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I Have a Sick Nanny, Now What?

Megan Horst-hatch
Jan. 19, 2018

7 things to do when your nanny calls in sick.

It's a working parent's nightmare: your nanny just called in sick. You have to get to work, but what do you do with your kids?

"Have a plan in mind before it happens. You don't want to figure out what to do when your nanny calls in sick," Becky Kavanagh, co-president of the International Nanny Association and a nanny for more than 22 years, advises. Cleveland, Ohio blogger, Lindsay Gillis, of From Nanny to Family, is a former nanny and recommends families and nannies talk about sick leave in advance.

The following tips will help you keep everything running smoothly when the inevitable sick day strikes.

  1. Check Your Sick Leave Policy
    Before hiring your nanny, hammer out a sick leave policy. Make sure it's spelled out in your nanny contract. If your nanny calls in sick, determine who’s responsible for finding a backup. While it's appreciated, Kavanagh says that a nanny usually isn't expected to help find a replacement.

  2. Find Backup Care
    You may be really, really fortunate and have nearby family or friends who can fill in until your nanny gets better. But if you don’t, you’re going to need to have a backup babysitter or nanny. If you have a Care.com Premium Membership, you now have access to a great new benefit: Care.com Backup Care. Our Backup Care service will treat you like a VIP and help you find child care quickly and easily. Our 24/7 concierge team will handle all the details for you: this includes finding, screening and booking your back-up care solution.

    Click here to learn more about this benefit and make your request.

  3. Explain the Situation to Your Child
    A child will wonder what happened to his or her nanny, so don't leave them in the dark. Kavanagh recommends parents keep things matter-of-fact when explaining the nanny's absence to kids. "Just tell them the nanny will be out sick, and that grandma or a different nanny will watch them. Emphasize they will still have fun, even though their regular nanny isn't there," she says. If your child is concerned, consider having her make and send a get-well card.

  4. Prep for the Substitute
    "It's disruptive to kids when the nanny calls in sick, so plan ahead and keep them on schedule, even though the regular nanny isn't coming in," Kavanagh says. Whether it's a relative pitching in for the day or a temporary nanny, it's important to keep everyone on the same page.

    What can you do to get ready for the new sitter? Here's a helpful article on How to Prepare for Backup Child Care.

  5. Check In During the Day
    Grandma's arrived to watch the kids, and you head out the door to work. But there's still more to do. If possible, call once or twice during the day to see how the kids are adjusting, and answer any questions as they arise.

  6. Know Your Backup Plan in Advance
    Avoid a last-minute care scramble and have a plan in place. Are there any family members or friends who could watch your child for a day or two in a pinch? If so, ask them ahead of time if they would mind acting as the backup plan. "Get a chain of people who can help out and just get your list ready to go," Gillis says. Read about your 5 Options for Backup Care.

By planning ahead, you can sail through the day when your nanny calls in sick, making the day easier for you, the nanny replacement and, most importantly, your child.


Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in "-er." Her work can be found here.

User in Exton, PA
Sept. 30, 2014

I've always had my families have back up plans for any emergencies. Sometimes families don't think of doing so, so we should be on it ourselves to assist the family. When interviewing, ask what back up they have, if they don't have family, time to work on finding back up. Whenever I've been sick as a result of caring for a sick child, that is always paid time and not using my own sick time. Fair is fair and 9 times out of 10, I don't use them anyway! I never take advantage and my families have always been very generous. Stay healthy!

Nov. 14, 2013

Talking about germs, I caught the chicken pox from the kids at age 27. Luckily it was a light case of it. I went back and everyone was happy I turned back into Miss V from being a chicken for a while. lol

Nov. 14, 2013

Its best that care .com can have a backup, so if your a nanny and you feel sick, you contact care.com as well and they can send another nanny who wanted a days pay which can help so much. Even if you don't have a job, for one day it would be great to make a little something right? It can also open doors by showing that the nanny showed responsibilty to show up on an emergency and Care.com can use her for another assignment. I was a substitute paraprofessional in the public school and that was what I did. Substitute a paraprofessional who could not make it for the day or for any length of time for her absence.

May 10, 2013

And last but not least, make sure your nanny is actually better before she returns to work. Don't want to spread those germs around!

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