A written nanny agreement is among the most important documents that you’ll sign as a nanny, but can also be one of the most frequently overlooked. In the maelstrom of paperwork that tax compliance, federal and state insurance requirements and background checks, adding one more sheaf of paper to the equation is often overlooked, or regarded as too much of a hassle. In reality, the nanny contract does more than provide a strict outline of rules and responsibilities; it also plays a very real role in the protection of nannies, both as employees and as human beings.
- Prevents Job Creep – Even well-meaning employers can fall into the trap of gradually adding to a nanny’s responsibilities until she’s over-burdened and on the verge of completely burning out. Nannies that have a written employment agreement to refer to, however, have the option of gently reminding their employers that certain tasks do not fall under their purview, as agreed upon by the employers themselves. In most cases, this good-natured reminder is more than enough to stave off morale-killing job creep.
- Keeps Working Hours Reasonable – Drafting a nanny contract requires that both you and your employers have a discussion about the number of hours that you can realistically expect to work, and also to provide overtime compensation at a certain point. Overtime salary charges can rack up very quickly, which may be enough to keep your employer from expecting unrealistic hours. If not, your agreement can be of great assistance, especially if you’ve specified that your hours each week are not to exceed a certain limit.
- Provides Legal Recourse For Breach of Contract – Employment agreements can be difficult to enforce legally, but doing so is certainly not impossible. The nanny contract you draw up with your employers provides you with potentially valuable practical protection against breach of contract. In many cases, the agreement itself stands as a deterrent against breach, making the document an effective tool without resorting to messy and costly litigation.
- Ensuring Fair Pay – Your overtime pay, salary expectations and other compensatory details should be covered in any nanny contract, thereby immediately providing you with the assurance that you will be paid fairly, and in a timely manner. Should you include a minimum hours requirement that your employer agrees upon, you can expect your full salary each week, even if they have opted not to use your services full-time.
- You Can Demand Employer Tax Compliance – Tax compliance is a serious problem in the domestic worker industry, as many employers and workers alike opt for “under the table” or “off the books” pay that no one pays federal or state taxes on. In addition to the fines and penalties that can be incurred if you’re discovered, nannies that don’t pay into social security and whose employers don’t contribute to state unemployment will not be eligible for those benefits, should the need to file a claim arise. Insisting that your employers include a section covering their pledge to be fully tax compliant can protect you from potential financial devastation when you’re no longer able to work.
- Protecting Your Time Off – If your written agreement stipulates that you have two weeks of vacation time and ten personal days, then your employer has no choice but to recognize that agreement. Rather than a tentative verbal agreement that can be either inadvertently or even deliberately neglected and ignored, a written contract that clearly outlines the vacation that you’re entitled to under the agreement can help to protect that time.
- Preventing Conflicts Borne of Misunderstanding – By working together to document exactly what your responsibilities are, and what they do not include, you and your employer are making a strong effort to prevent disputes and conflicts that can stem from simple misunderstandings and breakdowns in communication.
- Getting Perks and Benefits in Writing – Should your employer opt to provide you with perks, such as use of a family membership or contributions to the premiums for your health insurance, getting that promise in writing can help to protect you from losing those perks without discussion about the reasons behind the loss.
- Provides a Chance for Negotiations – Whether you’re working together to draft the first of contract, or re-negotiating after the expiration of an existing one, the drafting period allows you and your employer the opportunity to discuss any changes that you feel need to be addressed or to negotiate alterations in the existing arrangement. This opportunity protects you from being restricted to salaries that do not reflect cost of living and inflation increases, working conditions that are unsuitable, and other common job complaints.
- Asserting Boundaries – The relationship between a nanny and the family that employs her is a very special one, often becoming more of a familial relationship than a worker/employer one. While there are definite benefits for both parties when the relationship becomes so close, the lines can blur in such a way that boundaries become hazy or almost non-existent. By working together to create those boundaries every year, you can protect your very special relationship with your employers and charges from becoming one that is unhealthy or completely lacking in professionalism.
It’s of vital importance that nannies come to view their annual contract as a document that protects them, rather than simply another list of rules and regulations. The agreement also serves as an insurance policy of sorts, declaring that you will receive ample notice of termination and even severance benefits in some cases, provided that the loss of your post was through no fault of your own.