Your nanny tells you she’s pregnant: Now what?
Myrna Alphonse, a national certified counselor (NCC), longtime member of the International Nanny Association (INA) and a nanny manager for 30 years, remembers when she was a full-time nanny and a newlywed back in 2012.
“I knew we would begin our journey to conceive,” Alphonse says. “I openly discussed my plan with my nanny families, and we added a clause with an action plan in my work agreement. I was fortunate to have full support. They kept me on, hired a temp during my maternity leave and hired a nanny assistant to help me once I came back to work with my infant son part-time. It genuinely was one of the best work experiences of my career to date.”
Alphonse’s experience is one most nannies dream of having when it comes time to expand their own family.
“Most expectant nannies are concerned about their employment status once they announce that they are pregnant,” she says.
At the same time, families who employ the nanny might be confused or apprehensive about the ins and outs of employing a caregiver who is expecting and will be a new parent. Here’s what you need to know about working with your pregnant nanny through her pregnancy, maternity leave and beyond.
How to be the ultimate employer of an expectant caregiver
Be the employer you wish you had
Although navigating this unfamiliar path of employing your caregiver throughout her pregnancy and new motherhood might be anxiety-causing, Julie Kashen, a policy staffer for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), urges you to think of this as an opportunity to treat your nanny the way you would have liked to be treated by your own higher-ups.
“As employers, we should think of how we would want to be treated in our workplace during and after pregnancy, and try to replicate those conditions for the people we employ,” says Kashen. “And as parents, there’s a good chance we still remember the experience we very recently went through during pregnancy. Parent employers have an opportunity to support their nannies when they are expecting through clear communication, including making a plan together for maternity leave and working together to address any issues that come up.”
Put yourself in your nanny’s shoes
It’s normal to fear you might lose your nanny or simply wonder how she’s feeling while contending with this uncharted territory, as well. Consider carefully your nanny’s situation. For insight into the thought process a nanny may be having around staying at her job after giving birth, you might even take your own current or previous workplace experiences into consideration, Kashen advises.
It’s likely your expecting caregiver is asking herself the following questions:
Will I be supported?
Will there be any flexibility?
Can I be honest about my needs with my employer?
How will this life event change affect my ability to support my family?
See this as an opportunity to bolster your working relationship
It’s important to remember that remaining open and flexible to possibilities can turn into a win-win for you and your nanny.
“This moment could be an opportunity to build an even stronger working relationship of mutual respect and clarity that puts you on even stronger footing and increases the likelihood that you’re able to retain the nanny,” says Kashen.
How you can support your nanny’s ability to stay on with your family
“Most nannies would prefer to stay on with their families for continuity of care and steady income,” says Alphonse.
Consider these key motivators that might incentivize your nanny to continue working with your family.
If the nanny trusts that you can be an open-minded, accepting employer, they may feel it’s feasible to continue their work with your family.
“Accept the nanny's changing personal role with the same consideration as unexpected changes [that can occur] in any family,” she says.
"If a nanny has been with a family for some time, I'd say there are certain expectations in place," says Michelle LaRowe, executive director of the International Nanny Association and author of “Working Mom's 411: How to Manage Kids, Career and Home.” "These expectations start with having an open and honest conversation without fear of immediate termination."
To alleviate unnecessary stress and tension, talk through what will happen during the pregnancy and beyond ASAP.
Consider letting them bring their baby to work
“Grace for flexibility on both sides is the key ingredient for staying power on both sides,” says Alphonse.
One of the ways you can show flexibility to your nanny is by offering them the ability to return to work with their baby in tow.
"As a parent, you need to decide what's best for your child and weigh out the pros and cons of your nanny bringing her child to work with her," says LaRowe. "Maybe you like the thought of your child having a built-in playmate."
Offer nanny maternity leave
Maternity leave is at your discretion, says Alphonse, but it is something you can offer your nanny so she’ll stay on.
“You are gaining long-term continuity for the short-term sacrifice of a temporary child care plan,” she says. “For the nanny, she is able to retain her livelihood while caring for her baby.”
In terms of maternity leave for household employees, Laura Schroeder, credentialed nanny and INA co-president, says she has seen anything from two weeks to four months offered by household employers. She further says that various factors — like whether the nanny will be bringing her baby to work, if the nanny wants to get back to work quickly or stay at home longer and if the maternity leave is fully or partially paid or unpaid — will influence the length.
“The most common is four to six weeks with a healthy vaginal delivery when mom is bringing baby with her to her work and six to 12 weeks when mom is not bringing baby to work and/or had a C-section,” she says.
How nanny maternity leave works
Ideally, it’s expected that you’ll offer some form of paid maternity leave. If that feels unmanageable financially, there is an alternative: “Generally, as a matter of workplace policy, if you offer your nanny vacation time, they should be able to use it for leave,” says Kashen.
In other words, if you offer two weeks vacation per year, the nanny should be able to put those two weeks toward her time off after baby.
Ultimately, the maternity leave plan you decide on should be explored in a formal conversation with your caregiver.
“Parent employers and nannies should communicate clearly about their expectations and needs and come to agreements that work well for both and support a healthy pregnancy and their return to work,” says Kashen. “In all workplaces, open and respectful communication goes a long way in creating a caring, supportive, productive and creative environment. Whenever you need to alter or expand a worker’s job, the best approach is to sit down with her, discuss what would work best for both of you and ask if she can agree to the changes.”
Kashen recommends clarifying the details of the leave you agree upon and putting them in a written agreement — such as the one NDWA has proposed through the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights — and establishing what paid time off you provide (vacation, sick days, holidays and family leave).
One valuable resource: Hand In Hand, a national network of employers of nannies and other domestic workers, has created templates and guidelines, in consultation with nanny organizations, that makes navigating these conversations much simpler, according to Kashen.
What the government offers in terms of paid family leave
While there’s no federal mandate on paid leave for domestic workers, state laws have been popping up in recent years.
“Eight states and D.C. have paid family and medical leave, which includes maternity leave,” says Kashen.
Assuming you are paying nanny taxes, your caregiver may be eligible for benefits in these states. For instance, household employees in New York who work 40 hours or more per week are eligible for Paid Family Leave to help them bond with a child, as well as handle other serious family care situations. Employees can receive benefits of up to 50% of their weekly wage for up to eight weeks; by 2021, the law will include a full 12 weeks of pay at two-thirds of the regular rate. Paid Family Leave is funded through a small payroll tax withheld from the employee each pay period.
Similarly, in California, the California State Disability Insurance Program (SDI) provides Paid Family Leave benefits to eligible workers who cannot work for non-work-related reasons (i.e. maternity leave). The SDI Program is funded by mandatory payroll deductions from an employee's wages. And in Rhode Island, the Temporary Caregiver Insurance program (TCI) provides up to four weeks of partial wage replacement.
What your nanny’s post-baby return to work will look like
Alphonse advises getting granular with your caregiver in order to set clear expectations about what work will look like after the new addition has arrived, and then put everything you discuss into a written nanny contract. Go over questions like:
Is the baby coming to work? If so, where is a space for baby to sleep?
Will the children share toys or need to have their own?
Who will pay for outings on which the nanny brings her child?
What happens when one of the children is sick?
When in the employer’s home, whose rules will be followed and what do those look like (screen time, types of snacks/meals, etc.)?
As LaRowe points out, "Most nannies and families who continue their relationship post-baby work hard to be flexible and make it a win-win situation for all.”
The NDWA warns you should consult with a lawyer or advocacy organization to better understand your rights, as different cities and states have different laws in place. Kashen also recommends visiting A Better Balance’s website.
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