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Over the past 10 years, we here at Park Slope Parents have heard a range of reasons why families have had to fire their Nanny. We’ve received the extreme (and extremely rare) stories from parents who fired their Nanny over serious issues like child neglect, theft and alcohol abuse. But we also hear more from parents who want to terminate their caregiver without a “due cause,” citing issues like language barriers, lifestyle differences, schedule changes and even the very basic “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario as grounds for termination. And even when there are parents who have had to let their Nanny go with legitimate reasons (like poor job performance and failing to meet expectations) – no matter what the cause, it is a tough situation to deal with. As one Park Slope Parents member commented, “it is really gut wrenching to "fire" someone and threaten their livelihood.”
Firing a Nanny needs to be handled with caution. It can be an emotional and difficult situation for all involved. For parents, it can raise complex questions like how much severance to offer, what notice period to give and more. It can also bring up worries over retaliation and guilt.
- Breaking the Nanny Agreement
- Your needs and schedules change
- You are moving
- Jealousy. It’s a good thing your kids love your Nanny! Don’t feel threatened by the child/ caretaker relationship, instead embrace that your family is being so well taken care of.
- You have set unrealistic expectations
- You are micromanaging
- You haven’t allowed enough time for the Nanny to settle in! One parent shares with Park Slope Parents, “I stopped and took a deep breath and had to realize that she couldn't read my mind. So I made a point to explain how I liked everything done. It wound up working out great. Give her one more week and try to train her, then replace her if she doesn't catch on.”
If you have followed our Step by Step Guide to Hiring a Nanny, a trial period and a contract/ written agreement is already in place. We cannot stress enough how important it is to have these two things in place.
The first thing to do when contemplating letting your Nanny go is to refer to what is outlined in the Nanny contract and go over what is expected and promised from you AND the Nanny. Having this information on hand in the termination process will make firing your Nanny a lot easier. Use the contract to refer to reasons why you need to fire the Nanny.
In addition, your contract/ work agreement should also include policy for termination, non-negotiables (like smoking, behavior, etc), your commitment to severance, written warning, and a notice period.
If you do not have any of these in place, we strongly advise you to set up a written agreement with your next Nanny. Read HERE about the benefits of having a Nanny Contract.
According to New York State, if there is no contract to restrict firing, an employer has the right to discharge an employee at any time for any reason. New York State is an “employment-at-will” state, meaning employment can be terminated with little or no notice. You cannot however, fire an employee based on race, creed, national origin, age, handicap, gender, sexual orientation or marital status.
If your nanny leaves, there is no need to offer severance pay, but if you initiate the release, you should strongly consider giving her a couple weeks pay. According to the PSP Nanny Survey, Two weeks severance pay is standard.
You are not under legal obligation to give your nanny severance pay, and oftentimes how much severance pay you give your nanny may depend on the reason for her termination and her job performance. It is, however, generally more professional to do so in cases in which the nanny did not violate any expectations or do very unacceptable things while on the job (ie: if it was just a bad fit and wasn't working out).
Question: What should I tell my child about the nanny getting fired?
- If you’re firing the nanny because of lateness, inattentiveness, etc., your childness doesn’t need to know that.
- Keep it simple and straightforward. It’s okay if your child doesn’t know the whole truth beyond knowing that the nanny is not going to be with them anymore.
- Make sure they know that it’s not their fault the nanny is leaving (kids can sometimes take responsibility for things that aren’t their fault)
- Let your child be sad, but don’t assume that s/he will be.
- Allow the child to draw a picture or write a letter/card to the nanny if it’s appropriate. That can be cathartic. If you don't want to have contact with the nanny you don't have to send it.
- Don’t make up fibs or false scenarios; it could backfire.
- If you’re getting a new nanny then focus on how excited you are about the new nanny. “Betsey isn’t going to be with us anymore, but a new nanny is going to take over and pick you up from school, etc.”
- Don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles. Kids are pretty resilient. Don't assume they will be adversely affected by the nanny's absense..
Question: Should I pay my Nanny severance even though her termination is a “Just Cause?”
“As several of you pointed out, there was "just cause" which would negate the contract or eliminate the need to pay severance. Therefore I settled on 2 weeks of severance pay as a reasonable compromise.”
Question: “We have some major communication problems and big differences in the way we approach childcare. I suspect she'd be an extraordinary sitter for the right family, but she's not the right fit for us. Also, my work schedule is changing and we need a sitter with different availability. We've decided to terminate her employment, but don't know what's appropriate-- do we give her "notice" or give her severance? I suspect the latter, but it just feels so abrupt and cold. Then again, I don't want her to keep caring for our son if she's angry at us. I'd like to emphasize that this isn't as much about "her" as it is that our situation is changing.”
“I strongly recommend the severance option. I have had to terminate two nannies at different times for somewhat different reasons It is a hard situation and you just don't know their response. I'd be as generous as you can be with money to ease it and offer to do references and maybe to post for her if you are willing.”
“I would give severance pay and let her go. I too would not want her to care for my child after giving her notice. She could be a great nanny but you never know what her attitude might be after being fired.”
“I would suggest that you just tell her that circumstances have changed in your household and that you can no longer employ her, give her a date in mind, maybe next week and just let that be it. Don't go into details and let the next family be the judge if she is right for them.”
“This is a mixed bag, as I know of people who have terminated nannies and gave them notice. I have a friend who terminated because the nanny got into a fight with her mother, however still helped nanny find another job and extended lead time. So it really depends on how comfortable you feel with the notice period and her watching your child. If you don't want her around, then I would suggest telling her one day that your work situation has changed and unfortunately you really enjoyed having her, but will need to make this her last day, you are sorry this is shocking, but your work adjustment is hard for you to digest also. You can give her a week or two of severance - I did read that in the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, they should get severance of 1 week per year, although I am not sure if this really applies if you are paying her off the books. This would be as a courtesy to her for your peace of conscience.
You shouldn't feel guilty about letting her go. You are right - she's probably fabulous for another family, but maybe just not yours. The unfortunate thing is that these nannies want a long term job and so do we, but the child is the focus and sometime what we are looking for, what is best for the child, and what the nanny can offer in terms of her approach do not intersect.”
“I'm sure there are a variety of opinions on this, but I work in the labor movement and the Domestic Workers United movement is one that I greatly admire. I find them to be a good guide to "best practices" in my role as the employer of a nanny. Here's a link to their "For Employers" guidelines, at least half of which, I freely confess , I don't yet follow because I can't afford them. Hope this helps in some minute way: http://domesticemployers.org/employers .”
“First, I would say that you should be very careful about who you talk to about this situation. A lot of nannies are friends, and you may accidentally talk to someone who employs a friend of your nanny's...and the game of telephone could easily get out of hand. So just be careful what information you share with people. Simple advice but I got burned because I didn't do it. We had cause to fire our nanny, but I ultimately felt responsible for letting things get to the point they did.
I had suspicions of wrong doing, but I never addressed them head on. I let them fester until someone in the community reached out to me. Anyway, long story short, I felt partly responsible, so I gave her three weeks severance. Added to that was the one week pay I gave her at the time. So in all, she got four weeks.
I was very concerned about retaliation, so I was not up front about why I was letting her go. It ended up coming out eventually (we had many many exchanges after I let her go) and I realize it would have
been better to be honest, from the beginning. We waited until the Friday after my suspicions were confirmed to let her go. Meaning, she watched our child two days after that. I worked at home those days. It felt like a good compromise.”
“Your child is the most important thing here, give the nanny two weeks of severance and just tell her that relationship is just not working out. You don't need to say more!”
“Last year, we fired our nanny because we had strong suspicions that she was drinking on the job. As soon as we realized what was going on, we ended it. We gave her two weeks severance and told we no longer required her services. Even though we were firing her for cause, we decided to pay her the two weeks, as stipulated in her contract. We did not want to get into a back and forth because we did not have definite proof and we could not see the value in arguing over it. There were indications that she was planning to blame her suspicious behavior on a medical condition. The bottom line was, we no longer trusted her with our kids.
It was a stressful final meeting but we were careful not go into detail and to simply say, "this is no longer working for us." I still fume over the situation but it was cleaner to pay her two weeks and leave it at that then have a long, drawn out fight with her.”
Question: I am a new parent and have employed my nanny now for 3 months. I am having doubts about her and am not sure what to do. I don't think she is interacting with my daughter enough. I basically feel like she is lazy and not right for our family and i am thinking of gently letting her go. I am just not good at confrontation and believe she is the type of person if i said all of this too her it wouldn't go down well. I guess I am a bit scared of bringing this up as I don't think anything would change. I am really in need of some advice. Has anyone been through a similar situation?
“I'd go with your gut instincts on this one. It sounds like you should probably cut your losses and find someone new. It seems that she is not listening to you and I've found that if you're not happy with a caregiver it is better to find a new one sooner rather than later, especially with a baby who is so little... This nanny stuff is so hard.”
"I think you have to let your nanny go with some severance. My advice to you, having had nannies, is to put the child in daycare. There is always structured playtime, and I believe it can be less expensive than the nanny, depending on what you're paying her. You can never be sure what one individual is doing all day with you child while you're out - you can install cameras but who really wants to bother with that? I had a great experience with daycare, my son went since he was 10 months (i would have put him sooner but I had no work at the time), and it's also more dependable since you don't have to worry about a nanny not showing up or calling in sick, etc. I know this doesn't necessarily answer your question, just letting you know there are options out there. If you do choose to keep a nanny, I would definitely let this one go - you don't have to explain everything to her, it's none of her business really, and find someone who will take care of your baby the way you want them to. After all, you are paying them your hard earned money. If you were slacking off at your job, I'm sure the bosses would take action. Same situation except more important because it's your baby.”
“Not honoring your reasonable requests is another red flag. Since it hasn't been very long, I think letting her go now w/ severance is the right thing to do, it will get harder the longer you wait (I speak from experience).”
“I disagree that you need to give severance. You are firing her for cause. In other employment contexts, someone fired for cause is not entitled to severance. You may choose to, but that would be generous of you to do so (combined with the fact that she's been working with you for a very short period of time).”
“I, too, had to fire a nanny (for lying to us and other things) and understand your worries about potential repercussions. After all, this woman knows where you live, has a copy of your keys! In the end, we "ate" two weeks of severance, I told her many nice things about her (all true), kept every single last complaint to myself, and we parted very amicably. We then found the most wonderful nanny in the world after her departure, and I feel lucky and blessed every day that she is with my family. There are real-life Mary Poppinses out there. Just keep looking!”
Make sure you have let your Nanny know how you feel ahead of time:
“I wanted to add a different point, advocating for the nanny. Just as I would expect my nanny to give me adequate feedback and let me know if something wasn't working out from her perspective, I feel like it is integral to extend the same courtesy to her. As an employer, perhaps you should talk to your nanny and let her know what you are uncomfortable with and see if she can improve (or wants to), if she doesn't then, feel free to terminate the relationship knowing that you did your best. But just firing a nanny and hiring someone else without any sort of heads up does not seem fair. I do empathize though and it sounds like a difficult situation. But as employers, there are certain steps that I think it is important to follow.”
Trust your gut:
“My husband and I used to own a small business. We would agonize over whether or not to fire people. Inevitably, as time went on, the employee did something that affirmed that they should be terminated. If you feel in your gut that something is not right, you shouldn't keep her. There's already a fundamental lack of trust and this is your baby, not a small business.”
And as another mom advises, “Don't let your good heartedness get in the way of protecting your children. Trust your gut, and let [your Nanny] go, sooner rather than later.”
“Pearls of wisdom from this experience: Never hire a nanny without testing her out first as a babysitter. Always put a probationary period into any contract, including a severance agreement. And most importantly, trust your gut although wait long enough to be sure (I guess) because nothing is more
important than protecting our kids (not even from overt danger, but also from subtle cruelty or neglect whether it come from different generational approaches, or other reasons). And finally, sometimes in life we have to do something radical early on rather than avoid an unpleasant confrontation. It sucks and it's hard, but as we know when it comes to our precious little beings, we need to be their advocates and protector.”
Disclaimer: This post has been written for educational purposes only by Park Slope Parents and is not meant to be legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice or be relied upon. The post may contain errors, inaccuracies and/or omissions. We recommend checking with a professional for specific advice.