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What You Need to Know When Hiring a Live-In Nanny

Nanny playing with child in home

With social distancing measures still necessary to slow down the spread of COVID-19, families are exploring the idea of inviting a live-in nanny into their homes. At first glance, this appears to be a win-win for everyone. Families can have the child care support they’re desperately seeking right now, and nannies can continue working instead of temporarily filing for unemployment or commuting on public transportation. Under the best circumstances, a live-in nanny can be a great solution. 

However, in an absence of experience, families are making up their own rules about these live-in arrangements, which could prevent them from having a successful live-in nanny and leave them liable for unexpected costs. We’re here to help set straight inaccuracies and share what you need to know in response to questions we’ve recently received about having a live-in nanny in your home.

What are acceptable accommodations for a live-in nanny?

At the very least, a live-in nanny must have their own room in your home. Live-in nannies should not be expected to share rooms with children or stay in common areas in your home, like the living room or an office that would need to be accessed by family members during the day. 

In more spacious set ups outside of New York City, families have provided guest houses in scenic locations to their live-in nannies. While beautiful views and open air are an attractive perk, it’s important to remember that your live-in nanny is still leaving the comfort of their own home to be available for your family. It can be helpful to look at it from the perspective of a more traditional corporate work trip. Even if you’re visiting an exciting location, at the end of the day, you’re still working.

Do I have to set a specific working schedule for a live-in nanny, or can we just play it by ear and see how it goes?

Live-in nannies should definitely have a set schedule! It’s so important for nannies to have time to recharge their own batteries so they can be the most helpful to your family. The live-in nanny must be completely free during their off time, so they can take care of themselves and do whatever they’d like. If there is anything that would prevent the nanny from doing that, those hours turn into working (often overtime) hours. A pre-COVID example: 

The nanny’s schedule ends at 7 p.m. once the kids are asleep. The family decides to go down to their friends’ house for dinner. They assume that the kids are asleep and the nanny is in the house anyway, so they don’t expect to pay extra. They are gone for 3 hours. The nanny needs to be paid for those additional 3 hours during which the nanny was the only adult in the home. If there was an emergency, or if one of the children was to wake up, it would be the nanny’s sole responsibility to take care of children and ensure their safety.

Can I pay my nanny a set weekly rate?

Yes, you should pay your nanny a set weekly rate (guaranteed hours) as long as it complies with minimum wage and overtime laws. Overtime kicks in after 44 hours of work. Although minimum wage in NYC is $15/hour, nanny rates typically start no lower than $20/hour and range significantly depending on the responsibilities, number of children, and other factors. Educate yourself on the costs in your market so you can have a proper cost expectation.

Shouldn’t a live-in nanny cost less? 

There is a misconception that live-in nannies should be making less money because their accommodations are being provided. Live-in nannies should not be confused with au pairs who get paid less because they are students with limited child care experience. Historically, injustices to women and undocumented domestic workers have skewed the perception of the value of a live-in nanny. It’s important to understand that live-in nanny costs can actually be considerably higher than families expect, especially if a specific schedule isn’t set and followed.

Can I require my live-in nanny to stay on my property at all times? I’m worried about COVID-19 exposure and don’t want my nanny to go out. 

While we understand the sentiment behind this request given the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus, live-in nannies need to be able to freely move around during their time off. As a family, your best bet is to hire a live-in nanny who follows the same social distancing practices you do and takes the same precautions with a similar level of vigilance regarding handwashing, facemasks, and non-essential travel. Ultimately, you need to hire someone that you trust. Build trust by asking questions and maintaining open lines of communication at all times, especially during a crisis like the one we are currently experiencing.

I only need to hire a nanny for certain children, the other ones are self-sufficient. 

Boundaries are difficult to maintain in a live-in situation. Needs change and evolve quickly. It’s best to start with the understanding that your live-in nanny will most likely be supporting the family overall at one time or another, and that you should set the rate accordingly. Even still, outlining responsibilities and expectations in advance is helpful for having a sustainable relationship.

Is there anything else I need to know about asking my nanny to live-in with me?

You must give your nanny one full day of rest (24 hours) per week – or, if your nanny agrees to work on that day, the nanny must be paid at an overtime rate. You must pay the nanny on a weekly basis. You are not allowed to deduct money from the nanny’s pay without written permission, except for deductions authorized by law for the nanny’s benefit, such as taxes. You cannot take money from wages to replace a broken or lost item or any other such reasons. For more information, review this fact sheet from the Department of Labor.

Having a live-in nanny can really be a great experience if boundaries are respected and everyone has enough space and freedom to recharge. If it’s not possible to provide appropriate accommodations, pay, and boundaries, there are other options to explore such as live-out arrangements with trusted individuals who are committed to practicing social distancing in ways that align with your family’s practices. To learn more about working with a nanny follow us on Facebook and Instagram or sign up for our newsletter!

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