Why is it that when most of us hear the word “contract” we cringe? A contract is simply an agreement, pact, or understanding. It's used in many areas of life and business, and simply put, it can be a useful playbook to help guide us toward success.
Full disclosure: I am not a lawyer, and I don’t know all of the ins and outs of contracts. Yet, I am a firm believer that when we set up proper expectations with those whom we choose to intermingle, we are sharing love. Many of our fumbles or disagreements could be prevented if we would have simply looked ahead and examined, “What do I want?” and actually shared this with the other person or party ahead of time. Contracts do just this. And when it comes to our children, we all know what we want. We simply need to put some thought into this so that everyone — us parents, our children, and our caregivers — are set up for a favorable outcome.
[Related: What to ask in a nanny interview]
Now, on the flip side, contracts are a step to support and protect our nannies as well. Imagine accepting a job without knowing when you are supposed to show up for work, how long you are supposed to work, how or what you are even supposed to do for work, when you get paid, how you get paid, how much you get paid…this list goes on and on. This isn’t a firm foundation for a trusting relationship. There is no indication of safety and security, which are core feelings that we all need to live happy and healthy lives. The City of Chicago recently announced that a written contract is needed to protect all nannies (and other domestic workers). I think this is a step in the right direction to help us all sharpen our communication skills and to come to a mutual agreement on how we want to create this transaction between us parents and our nannies for caring for our children.
A good nanny contract may consist of the following:
Your Family Philosophy: Share your values, activities, styles of learning, and the ways you want to interact and respond to the child(ren).
Job Responsibilities: This may include feeding and dressing standards, schedules and routines, activities and recreation, and any other household maintenance that you expect from your nanny (like cleaning up after the children). You may also want to include what this job does not include so your nanny can feel comfort in knowing what she doesn’t have to do while on this job.
Terms and Conditions: Be sure to include the start date, days, and hours along with total time expected each week, any outside of normal hours conditions, and location(s).
Pay and Earnings: Include how much will they earn, how and when they will get paid, formalities on how to communicate if/when the nanny will be late or absent, and any penalties associated in these instances. Finally, include whether your nanny is responsible for filing her own taxes.
[Related: 5 tax breaks every parent should know about]
Time Off: Define sick and vacation time and how much of each is included, how and when to notify for PTO, and list any other holidays or additional days that are considered PTO or non-PTO.
Termination or Exit: One of the most powerful pieces in any contract is articulating how it would look like to end the relationship. Put some time into this part and list out how each party may terminate the agreement and those conditions.
Signatures: When everyone reads and agrees to this agreement, memorialize this with your stamp of approval, aka your signature.
(Pro tip: Google “nanny contract” and get free or cheap templates to guide you along.)
Ultimately and hopefully, you can use your agreement as a document to help facilitate healthy communication and avoid unhealthy conflict. When I’m advising my clients on their businesses, I always remind them that we need to plan to plan. And if our goal is to build a happy and healthy relationship between us, our children and their nanny, we need to plan this out. Do yourself a favor and take this time to create a contract and thoughtfully share this with your nanny. Talk about it. Have them ask questions and give them the option to add or edit. Not only that, but this agreement can be leveraged to help serve as a mission statement for your family that you will come back to over time, and serve as a reminder for how you envision your family to thrive.