Posted ByDebbie Dragon
10 steps to make sure the trial period with your new nanny, babysitter or caregiver goes smoothly.
Before you hire a new nanny, babysitter, senior care aide, housekeeper or other type of caregiver, you want to be confident that the fit is going to be a good one. One way to help: arrange a trial run. If you hire someone on a temporary basis, it helps you all test the waters and make sure the arrangement is a fit for everyone.
Kelli Bhattacharjee, of Freebie Finding Mom, used Care.com to find her nanny. After selecting prospective candidates, she decided to invite two for trial runs, which she believes are a vital part of the hiring process. “You can interview people and references can love them,” she says,” but it all depends on your specific situation and your specific children. You won’t know who’s best until you do a trial run and see.”
Ready to audition a new caregiver? Here are 10 steps for ensuring a smooth trial run.
Check References First
Once you've decided on the person (or persons!) you think might be the best fit, perform your due diligence. Talk to references and do a background check before proceeding with a trial run.
Talk to the Caregiver
Tell the caregiver during the initial interview that you would like to set up a trial period. Let them hear that while you're interested in working with her, the trial period allows both parties time to change their minds about a permanent hire.
Decide on a Schedule
A trial run with a new caregiver should last as long as you feel is necessary. You want to know that the person can handle the job and is a good fit with your family. Depending on your specific needs, the trial run may be just a few days or a few weeks.
Kathy Dupuy, president of Mom’s Best Friend, Inc., recommends two to five days of trial time. She also suggests that the trial time be as close to the desired schedule as possible. "For example, if the position is for weekdays, we would not recommend you trial on a Friday or Saturday night. This way, both the nanny and family can get an idea of the actual routine."
Make sure you let the caregiver know how long she can expect the trial period to last. You don't want to leave her hanging indefinitely -- she may decide to accept a more stable position.
Put It in Writing
To ensure everyone has the right expectations of the trial run period, put the terms of the trial in writing. Include details such as how long the trial will last, the hours to be worked, the rate of pay to expect and how either party can opt out of continuing on with the trial period. This can be an add-on to the contract you create.
Discuss Pay and Taxes
During the trial period, pay your caregiver the rate you agreed on for the permanent position and withhold the appropriate taxes, as outlined in your nanny contract. It may be a trial period, but she's still doing the same work. And it's easier to start the tax process right from the beginning than play catch up later. If you end up not hiring the nanny, make sure you reimburse any taxes you withheld from her if she didn’t earn at least $1,900 from you.
Teach the Routine
Have the caregiver shadow you for a few days to see the routine in action and how you get things done. This will give the caregiver the opportunity to discuss tasks they may not be willing to do as part of their job.
Stay to Observe
A new caregiver can be an uncomfortable situation, especially for children, at least until a bond is formed. Ideally you should play a part in the trial run period to help form the necessary bonds between the caregiver and the person who needs care. Take a day to let the new caregiver be in charge of the routine, while you observe and are on-hand to answer questions.
During the trial run she conducted, Kelli worked in her home office, occasionally passing through the rest of her house where her nanny watched her son. It was during these times that Kelli was able to see how her son had formed more of a connection to one nanny than the other.
For more tips, read about the 10 Ways to Prepare Kids for a New Sitter.
Take the Afternoon Off
If you feel confident enough to leave for the afternoon, do so to give the caregiver the chance to do the routine alone.
"Unless one or more parents will always be home, we also recommend that the parent spend at least some time away from the house to see how the nanny uses that time," shares Dupuy.
Talk About How It Went
As you end the trial run, arrange a time to talk with the caregiver (maybe before or after normal working hours) to discuss their feelings and how things are going from your viewpoint. “This is a great time to discuss any questions or concerns,” says Dupuy. If things aren't going well, part ways.
End the Trial Run
If everyone is happy with the situation, end the trial period and make an official offer. Amend the employment contract if needed. You should still check in regularly, to make sure things are going well. And set dates for your 30-day and annual review to talk about bigger issues and set goals.
Debbie Dragon is a freelance writer. A single mother of two active boys, she has been writing from home full time for more than a decade.
* The tax information contained in this article should not be used for any actual caregiver relationship without the advice and guidance of a professional tax advisor who is familiar with all the relevant facts. The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended as legal, tax or investment advice. Furthermore, the information contained herein may not be applicable to or suitable for your specific circumstances and may require consideration of other matters.