We all hate paperwork. And a nanny contract might sound like just one more thing to write and file. Plus, if you've got a good nanny-family relationship going, you're understandably reluctant to rock the boat. Many families are afraid a formal contract will tarnish the relationship they're trying to build with their nanny. But taking the time to draft and sign a contract can protect both parties, whether you're the family hiring household help or the nanny.
Find out more about why you need a contract and what to include by watching the video and reading the advice below.
Why Do I Need a Nanny Contract?
"The contract is essential for clarifying [salary] matters and detailing all the conditions necessary to ensure a healthy and productive work relationship," says Priscilla Gonzalez, director of Domestic Workers United (DWU), an organization of Caribbean, Latina and African nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers in New York.
When everyone is clear on a nanny's responsibilities and privileges, it reduces confusion and makes disputes easier to solve amicably when they do crop up. A too-informal work arrangement is more likely to hurt you both in the long-term than one where everything is ironed out and made official from the get-go.
What Should I Include in a Nanny Contract?
You can also write out your own nanny contract. It can be a simple document with direct wording where you mention all the details you agree to. The more specifics you add, the better. Just be sure to consider and include the following items.
And for more specifics, check out our Sample Nanny Contract
Duties and Responsibilities
- Work hours and schedule: Will your nanny live-in or out? Will she work full or part-time hours, on weekends or weekdays? What will her hours be? When can she take breaks during the workday? What happens if you have to come home late?
- Responsibilities: What are the nanny's child care responsibilities? In addition to caring for the kids, will she handle any cooking, cleaning, laundry, pet care or transportation? Make sure this list notes all daily duties, as well as any recurring but less frequent obligations and emergency plans (like what to do on snow days or when a child is ill).
- Nanny privileges: When can she use her cell phone, the house phone and any house computers/Internet? Can she invite guests over?
- Meals: Should your nanny bring her lunch from home or will you provide her meals and snacks? What if you come home past dinnertime?
- Activities: What types of activities can the nanny do with your child? What is not allowed? What memberships does the family have? What will you pay for? Will you give her a weekly activity allowance or reimburse her at the end of the week?
- Communication: How and when will you expect the nanny to communicate with you during the day? Settle on a combination of the 9 Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Nanny
Compensation and Benefits
- Pay: What is your nanny's rate of pay for days, nights, weekends and holidays? (Most nannies are paid on an hourly basis.) Make sure you're paying your caregiver at least the minimum wage »
- Frequency of pay: When will you pay your nanny? Weekly, bi-weekly?
- Overtime: Household employees are generally considered "non-exempt," which means they're entitled to time-and-a-half for working over 40 hours over the course of seven days. How will you handle overtime? Note: Most states don't require you to pay live-in nannies overtime, but a few (such as Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York) have specific overtime laws. Learn more about nanny overtime.
- Benefits: What benefits are covered, including vacation, sick days, personal days, paid holidays (specify which holidays)? Mention any restrictions on when your nanny can take her time off. How much notice does she need to give you and should it be in person or can it be via text message or email?
- Family vacations: Will your nanny accompany with you on family vacations? Will she be paid while you're away? Read about: Should You Bring Your Nanny on Vacation?
- Health and insurance: What health benefits and nanny insurance will you cover?
- Taxes: When you hire a nanny, you need to pay employment taxes. Use our nanny tax calculator to figure out how much is involved and then learn How to Get Started Creating a Nanny Payroll Account
- Reviews: Schedule an annual employment review to talk about how things are going and reassess compensation, benefits and the contract.
- Cars: Will she have to have her own car or will she use a family car? What are acceptable uses for a family car? Get tips on Handling the Car Situation with Your Nanny
- Driver's license: Does the nanny have to maintain a valid license?
- Insurance: If she's using her own car for work purposes, what is the appropriate type and amount of automobile insurance she needs to have? If she'll be using your car, will you add her to your family policy?
- Gas: Will you reimburse her for gas mileage when she uses the family car or her car for work-related purposes? How much and how will you pay it? What about wear and tear on her car?
- Maintenance: How often does she have to bring her car in for servicing to make sure it's reliable? Who is responsible for maintaining the family car?
- Public transportation: If you rely on public transportation in your area, what's allowed? What are the rules for taking kids on subways, trains and buses?
- Cell phone: What's allowed? Talk about your rules about talking and texting on the cell phone while driving in a car with kids.
- Seatbelts and car seats: Does every child have to wear a seat belt? Who will provide car seats?
Discretion and Confidentiality
- Information: Personal, medical, career and financial information of family will not be discussed outside of the family
- Social media: Can the nanny mention the family in any type of social media? Can she post pictures of your kids? Mention them anonymously? What's allowed? What about disparaging comments? Check out the 9 Social Media Rules Your Nanny Should Follow
Notice and Severance
There is some debate about whether your contract needs to address notice and severance. Here are a couple of options to consider:
- An "at will" contract: This means that either party can end the work arrangement at any time. "At-will employment gives both parties an out clause," says Stephanie Breedlove, VP of Care.com HomePay. "If the family feels the nanny has done something out of line, they can terminate immediately.Likewise, the nanny can easily escape a relationship she feels is abusive or exploitative."
- Severance: Again, Breedlove notes that severance is not required by law and situations may arise where you'll wish you didn't make that promise. But if you have to let your employee go and she's done a great job, it's common for employers to provide a few weeks of severance pay for the nanny to help her financially while she looks for a new job.
Are Nanny Contracts Legal?
"Yes, it's a legally binding document," notes Breedlove. "A court will accept a written agreement between you and your nanny. If there is ever a dispute, it protects both parties."
So if your nanny quits without giving the agreed-upon four weeks' notice, or the family won't honor your request to take your accrued vacation days, the legally binding contract will enable you to take them to court -- and likely win.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer?
"A contract doesn't have to be drawn up by a lawyer to be binding," reveals Lisa Weinberger, a lawyer and founder of Mom, Esq.
But hiring a professional who specializes in employment issues and nanny contracts will ensure that nothing is inadvertently included or omitted. If you have a complex situation, it may make sense for you to hire one. You will probably pay around $500 for a contract from a lawyer (which you can reuse for future caregivers or caregiving jobs).
For more information and help with nanny contracts (and nanny taxes), call our HomePay experts at 888-273-3356.
What Labor Laws Do I Need to Know?
You should familiarize yourself with the Fair Labor Standards Act, so you know which federal standards you'll be obliged to comply with to ensure fair employment. While your nanny contract does not need to include passages from the FLSA, you should be aware of a few key rules and regulations as you determine work hours, wages and other details of employment.
When both the family and nanny agree on the terms of the contract, both should sign a copy and keep it for their records.
And contracts aren't just for families! Nannies should feel comfortable talking with a family about how important a contract is, and writing a sample contract if the family doesn't have one already. It helps protect both sides and makes sure everyone is on the same page.
Your Next Steps:
- Figure out what you can afford to pay a nanny
- Find a nanny
- Fill out a sample nanny contract
- Set up a payroll account
* The information contained in this article should not be used for any actual nanny relationship without the advice and guidance of a professional 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.