It’s that time of year — time to talk about nannies and holiday bonuses! Do you need to give your nanny a holiday bonus? Should a nanny expect a holiday bonus? Lets discuss.
The first thing you need to know is that an annual holiday/end of the year bonus is customary in the nanny industry. Many parents, especially those that do not receive a bonus themselves, often don’t realize this. Others may know it is standard, but still opt not to give a bonus if they don’t get one at their job. That is all understandable and I don’t fault parents for viewing it this way, but with that said, I always suggest that parents follow the nanny industry standards, and a holiday bonus should always be considered standard. When consulting with parents regarding what to offer their nanny, I explain to parents that even if they don’t get a bonus at their job, their nanny’s job is not the same as their job, and in the nanny profession, a holiday bonus is customary. As we all know, different professions have different norms. When choosing to hire a nanny, parents should factor in an annual holiday bonus and budget accordingly.
With that said, I want to be clear that bonuses are exactly that: a bonus. A bonus should not be guaranteed or expected. While I stand firm that bonus is standard in the nanny industry, it should not be expected for a few reasons: 1. The nanny may not have earned it, 2. The family may not be able to afford it, just like 2 weeks PTO is standard in the nanny industry and some families are only able to afford 1 week, and 3. Some parents may not even know it's standard, just like many parents don't know about other industry standards such as guaranteed hours. Some parents do commit to a guaranteed bonus in their nanny contract, but that is something they choose to offer and should not be, in my personal and professional opinion, something a nanny tries to add or negotiate into a contract. Some nannies may disagree with my viewpoint and that’s fine, but I firmly believe unless parents willingly offer a guaranteed bonus (oftentimes as a part of the compensation package to sweeten the deal), a nanny contract should state that the family may offer the nanny a holiday bonus at their discretion. This is because bonuses are earned; they are based on merit, performance, and loyal commitment. No employee should automatically be guaranteed a bonus, and parents should not be contractually forced to give a bonus to a nanny who does not deserve one. If a nanny isn’t performing well at their job, giving them a bonus will send them the wrong message.
On the flip side, if parents are happy with their nanny’s performance, a nanny should receive a bonus as a thank you for a job well done. A major issue I see around the month of December is nannies chatting with other nannies, discussing who got a bonus and who didn’t. The reality is, while a bonus should not be expected, if your nanny knows they are doing a good job and all their nanny friends got bonuses but they didn’t, it can make a nanny feel undervalued and not respected as a professional.
Another common problem is when a nanny has been with a family for a few years and has always received a bonus, and then suddenly, one year the family doesn’t give them a bonus or their bonus is significantly less than previous years, and they do not know why. Is it because of the family is not happy with their job performance? Or is it merely a financial situation? Without any discussion about it, the nanny truly does not know the answer, which may lead to some resentment. If you are opting not to give your nanny a bonus, but have always given one in the past, the best approach is to openly talk with your nanny about it. Explain why you aren’t giving a bonus so your nanny at least understands what has changed. In fact, even if you’ve never given your nanny a bonus, if you don’t plan on giving one, talking to your nanny about it is still very much encouraged.
If you aren’t giving a bonus due to poor performance, you can tell your nanny that you don’t feel they’ve been doing their job very well and explain what you would like to see them work on. As a nanny, I would be absolutely mortified if a parent ever told me I wasn’t getting a bonus due to poor job performance. I would immediately self reflect and implement changes to ensure I was not only meeting, but exceeding my job expectations. Constructive criticism is never easy to swallow, but a good employee will take it with humility and grace, and make necessary changes. If you talk to your nanny about things they need to work on and they get defensive, resentful, and continue to perform poorly at their job, then it’s time to find a new nanny. I should mention, since there are always exceptions, that this only applies to parents who have realistic expectations of their nanny. If a parent is too harsh and expects too much, like the parents I previously worked for who expected me to never fumble when opening or closing the stroller, then obviously this does not apply and nannies should take that type of “constructive criticism” with a grain of salt.
If not giving a bonus is simply a matter of being tight on money, sincerely let your nanny know that this was a financial decision, not a personal one, and give your nanny a thoughtful card/small gift to show them how much you appreciate all that they do for your family. Nannies are typically very understanding and while they appreciate money, most nannies would prefer a family who genuinely appreciates them and lets them know this.
So you might be thinking, if holiday bonuses are standard in the nanny industry, how much is customary to give? The answer is very simple: one to two week’s pay is the standard amount in the nanny profession. Some parents do give more if they are very happy with their nanny and are financially able to do so, but the norm across the board is one to two week’s pay. It’s important to also remember that legally bonuses should be taxed, as they are considered income since the employee earned it by doing their job well, however, many parents opt to give “cash” bonuses.
I can’t end this article without a quick note to all the nannies out there: no matter how badly you want to, if you know your employer is not aware of holiday/end of the year bonuses for nannies and you want them to know, do not bring it up to them. It’s tacky. Use your new knowledge on bonuses, and present your next nanny family with a contract that includes the statement “An end of the year bonus may be offered at Family’s discretion.” This lets parents know that they should at least be thinking about a bonus, and may open up a conversation on the topic of an annual/holiday bonus. The Nanny Counsel contract not only includes this statement, but it also has a notes section to educate parents on why an end of the year bonus is customary in the nanny industry and how much is standard to give. This is a great tool to help clue parents in, without coming across as pushy or demanding.