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Nanny share contracts: How to structure pay, time off and more

Emily Starbuck Gerson
Dec. 21, 2018

If you thought having a contract for a nannying job was important, having a contract for a nanny share is that much more critical.

“With a nanny share, you’re talking about working with two different families with two different sets of expectations sometimes,” says Marcia Hall, a nanny based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who is also the executive director of the International Nanny Association and founder of the Nanny Coaching Team. “It’s like everything that happens with a nanny with one family is multiplied times two if not more, so a contract is incredibly crucial.”

While a nanny share arrangement can be beneficial for both parties, it can also bring a whole host of new challenges. Putting everything down in writing ahead of starting employment ensures everyone aligns on expectations and can help prevent some of those difficulties from arising later. If you’re entering a nanny share, here’s what to consider as you structure your pay, time off and costs in your contract to ensure smooth sailing.  

One contract or two?

Hall strongly recommends having a separate contract with each family rather than one contract they both sign. This way, if one family no longer wants to participate, you don’t have to start from scratch, she explains.

“It’s also really important for the nanny to have an agreement with both parents separately so the expectations are clear on both ends,” Hall says. “Because the reality is that every parent and family is different, so they will have slightly different requirements for you. As a nanny share, you’re sharing a lot of things, but a contract or agreement shouldn’t be one of them. Try not to think of them as one job, but as two jobs.”

Check out sample nanny contracts here.

How should you structure pay?

In a nanny share, each parent typically pays two-thirds to three-fourths of the nanny’s standard rate.

“I know a lot of families think since they’re sharing a nanny, they only have to pay 50 percent of it, but that’s not industry normal,” Hall says. “She’s making extra because nanny shares are complicated to navigate since you’re basically trying to meet the needs of two entire families, and it’s hard enough sometimes to meet the needs of one family. Nannies like it because they end up making a little bit more for their extra time, effort and energy.”

It’s also a benefit for the families, who get a discount on nannying services. Laura Schroeder is a seasoned nanny currently working a nanny share in Charleston, South Carolina. She’s also the second vice president of the International Nanny Association.

“I have a pretty high rate of pay since I’m a very experienced, credentialed, educated nanny, and each family pays two-thirds to three-fourths of that amount,” she says. “I get the benefit of making a little more, and they get the benefit of paying a little less, and having a nanny that they would never normally be able to afford otherwise.”

Once you negotiate your rate with each family, put it in the contract. Your contract should also state the number of hours per week you will work for each family, since one family may need you for more hours than the other, Schroeder says.

You may also want to negotiate for guaranteed pay, which Hall and Schroeder say is common with nanny shares. Schroeder puts in her contract that she gets guaranteed pay, based on a set number of hours, and she’s paid the same amount 52 weeks a year. This means if a family doesn’t need her one day or chooses to pick up their child early, she still gets paid. She also has in her contract that if the family goes above their hours or requests additional shifts, they must pay her overtime.

Guaranteed pay needs to be negotiated upfront and then written in your contract. If families don’t agree to it, then it’s up to you on whether it’s a deal breaker or not, Hall says.

How should you structure paid time off?

Time off is more complicated with a nanny share since you’re juggling the schedules of three parties rather than two. Hall and Schroeder recommend putting in your contract that you get one to two weeks of paid time off at the time of your choice.

“If they want to be frugal and take off the same time I do, that’s their choice, but most of them don’t,” Schroeder says. “Most take vacation whenever they want and have someone else cover for me when I’m off, and then I just get paid because of my guaranteed hours. Just like a day care would — you still pay for a day care slot if you’re on vacation.”

Schroeder’s contract states that she gets two weeks off at the time of her choosing, and that the families are allowed to take off as much time as they want, at the same time or different times, as long as she gets her guaranteed pay. But if the families don’t agree to it, Hall says another tactic is to ask for two weeks off, but one week is of your choosing and the other is of their choosing. Whatever is decided, it needs to be in the contract. If you want paid holidays off, this should also be in the contract.

What happens with sick kids — or when you’re sick?

Hall and Schroeder have found that sick kids are one of the biggest complications of nanny shares. While most nannies will still work when the kids are sick, it gets tricky in nanny shares when only one or some of the kids are sick.

Nanny shares are typically based in one of the families’ homes, and if the kids at the home base are sick, the other family may not want to bring their well kids over. And if the other family’s kids are sick, the home base family may not want them there. Schroeder talks upfront with the families about what they’re going to do when either family is sick, and her contract goes into great detail on what they’ve decided.

“The way I handle it is I go to the main house no matter what, and it’s up to the other family whether they want to bring their children or not, just like in a day care situation,” she says. “If they feel that they don’t want to expose their child to a certain bug and they want to stay home or get someone else to watch their child at home, they can, but I’ll still be paid — that’s their choice. Usually they bring them anyway, and I’d obviously do my very best to keep them separated and wash hands.”

When the nanny is sick, that’s a different story.

“You have to have that conversation with both parents of what do we do when [the nanny gets] sick,” Hall says. “You can say, ‘I’m not planning on getting sick, but I want to know that you guys are taken care of in the event that that happens and that your kids are taken care of. So let’s find a backup plan now.’”

She recommends talking about what the nanny should do if she’s sick, at what point they consider her too sick to come in, what their backup options are and whether the backup option can take care of both families or just one. In some cases, the parents won’t want the nanny to come in if she’s sick, while others will want her to [come] if they have no other option, Hall says.

How are expenses handled?

While some nannies don’t mind getting reimbursed for the children’s expenses after the fact, Schroeder finds this too inefficient. In nanny share situations, she prefers to handle expenses by having both sets of parents contribute equally to what she calls a “slush fund” so that nothing comes out of her pocket.

In her contract, there is an agreed-upon amount for regular weekly expenses, such as a lunch out or art supplies, Schroeder says.

“There’s an envelope, and say we’ve decided on $40 a week — each parent would put in $20 at the beginning of the week,” she says. “As I take money from the envelope, I replace it with the receipt and any change.”

For bigger-ticket items, it’s better to discuss it in advance with the parents, she says. And if the home base family has any expenses that pertain only to them, such as groceries, Schroeder says you may want to ask that they get a credit card in your name or leave you a separate source of money. Regardless of how it’s handled, the expense process should be discussed up-front and solidified in your contract.  

Nanny shares can bring a whole host of challenges you won’t find in a typical nannying job. But if you can successfully navigate these common issues, it can be a hugely beneficial situation for both you and the families.

Read next: How to manage expenses in a nanny share

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