to someone and say, 'sign here,' " says Bray. "Whomever created it should give the other person the opportunity to change it."

A contract is a mutual agreement, so just as you need to state how many paid sick days are offered, your nanny needs to know what will happen if unexpected surgery lands her out of work for two weeks. Give your new employee the opportunity to read it the contract, ask questions and make changes.

To learn more, check out our article on Do You Need a Nanny Contract

Decide What to Include
If you choose to do it on your own, just keep the wording simple and straightforward, Weinberger suggests. But make sure you are detailed about what you decide to include.

"Writing more is always better than not writing enough," advises Becky Kavanagh, co-president of the International Nanny Association. Kavanagh, who spent 20 years as a live-in nanny for one family, says she and her employer updated the contract every year during her annual review. After a few years, they updated it less frequently.

Here are some tips on sections and elements to include in your contract. Use them as a starting point and add on things that are unique to your own situation.

If your nanny has worked as a live-in caregiver before, ask if she has any sample contracts that worked well in the past, or if she has suggestions on things to insert.

  1. Salary and Benefits
    These are some of the most important things to clarify in the contract.

    • Trial period: Record the expected start date and state that the first 15 days are a probationary period.
    • Confidentiality: Because a live-in sees and hears a lot, she must promise total discretion and confidentiality. What is she allowed to post about on social media?
    • Hours: Because the nanny lives with you, are you expecting her to work a 9 to 5 schedule or do you need her from 6 to 10 am and then again from 4 to 8 pm? What if she works more than 40 hours? Does she work weekends? Will her hours be unpredictable sometimes?
    • Pay: Most nannies are paid an hourly rate. What is her pay rate for normal hours, weekend hours and holidays? Learn more about What Does a Live-In Nanny Cost?
    • Overtime: If your nanny cares for your kids more than 40 hours a week, some states (including Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York) require that you pay her overtime. While other states don't mandate it, you should think about creating some provision for it. For example, if she works late on Monday night, maybe she can leave early on Friday? Make sure you and your caregiver are on the same page when it comes to these extra hours and what is acceptable.

      "If they are not entitled to overtime, that doesn't mean they are not entitled to pay for every hour they work," reminds Weinberger.

      Overtime for nannies usually equals time and a half of their standard rate.

    • Taxes: The IRS also gets involved when you hire a nanny, so you also need to make a plan paying nanny taxes. Use our nanny tax calculator to figure out how much is involved and then learn How to Get Started Creating a Nanny Payroll Account
    • Room and Board: What -- exactly -- will you pay for? Will she have a room of her own, with a lock on the door? Will she have a private bathroom or have to share with your kids? What type of "board" or food is included? Will you give her an allowance for going out to eat? Will you supply toiletries? If you have a housekeeper, will she clean your nanny's areas as well?
    • Phone: Will you provide a cell phone and pay for all -- or some -- of a phone contract? Will she have a private landline in your home or share the family's? Can she give the number out to friends and family?
    • Holidays: According to the 2013 INA Salary and Benefits Survey, most nannies get paid holidays -- usually about six days. What holidays will she have off? The typical ones are New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas -- but you can negotiate what makes the most sense for all of you.
    • Vacation: Most nannies also get about two weeks of paid vacation. What does paid vacation include? How much notice does she have to give you that she's taking some time off? Does her vacation have to coincide with your family vacation? Are you also paying for part of the nanny's trip or strictly her salary for those days? Can she still stay in your home during that time? Who will take care of the kids while she's off duty?
    • Sick Days: Will you also offer paid sick days? How many? (The average is about five days). How much notice does she have to give you? For more information, read: I Have a Sick Nanny, Now What?
    • Family Vacations: Will you pay your nanny when you go on a family vacation or are home for a holiday?

      What if the nanny comes with you on a family vacation? What is expected? What do you pay for? Will she be paid if you while you're away? Read more about Should You Bring Your Nanny on Vacation?

    • Insurance: What kind of health, automobile, workers' compensation or liability insurance will you pay for or require her to have? How much? Decide: Do You Need Nanny Insurance?
    • Car: Is your nanny required to have her own car? Will you compensate her for gas and wear and tear when she uses is to chauffer your kids around? Will you pay extra for her to have additional automobile insurance coverage? Will she only drive the family cars? Discuss your policies on seatbelts, texting and talking on cell phones while driving.

      Understand more on how to Handle the Car Situation with Your Nanny

    • Reviews: It's important to do regular reviews. Promise to do a 90-day and annual review with your caregiver. What will you discuss? Will you renegotiate her salary?
  2. Child Care
    Make sure your nanny knows what's expected and allowed when she's taking care of your kids.

    • Duties: What do her child care duties look like? Does she need to drive the kids to activities or doctor's appointments? What about when a child's friend needs a ride? Do you want her to be in charge of picking out outfits, handling bedtime routines and packing school lunches -- or are you in charge of that? Does the job include any light housekeeping? Like what? Will she need to prepare any meals? Which ones?
    • Outings: If the nanny takes the kids to lunch or to the zoo, does she need to let you know ahead of time? What is she responsible for? What will you pay for? What are the maximum allowances for breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners? Bray suggests having the nanny keep records of the date and purpose of any expenditure over $2. Will you give her a weekly cash allowance for activities or reimburse her at the end of the week?
    • Memberships: What memberships to local activities like zoos, museums and theme parks does the family have? Will you pay for the nanny's membership?
  3. House Rules
    Since your nanny is living with you, you should create a section specifically about your home and what is -- and is not -- allowed.

    • Her Room: What space is hers? Will it have a lock on the door? How will you handle it if someone needs access to that room? Is smoking or alcohol prohibited in your home?
    • Her Space: When she is off-duty and the kids want her attention, how will that be handled? What common space is she allowed in during her off hours? Should she take out her own trash?
    • Her Possessions: If she has her own car, where will she keep it? Where can she do her laundry? Where can she keep her groceries?
    • Her Visitors: Is she allowed to have visitors on weekdays, weeknights, weekends or overnight? Can her friends and family visit? What about significant others?
    • Meal Time: Is she expected to eat meals with your family or do you prefer that as family time?
  4. End of Contract
    What's the process when it's time to go your separate ways?

    • Practicalities: What kind of notice is required? How soon does she have to move out? Will severance be offered and what type?
    • Termination: What are grounds for firing the nanny?
    • At-Will: Make sure your contract has an at-will provision, which states in simple terms that either party can end the agreement without notice and for any reason or no reason. This is especially important with a live-in nanny contact, because if something goes wrong, you might want her out of your house without delay, says Weinberger.

    Both nannies and employers should insist on a contract. That means nannies should be involved too. Some caregivers are hesitant about approaching their employers about contracts. Be firm! Having a written agreement is in everyone's best interest. Your new employer may forgot this step -- or not even know that nanny contracts exist. As a nanny, you can just say, "Let me write up this letter that expresses my understanding of the job," Bray advises.

    What else would you include in your nanny contract?

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is an award-winning freelance writer and a mom to two girls. She lives in Massachusetts and has written for local and national publications.

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