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Here's Why You Need a Babysitter Contract and What to Include

Robyn Correll
May 24, 2018

Settling on a written agreement helps to formalize the babysitter-employer relationship, and to make all parties feel clear about each other's expectations.

Even if your babysitter only watches your children occasionally, a contract or written agreement can serve as a tool to get you both on the same page, as well as prevent uncomfortable misunderstandings, by answering key questions up front.

These agreements can be especially helpful if you’re working with someone new or bringing a babysitter on for more frequent or routine child care. But even if you have a go-to sitter you’ve been working with already, settling on a written agreement is a great way to formalize the relationship and make all parties feel secure in what is expected of them.

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What Should Your Babysitter Contract Include?

A written babysitter agreement needn’t be as comprehensive as a full-time nanny contract, but it should include enough information that everyone is aligned on the important details. How long your agreement is will depend on how formal the arrangement and how specific you want to be. That said, there’s a bare minimum you’ll want to include.

Basic Components

  • Names and ages of the children being cared for
  • Names and contact information for the parents or guardians responsible for the children
  • Name and contact information of the caregiver
  • Effective start date and end date (if applicable)
  • Compensation information, including:
    • How Much Will the Sitter Be Paid?
      • Will it be an hourly rate? By day? Will they be on a retainer? Be specific.
    • When Should Payment Be Given?
      • For short-term or occasional sitters, should they expect to be paid when you get home? For longer term arrangements, will they be paid biweekly or monthly? 
    • What Factors Will Increase or Decrease Pay?
      • Will the rate increase on holidays? If the sitter is confirmed but you have to cancel at the last minute, will they still receive partial pay? If you get home later than you agreed, how will they be compensated? What if a long-term sitter or one on retainer is expecting to be absent — for a vacation, for example — will their pay decrease as a result? Consider any factors that might result in rate changes and how those changes will be determined.
    • What Other Expenses Will Be Reimbursed?
      • If the babysitter takes your children to the zoo, will they be reimbursed for the price of admission or lunch out? Think about what you are willing to pay for, above and beyond the sitter’s standard compensation.
  • Commitments on the Part of the Sitter, Such As: 
    • How Frequently Will the Sitter Be Providing Care?
      • Will care be needed three times a week or simply as needed? Outline the expected time commitment, if possible.
    • What Do You Expect From the Sitter in Terms of Care?
      • Will the sitter be expected to play with the children, cook and serve meals, put the children to bed, bathe them, or do any housework? Specify what tasks are included in the compensation rate.
    • What (If Anything) Will the Sitter Be Expected to Provide?
      • Will they need a reliable vehicle and a valid driver’s license? What about a cell phone? If there are any items that will be essential for the care of the children but will not be provided by you, it’s important to outline them in the agreement.
  • Termination Procedures
    • Who Can End the Agreement, and Under What Circumstances?
      • This one is very important to avoid any uncomfortable disagreements in the event you have to fire your sitter or they choose to stop working for you. Typically, either party will have the right to terminate the agreement at any time.
    • How Much Advance Notice Is Needed?
      • Will the sitter need to give you notice if they don’t intend to work for you again? For as-needed care, this might not be necessary, but if you rely on your sitter for routine care, this information will outline how far in advance they should let you know their plans to stop caring for your children, so that you have adequate time to find a replacement.
    • Will Payment Be Due in the Event of Termination? When Will It Be Issued, and Under What Circumstances?
      • If your sitter is paid on a routine schedule rather than per session, this will help them know what they are entitled to in the event either of you end the working relationship for any reason.

While not required, you might also want to include additional components that offer the sitter more detailed guidance on what you expect of them. Some of the items outlined below are especially important if the sitter will be watching the children on a routine basis, or for an extended period of time.

Additional Components

  • Policies
    • What Rules You Have in the House That You Expect the Sitter to Follow:
      • If you have any specific limits for the children — like no candy or soda, or no screen time an hour before bed — outline them clearly.
    • What Social Media Policy Should the Sitter Adhere To?
      • Will the sitter be allowed to post photos of your children online? If yes, are there any precautions they should take to protect the children’s privacy?
  • Restrictions
    • What Is Off-Limits in Terms of Conduct on the Part of the Sitter?
      • Are they allowed to have visitors? Use the computer? Are there specific parts of the house where they shouldn’t go?
    • What Consequences Will Take Place If These Restrictions Are Violated?
      • Will certain restrictions be grounds for dismissal? Will pay be deducted? If so, clearly outline what will happen if the sitter violates specified restrictions. 
  • Illnesses
    • What Health Expectations Exist for the Sitter?
      • Are they expected to be up to date on vaccinations (ex. the Tdap or flu vaccines)? Under what circumstances should the sitter not watch the children — for example, if the sitter has a temperature above 100.1?
    • What Should Be Done in the Event That the Children Become Ill?
      • What steps should the sitter take to alert you in the event the child develops signs of illness — such as a fever over a specific temperature, vomiting, or diarrhea — and who should be contacted in the event you can’t be reached? Do they have permission to administer medications like ibuprofen in the event of fever?
  • Schedule
    • When the Children Should Participate in Activities
      • If your children need to stick to a specific routine or schedule, clearly detail the schedule. For example, if the children should eat dinner at 5 p.m., bathe at 6:30 p.m., and be in bed by 7 p.m., include that itinerary in the written agreement.
  • Discipline
    • What Discipline Is Expected — and What Isn’t
      • If you have a very specific way you’d like your child to be disciplined — such as using redirection instead of punishment — it’s important to make that very clear for the sitter.
  • Tax Withholding and Reporting
    • What Will Be Done About Taxes (If Applicable)?
      • In 2018, if you expect to pay the sitter more than $2,100, the tax laws require you pay employment taxes. You may want to consider how you’ll handle withholding and reporting taxes on those wages as the “employer” and outline the responsibilities in the agreement.
Do I Need a Babysitter Contract
Image via Stocksy.com/Mahoo Studio

Tips for Written Agreements

While some parents or guardians might feel like a written agreement or contract with a babysitter is “overkill,” your relationship with your babysitter is, in this context, a working relationship. You are providing them with compensation for a specific service. Just like you’d have an agreement with a licensed child care center or nanny, communicating your expectations is critically important with anyone who provides frequent or routine care for your children, including babysitters.

Even so, establishing such an agreement with someone you already know and trust, in particular, can feel a little awkward. Here are some tips to help the process go more smoothly.

  • Be Upfront: Explain clearly why you think a written agreement is a good idea for both you and the sitter, and how establishing the framework will benefit your working relationship.
     
  • Be Fair: When it comes to our children, it can be tempting to be very strict or demand a lot (sometimes too much) of other caregivers. That said, babysitting contracts are designed to protect both parties in the agreement. Be mindful of how the needs and concerns of the sitter are reflected in the agreement, and avoid drafting something that is too one-sided.
     
  • Be Clear: Using verbiage that is overly broad or murky can lead to misunderstandings in the future. You don’t have to include every last detail, but make sure that the information laid out in the agreement is specific enough that there won’t be confusion over how it should be interpreted.
     
  • Be Open: Sit down with your sitter to discuss each line of the agreement, and provide an opportunity for them to ask questions or offer suggestions. This will help them feel like the agreement is mutually beneficial and helpful, rather than a standard they will be judged against.
     
  • Be Aware: Specifically, you should be aware of the agreement’s limitations. Even the most thorough document could end up having valuable (but unforeseen) information missing. Use the agreement as a starting and reference point for ongoing discussions about your arrangement, and update it as needed.

One last note: While a written agreement can be a formal legal one, it doesn’t have to be. If your sitter is a minor under the age of 18, for example, they might not be able to enter into a legal agreement with you. In those instances, the document can still be a valuable tool to establish parameters and make sure everyone knows what to expect.

* The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended as legal or tax advice; it is presented to be used solely as an example and general guide.  Further, the information may not be applicable to or suitable for your specific circumstances and may require consideration of other matters.

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