What do you do if your nanny isn't working out?

Problem:  What do you do if your nanny isn't working out?

Answer:  It isn't easy, but sometimes it's necessary to change your child care situation.

 

 

Recently we have seen an increase in posts (many anonymously) asking "What should I do about my nanny?" when the nanny has failed to fulfill her responsibilities or even has been downright dishonest. We would never suggest that the response to a first and minor infraction should be firing.  However, the "What do I do?" posts often sound like pleas for permission to change nannies, and we find that alarming.  Some of these posts outline nanny behavior so egregious that almost all the responses favor firing the nanny.  We can only feel that the original posters would advise the same course of action, were they reading the question from someone else.  Your first job as a parent is to do what is best for your child(ren), and it is okay - sometimes necessary - to let a nanny go. We want employers to feel confident in making a change when they know that the situation is not good for their family.

We believe strongly that employers should work with their nannies to ensure that both parties understand the requirements of the job and are satisfied with the arrangement.  It is essential that the parties not only agree up front on the terms of the nanny's employment, but also that both parties then follow through on their responsibilities:  the parents by providing the agreed pay, hours, vacation time, reviews, raises and benefits; and the nanny by providing high-quality care in the manner agreed upon.  Perhaps most important is that both parties communicate honestly when conflicts or scheduling challenges arise.

If you've spelled things out in a nanny work agreement and haven't given a review, you should.  If you don't have a work agreement, you should (see the PSP work agreement example here). You should expect things to change for the better when you give clear guidelines for what you expect of an employee. If those changes don't happen, you've done your best and it may be time to move on. Once you realize that the nanny situation is not working and cannot be fixed it is time to take decisive action.

We fail our children if we do not provide them with safe, reliable care.  We need the fortitude to have tough, uncomfortable conversations with caregivers when problems first arise; prompt communication and correction can make the relationship a successful one.  But sometimes a problem is too serious or a nanny too intransigent; in those cases employers must recognize that a particular hire is just not working out.

We acknowledge that hiring and supervising nannies and babysitters is a complex process.  Having someone in your home caring for your children is a strangely intimate relationship. In this situation boundaries can be difficult to establish and maintain, but are certainly important. For over 10 years Park Slope Parents has provided information on hiring nannies, drafting contracts, legal considerations, and nanny shares.  We have conducted and published surveys of neighborhood practices in this area.  The PSP Advisory Board is very committed to the principle that you need to do right by your nanny.  We want our members to be responsible employers, and we advocate fair pay, time off, written agreements, and performance reviews. But that doesn't mean we encourage retaining a nanny when it's not in your family's best interests. 

We also acknowledge that there is no question that the decision to fire a caregiver can be difficult and anxiety-producing.  You are afraid of the effect on your children, you are worried about finding another nanny, it is disruptive to your life and routine, and you may well feel sympathetic to the nanny and feel guilty about putting her out of work.  All of those feelings are normal and we are not at all dismissive of the conflict that comes with terminating a nanny's employment.  Indeed, it shouldn't be easy to fire someone.  That said, we know that the anxiety associated with firing a nanny subsides far sooner than anxiety that grows out of a concern that your children are not well- or properly-cared for. 

We at PSP are here to support you in having a great employee/employer relationship.  We're working on the next PSP Nanny Compensation Survey (look for that in the next few weeks) and reworking the plethora of information on the PSP website so it's easier to make the right choices in hiring a nanny as well as transitioning out of a nanny situation.

 

Further Reading:

 

How to Fire Your Nanny

All articles about ending the nanny relationship