Alisha Wiles is not an attorney and the information contained herein is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice about contract drafting or enforceability. The article is intended to convey personal experiences and anecdotes about Ms. Wiles’ experiences as a nanny.

Update: The US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau just released sample domestic work agreements and guidelines.

After all the stress of searching for a job, I am excited to have an offer. But here comes the hard part… the nanny contract. There have been times in my career when I have drafted a contract and the family said that they do not want one. Because I really wanted the job, I allowed them to convince me not to have a written contract and instead we had a verbal agreement. A few months down the road, the parents had forgotten parts of our agreement.

The unraveling began with a paid holiday that wasn’t honored. Then, the family decided to go on a trip without me and asked me to use my PTO instead of paying the agreed upon guaranteed hours. I felt I wasn’t being viewed as a career nanny and struggled with a relationship in which I kept my commitments, but the family didn’t remember our agreement. Soon, I found myself seeking a new position. Like many other nannies, despite giving fair notice, I was let go on the spot. This left me unemployed for a month before I started my new job.

Foregoing the contract meant that I had little to back up my claims about our agreement. While it is stressful to approach a family and insist on a written contract, it’s important. It’s also important to know that if the family refused, they may retract their job offer and seek a different nanny. Anytime we decide something is a “dealbreaker”, we risk losing a potential position. Nannies often worry that a family will rescind a job offer if we insist on having a contract and while that may happen, it may be for the best.

When approaching a family about writing a contract, it’s important to emphasize how contracts protect the family and the nanny.

Contracts make things black and white and that can be scary for some parents. You should remind parents that the process of writing the contract is the most important. It allows both the family and nanny to clearly articulate the needs for the job and solve as many foreseeable issues as possible. This will provide both the nanny and family with more confidence in the success of the working relationship.

Writing a contract is all about the conversation and ensuring all topics are covered and then making a commitment to each other. I truly believe if we go into a meeting with a family with a thorough understanding of what a contract should consist of and we explain to them how it not only protects us but also the parents, then they may be more open to signing a contract.

As Nannies, we have the power to encourage open communication with family employers. Being able to accurately explain each point in our contract is vital. Being prepared with a draft will help you explain why each point is important and will help ensure it’s a good fit for all parties. Before meeting with a family to discuss a contract, research the laws for your state and city, the industry standards and then create a detailed outline with discussion points. I typically check the minimum wage, local babysitter rate, and what other people in my local area with similar training and experience are being paid. I also take the time to look at what teachers and tutors are making to ensure that my rate is fair.

An important step before negotiating with a family is to write a list of what is negotiable to you and what is not negotiable.

This is important as some nannies will add pet care to a position for a higher hourly rate while others may not want to do pet care or household management tasks. Some nannies are comfortable planning a week of their paid time off to match a family vacation while others have commitments that require the paid time off to be certain times of the year. There have been times in my career where I was willing to lower my rate slightly to have more vacation time or to ensure that I could use all my vacation time when I wanted. Lightly touching on these topics during the interview process can prevent big surprises during contract negotiations.

To start drafting your contract, it is helpful to download a nanny work agreement template and the US Nanny Association partners have provided several templates you can choose from in our online digital library. With or without a template, you can start by creating a plan for the “what-ifs” and, when appropriate, place a price on the situation. For example, what is the cost for overnight care? What if the family runs an hour late or needs additional care on a weekend? Are any household tasks required when the family is on vacation such as mail pickup or pet care? Will the family use a payroll service or pay weekly?

When drafting an outline of points to discuss with a family I always include:

  • A clear description of my roles and responsibilities as the employee
  • A clear description of their roles and responsibilities as the employer
  • Pay – hourly rate, schedule, overtime, late fees, overnight rate, holiday pay. I also include a definition of guaranteed hours – an agreed-upon minimum number of hours each week the family will pay the nanny and the nanny will be available to work for the family. If the family chooses not to use the hours, the nanny is still paid.
  • Paid Time Off – vacation, sick days, paid holidays
  • Travel Terms – accommodation, travel, meals, extra pay, schedule, notice
  • Other Benefits – health insurance, education stipend, bonuses, annual raises
  • Expenses – credit card & petty cash
  • Nanny Vehicles – mileage reimbursement, detailing, car seats
  • Bad Weather Clause
  • Schedule of Reviews and Check-Ins
  • Social Media
  • Nanny Cameras
  • Confidentiality Agreement
  • Emergency Procedures
  • Termination Clause, Severance Pay, Separation Agreements

Contracts are an important tool that creates a foundation for success. When writing a contract, remind yourself and the family that if the contract needs to be changed or modified, it’s easily updated. Be sure to be fair in your expectations of the family and encourage the family to be fair in their expectations. Taking the time to research all contract points can give you the confidence to be successful and help you avoid situations like the one I was in.

The US Nanny Association thanks all the nannies, advocates and business leaders who provide practical tips and insight to elevate our industry. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

Alisha Wiles

Article Author: Alisha Wiles