Babysitting - The hidden dangers of requesting too much!!
One of the biggest advantages of having a nanny or live in nanny is that it open up opportunities for busy parents to have a much needed night out. Many will discuss or suggest babysitting with their nanny during interviews and will agree between them what is a suitable amount and whether or not it will be included in the weekly wage if they live in or will be paid as overtime if the nanny lives out. Some families will only need occasional babysitting and so this will never become an issue but to others there could be trouble ahead if they make too many requests.
Many families with Live In help will take regular advantage of this arrangement as the help lives on site and is therefore deemed “available” for babysitting, often with very little notice or sometimes no notice at all. Dates are simply added to the family planner without discussion with the nanny beforehand. This can very quickly start to undermine her daytime role as she feels that she is never off duty and has to be available in the evenings weekdays and weekend. Most families will have an idea as what they see is the right amount and Hummingbird always suggest agreeing in advance what is contractually included and what should be paid as extra – after all the nanny is still at work whether the children are in bed and asleep or not. However some families seem to think that babysitting is unlimited and all included in the weekly wage with no extra payments necessary. From the nanny’s perspective, she has already worked a long day and then has to babysit on top and it doesn’t take long for the nanny to start feeling resentful and that she is being taken for granted.
Some families will offer time off in lieu instead of extra payments for the time they have worked. In principal, this sounds good and with the best of intentions it should work well. However, in many cases where parents work very long hours, taking time off in lieu is just not realistic as there is never a time when she is not on duty as the parents are at work. This can cause problems too as the nanny will be assuming time off in lieu is being banked. It often mounts up very quickly so that any time off due isn’t just taken as a day when she leaves early or starts later as the hours are now accrued enough to take full days. With no possibility of getting this time back, the nanny will start to feel the situation is getting out of hand and will either request payment for all the hours of babysitting she has worked or, in some cases, it may be enough for her to start looking at other roles that are available as she has no work life balance any more. Families need to remember that their nanny will have a life and commitments outside work just as they have.
This may sound unrealistic but over the years I have seen this happen many times and have first-hand experience of being asked to stay late or come back on Saturday. This often meant changing my own plans at very short notice and had increased my 60 hour week by an additional 6 hours. For a hardworking nanny who has already completed her week this will never go down well. It can be damaging to the working partnership she has worked so hard to create as it will make her feel that the family do not respect her work life balance and that her plans are of less importance than theirs. I often ask families to put themselves in the nanny’s place and ask would they accept an increase in their workload without some compensation?
So what is deemed to be reasonable? We suggest that for a live in nanny, one night of babysitting Monday to Thursday can be included but Friday and Saturday nights should be paid for as extra. These should be arranged in advance and not just dropped on the nanny as she is leaving for the weekend. For live out nannies all babysitting should be arranged in advance and all should be paid for at an agreed hourly rate which will probably be the same as her day rate but may be more after midnight. Some families ask why this should be as babysitting is, after all, when the children are in bed asleep and so there is nothing to do. Our argument is always that this is the best scenario but what happens if one of the children becomes unwell or something happens and the nanny is needed to sort it out? Why should the nanny be paid any less for her time and expertise even if the children are in bed? She is still on duty and is caring for the children even though they are asleep.
People often use students or young people they know to babysit at a lower rates than a nanny would be paid so my advice is always to outsource babysitting to somebody who isn’t your nanny unless your nanny is happy to stay and work those additional hours. It is ok to ask, but always make it clear that the nanny is not obliged to accept. Generally they may well accept if the babysitting is occasional and the nanny really will want to help. But for families with hectic social lives, the way to ensure the daytime role stays happy and healthy is to keep the two separate and get a sitter in at night and allow the nanny to clock off and return refreshed in the morning.
Linnea Tormajer Hummingbird Home staff