15 benefits to consider negotiating into your nanny contract

April 30, 2020

When you’re deciding whether or not to work with a particular family employer, you’ll be considering the big picture, as well as the minutiae, of your employment agreement. Once you’ve established must-haves, like legal pay and a nanny contract, you’ll want to discuss the benefits you’ll be offered.

While an extensive benefits package isn’t exactly a given (just 70% of nannies reported receiving basic benefits in a 2017 survey by the International Nanny Association), many employers are aware how competitive the industry is and understand the importance of providing certain standard employment benefits — and sometimes, benefits that go beyond the basic. “Every nanny defines their own priorities when it comes to benefits, and similarly, many families value certain benefits over others,” says Shenandoah Davis, the co-founder and CEO of Adventure Nannies who sits on the board of directors of the recently founded Nanny Relief Fund

From paid time off to mileage reimbursement or even gym passes, there are a range of practical supports and extra perks that can boost security for both you and your employer. 

Here are 14 benefits you should feel empowered to explore with a potential or current family employer.

The basics

1. Paid time off 

While a few states mandate some paid time off, there is no national requirement. Davis says two weeks — which will cover vacation days and personal days — is standard, although she warns nannies to be wary of a package that allows the nanny to select one week and the family to select the other. “One week of paid time off that you get to choose is not really a great deal,” she notes. You might also want to discuss separate days allotted for bereavement or adverse weather conditions.

2. Overtime

Make sure that an overtime rate of at least time-and-a-half for all hours over 40 in a seven-day work week is specified in your contract, as you’ll often work over those 40 hours, says Ryan Jordan, founder of Educated Nannies. You’re entitled to this overtime rate whether you’re full time or part time. More specific overtime laws vary from state to state, so make sure to check your local requirements.

If you’re a live-in employee, most states do not require you to be paid overtime although there are nine exceptions — California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Oregon — with special overtime laws for live-in employees, notes Davis. 

3. Sick days

Just like employees in any field, paid sick leave is one of the top two most-needed benefits for nannies, says David Reischer, attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com. (The other is paid time off.) After all, nannies need to ensure they’ll be covered should they fall ill or need to take care of an ailing family member.

While there are currently no federal laws mandating sick leave, some cities and states have their own laws on the number of days a family employer must offer you and how they are accrued and can be used, according to Davis. For details on your local requirements, check out ABetterBalance.org’s state-by-state overview of paid sick leave laws.

4. Paid holidays

Paid holidays are considered separate from your paid time off and will likely include at least federal holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day), according to Stacie Steelman CEO and founder of Crunch Care, an in-home care staffing company. 

“It’s not unusual for a nanny to have paid time off and then any number of paid holidays,” says Davis. “Families might also say, ‘We expect you to work on a holiday, such as Christmas Day, but you will be paid overtime.” She notes that some states have rules about overtime on holidays, so nannies should clarify the rules in their state.

5. Health insurance contribution

According to Davis, this is the most popular benefit nannies ask for, which comes as no surprise at a time when both premiums and concern around illness are high. “Health insurance is a standard benefit in most professional jobs,” says Davis. “Some nannies prefer a healthcare reimbursement for their private insurance while others prefer to be added to a family's insurance plan. It could also be a stipend — $200 a month is the minimum standard — that is earmarked for health care expenses.” 

(A note on reimbursements: These can only be applied to private insurance, as per the Affordable Care Act, employers cannot reimburse employees for the cost of premiums on insurance plans obtained through the federal exchange without being subject to additional taxes and fees.)

Meaghan Tyrrell who has worked as a child care provider in Westminster, Colorado for the past 13 years says that a family’s investment in her health can make or break a job, elaborating, “It allows me to show up as my best self for my nanny family, and it allows me to be the best child care provider I can be for their children.” 

6. Guaranteed pay

It’s also wise to make sure that you are guaranteed payment for a set number of hours per week. Daniel Butcher, founder and CEO of Los Angeles Nannies, as well as an industry veteran, says he came to feel strongly that nannies should receive guaranteed pay after he personally missed out on it. “If your family goes on vacation and chooses not to bring you with them, you essentially don’t have a job and any money without guaranteed pay or hours,” he notes. “When your employer goes on vacation, you still have bills to pay. The guaranteed hours will protect your income.” 

It also protects your family, as they won’t risk losing you to another employer should you need to take on new work while they’re out of town, Butcher points out.

7. Mileage reimbursement 

More of a requirement than a benefit, mileage reimbursement is worth noting, as some nannies are shortchanged in this department, says Laura Schroeder, co-president of the International Nanny Association (INA) and an INA credentialed nanny. “I’ve heard nannies might not get anything or something like $10 a week for gas,” she notes. But if you’re required to do any other on-the-job transportation, your employer is legally required to provide you with a separate car or, if you’re using your own, the IRS standard mileage rate, which changes annually.

8. Open kitchen policy

This benefit makes it clear that you can eat anything in the house while you’re working, and if certain foods are off-limits, they’ll be put in a designated spot, says Davis. “This way, you can focus all your attention on the kids and not have to worry about packing meals that will take up space in their fridge or ordering lunch from an app,” she explains.

9. Household account

Talk to your family about setting aside cash or giving you a credit or debit card that will be used for various expenses incurred on the job. “This is important to me, as sometimes, I need art supplies or take the kids out to lunch, and I’ve had jobs in the past where the funds are coming out of my own pocket,” says Schroeder. 

Discretionary benefits

10. Cell phone reimbursement

While it isn’t as common as paid time off or health insurance contributions, some families will provide reimbursement for your cell phone bill or offer you a separate work phone, says Davis. “If a family gives you a phone and says it’s for work, leave it at their home,” she advises. Don’t use it for personal interactions or take it home with you, as that may inadvertently give the family access to private information, including where you live and where you’re going after work or on the weekend, which you might not be comfortable sharing with your employers, notes Davis.

11. Professional development/continued education 

Schroeder says this category is becoming increasingly common, and she personally ensures that her contract covers a set amount of funds and days she can put toward professional development. 

Nanny burnout happens, and taking an all-day class, like National Nanny Training Day, or going to a conference, such as Nannypalooza or the INA Conference, will keep you excited and make you a better nanny,” she notes. “That’s money well spent for both a nanny and a family.”

You can begin by asking for just one day or $100 to put toward continuing education. “Start somewhere and then raise the bar,” says Schroeder. “Or if you’re already in a contract, that is something you could ask for at your annual review. Families will be so impressed that you want to become an even better nanny.”

12. Flextime 

“For several years during my nanny tenure, I was a working actress,” explains Florence Ann Romano, the former nanny behind The Windy City Nanny. “I needed my employer to be flexible, regarding my hours, so I could go to auditions.” For that reason, Romano asked her employer for flextime by requesting a set number of “flextime” hours per month — in addition to paid time off — that could be applied however needed after she gave “as much notice as possible.”

Above and beyond extras

13. The pie-in-the-sky perks 

Davis says there are certain “pie-in-the-sky” benefits that nannies might receive, such as a 401K (generally offered by families with a high net worth who have many domestic employees), more than four weeks of paid time off or a locked-in percentage for annual raises. While it may be challenging to lock any of these in during a first negotiation, Davis says nannies and employers can look at these during an annual review. 

14. Recreational bonuses 

Depending on a family employer’s line of work, they might have unique bells and whistles to offer. “I know a chiropractor who does free adjustments,” says Butcher. “Some families offer their summer home for a nanny’s vacation, season passes, weekly car detailing — which is a nice gesture, especially if you’re using your car to transport the kids, and they’re smooshing Goldfish into your seat!” Other benefits along these lines include a gym membership, tickets to concerts or other live entertainment or airline miles. 

How to prep for your benefits talk with a prospective employer

Get clear on your must-haves, ideals and deal-breakers 

Listing the benefits you need most is a key first step, notes Schroeder. “Think about it in advance and know what your deal-breakers and most important requests are upfront,” she says. While you might not frame them that way in negotiations with your employer, you’ll have them top of mind, which can help inform an open, honest discussion. 

Seek support

“If you’re nervous about hashing out negotiations and discussing the benefits you want, call a friend or ask an agency or fellow nanny to walk through it with you,” suggests Ashley Wainwright, a nanny and household manager from New Haven, Connecticut. 

When in doubt, get it in writing

Though every family’s contract will be different, it’s always a good idea to get the details in print. “It is best practice to have all your benefits in your contract with your employers before you are hired,” says Tyrrell. “You can always adjust your contract as time goes on and you feel that you should be better compensated for your work.” 

The bottom line 

Ensuring that you have the benefits you need is integral to securing a stable working relationship that lasts, says Steelman. She notes, “Setting up an employment package that builds long-term protections is critical to being at ease and focused on your work while in the workplace.”

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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