The Nanny Bill of Rights

Wendy Sachs is the new editor-in-chief of and the author of How She Does It—a book about successful stay-at-work moms. This week, I’ve asked Wendy to write about a growing movement that seeks to provide our nannies and senior care providers with much-needed support and protection. These trusted caregivers look after our children and loved ones. It’s time they were taken care of, as well!

We’ve all been there. Your baby cries on your shoulder just as you’re leaving for the office. Your toddler tugs on your pant leg pleading with you to take off your heels and pretty please not go to work today. The guilt can feel like a knife in the gut. But millions of moms and dads are able to continue to pay the bills and thrive in our careers because of the dedicated and committed work of caregivers across the country with whom we entrust our children.

Shockingly, there is no federal protection regulating work hours, sick leave or vacation time for nannies, housekeepers or senior care providers. But in the state of New York that may be about to change.

If signed by Governor Paterson, a New York law will protect the estimated 200,000 domestic workers in the New York metropolitan area alone, including nannies, senior care providers, and housekeepers—those here legally and illegally alike. This first of its kind, this Bill of Rights for caregivers and housekeepers will protect many who have historically been exempt from the labor laws that protect most American workers. The law would guarantee a half dozen national holidays, five days vacation, and seven sick days annually, all paid, plus overtime compensation and at least one day off weekly.

The bill will not only empower caregivers (who are overwhelmingly women) but also give a guide to their employers on compensation and expectations. Open, honest communication between nannies and the moms/dads who employ them is critical for job satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. While most families are diligent about paying fair wages and creating a healthy and respectful work environment for their caregivers, the reality is that some nannies and sitters feel taken for granted and even sometimes exploited. Having no real guidebook to follow as far as “nannyquette” goes, parents are often shocked to learn that they are treating a caregiver unfairly. 

While some in New York bristle at the proposed new law that may cost additional money and hassle to pay overtime and vacation, I think it’s long overdue to finally have labor protection for our most valuable employees—our children’s caregivers.     

I applaud New York in taking a lead on protecting those legions of hard working nannies and sitters who make it feasible for many of us to go to work with a clear conscience and a less heavy heart. It’s time for the country to extend protection to all domestic workers. They should not be vulnerable any longer.
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