I just happen to be incredibly lucky. I have kids, but I live close to family. Our income, while not huge, allows my husband to stay home with our children during the week.
What does all this mean?
We don’t have to pay for childcare. The living-near-family advantage was something we consciously chose to pursue, but we’re aware that not everyone has that luxury.
We have some extra stuff going on at home that requires full-time attention. When our kids were younger, and I was in school, our family helped us meet those unique needs very frequently by watching our kids while he was at work and I was in class–or studying.
Without these advantages, we’d likely have to hire in-home care until everyone was in at least elementary school.
With our specific income situation, there’s no monetary advantage to my husband going back to work Monday through Friday.
But for many, childcare is one of the only options to make providing for the household possible. A lot of those households choose to hire a nanny. Your kid gets 1:1 attention, and they get it in your home. There are a lot of positives to this type of childcare setup.
Many times when people hire a nanny, they don’t know what they’re doing. When someone works in your home, you become an employer, and you have to keep things above board.
How to Hire a Nanny
To learn more about this process, I recently read the third edition of How to Hire a Nanny: Your Complete Guide to Finding, Hiring, And Retaining Household Help.
It was intense. There is so much more to this process than I would have ever imagined. Because you become an employer, you have to make sure you’re well-versed in equal employment laws, workers’ rights and taxation at the federal, state and local level.
You also want to make sure you’re actually a good employer–one who people want to work for. You are, after all, leaving your child alone with them for hours everyday. They’re the last employee you want feeling complacent or apathetic. You want your nanny to feel appreciated and excited to do their job well.
I learned a bunch of interesting tidbits across every area the author, Guy Maddalone, covers. Here’s a few.
The Legalities of Hiring a Nanny
“Hiring a nanny” means different things to different people. I hadn’t really thought about hiring a nanny versus an Au Pair versus a mother’s helper, but you really should. Each job description holds different job responsibilities, and in some cases, that will even change the surrounding employment laws.
I also learned that you and the nanny can’t just decide amongst yourselves if she/he will work as an independent contractor or a W-2 employee. There are rules, and most nannies will fall under the W-2 classification for IRS purposes.
You have to be careful about what questions you ask during the hiring process. While some are obvious (e.g. don’t ask an applicant which religion they practice,) others are not so obvious.
For example, it’s illegal to ask someone the name and address of their nearest relative in case of emergency. This can open up the door to discrimination as the employee may now be in a situation where they’re revealing something about their national origin or sexual orientation.
Instead, after they’re employed, you can ask them the name and address of the person to be notified in case of emergency.
There were dozens of other illegal questions that surprised me, too. They made sense after I read them, but if I was hiring someone to work in my home, I might have innocently and accidentally crossed a legal line without knowing it.
You can hire immigrants.
I did know that you can legally hire immigrants, but Maddalone reviews a litany of different visa programs and what the hiring and labor laws are within the context of each program.
Immigrant hires don’t have to hold a green card, necessarily, but you do have to pay a legit paycheck, meeting minimum wage requirements and any other labor and tax laws applicable to your area.
Because immigrants are commonly willing to work under the table, especially when they’re waiting in a long queue to get their documentation sorted by the Federal government, this population has been heavily taken advantage of in the past.
Aside from wage theft and other illegal pay practices, I was saddened to read about the rate of emotional, verbal and physical abuse in these work situations. Over ninety percent of victims don’t report the abuse because they don’t want to lose their income. Forty-two percent were also/independently afraid that if they did, their employer would get violent with them.
NOTE: If you find yourself in this situation as a nanny, you do have rights–citizen or not. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential help. Keep in mind that your online activity may be monitored by your abuser.
You need an employee handbook.
I wouldn’t have thought of this either, but you need a work agreement delineating all the “What ifs?” in your working relationship. You should also address specifics in an employee handbook.
This isn’t only for legal purposes. It helps maintain a happy relationship between the nanny and the family. If, in the heat of the moment, you have different expectations about pay or responsibilities, your conversation could get heated, damaging a relationship with someone who is really great with your kid.
If those expectations are laid out beforehand, everyone knows what to expect, and a confrontation born out of frustration is less likely to happen.
One example given was family travel. If you’re expecting the trip in and of itself to be payment, but your nanny is expecting to get paid for watching your children even though she/he is in a different setting, you’re going to butt heads.
You need to figure things like that out from the get-go so they don’t get out of hand when emotions are high.
Maddalone includes a sample work agreement and other employment documents in the back of the book.
There were two major things I learned about taxes that blew my mind. The first is that even if you’re a W-2 employee, your employer doesn’t necessarily have to withhold taxes from your paycheck. You could end up owing quarterlies.
I’ve literally never heard of that before, but it’s something to watch out for. And if you’re employing someone, you definitely need to tell your nanny if you’re not withholding as the employer.
The second interesting tax code tidbit I picked up was that sole proprietors are one of only two groups who can deduct nanny costs from their gross income. That’s a big write-off—don’t miss it if you qualify!
Other Random Tidbits I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know
- It’s smart to have your nanny familiar with all security systems, including codes. They’ll be there most of the day, and if you’re paying to keep your place secure, their familiarity with the system will be your first line of defense.
- If your nanny is full-time and they’re using your car to drive your kid around, they should be listed as a driver on your auto insurance policy.
- Drug users tend to gravitate towards jobs that have traditionally had a hard time enforcing drug-free workplace policies—like domestic work. So watch that closely.
Who is this book best for?
There’s at least a thousand more things I can’t relay to you in a book review–you need to pick up a copy yourself if you’re thinking about hiring someone to help with childcare. This tome is a knowledge mine, and could keep you from inadvertently breaking the law or making a bad hire.
If you’re not hiring a nanny, but know someone who is in one of these life situations, Maddalone’s book would make a great gift:
- Expectant parent(s). Everyone thinks they know how they’re going to handle work/their career before baby comes, but so much can change after the birth. It’s good to be prepared.
- Parent reentering the workforce after taking a couple years to spend with their child(ren).
- Parents who are relocating to an area where they might not have as much support from family and friends.
- Parents trying to decide between daycare or a nanny.
- Anyone who is thinking about starting a family, placing serious consideration on economics.
Share Your Nanny Experience
I’ve never had to enlist paid childcare, but I know a lot of you have. I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments. Have you come up across any legalities/best practices you hadn’t considered before going through the process? How did you go about the hiring process?
I have been compensated for my time reading this book and writing this review. Regardless, opinions are 100% honest and 100% my own.