When Families Go on Vacation Without Their Nanny

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Photo via Unsplash

All too often parents expect their nanny to make their family a priority, while not offering the same in return. Parents, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you expect your nanny to prioritize your family, you better plan to prioritize your nanny. If you expect your nanny to offer consistent availability, you better plan to offer your nanny consistent pay.

We've already covered guaranteed hours and why they are so important, but I want to go more in depth because this is an issue SO many nannies encounter. How are parents to handle when they go out of town and choose not to take their nanny? Let's look at some real life examples nannies have experienced to help make this more tangible. Parents reading this, please review the following scenarios and think about which of these jobs you personally would be eager to sign up for...

Scenario 1 Parents: We booked a later flight than we originally told you. Now we need you to work Monday and half of Tuesday -- is that okay?

Nanny: No I'm sorry, I made other arrangements.

Parents: Shouldn't we be a priority?

Nanny: I can't afford to take a week off, much less two. I had to make arrangements to make up the hours for last week and next week because I have bills to pay and you said you can't pay me when you go on vacation and choose to not have me work. So I'm sorry, but I can't. 

Scenario 2 I had a family take a 5 week vacation and they decided a week before they left that they didn't want to pay me. I said, "Then I cannot guarantee that I will be available to be your nanny upon your return." When they got back, they called me to pick them up from the airport and I said, "Sorry, I'm at work. I told you that if you didn't pay me while you were away, that it was possible I wouldn't be available when you got back. Best of luck."

Scenario 3 It was my 3rd week working for a new nanny family and they told me I wouldn't be needed for a week while they had family in town. I was still paid for the week, but was told I could "make up" the hours as I went along (I didn't know at the time that banking hours is illegal for nannies!). The mom convinced me it was okay because her job lets her do it. I was chipping away at my banked hours for over a year until I finally spoke up and told them I couldn't do it anymore because I had learned banking hours was illegal. Soon after that they let me go.

Scenario 4 I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago and when I got back the mom asked me if I wanted to use my PTO now or when they took their vacation over the holidays. I said now, her not realizing I was now going to look for a new nanny job. A professional like her should understand that PTO is paid time off of the employee's choosing. If I have to save if for times when they go out of town and don't need me, then it's not really my PTO to use as I please. 

Scenario 5 At one of my first nanny jobs, the family decided to take a week long vacation about a month into me working for them. Not only did they expect me to go unpaid for the week, they also expected me to house sit for free. On the premise of "our former nanny always loved to do it, you'll get to stay in our nice house and it will feel like a mini vacation for you!" (Yeah right). I told them I could not house sit for free as I've always charged other families for that, but I didn't stick up for myself on the unpaid time off. They told me they did not want to pay me to house sit and would have a neighbor do it instead so they didn't have to pay. They told me I could make some extra money in date nights when they got back. At the time I knew it felt unfair, but I really needed the job and didn't want to make them upset because I was so new still. I really wish I would have known my rights and stuck up for myself more.

So parents, which of these jobs would you like to have? They all sound like such great opportunities, right? I mean, in scenario 4 you get paid time off! Oh but the catch is, you don't really get to choose when you use it. If you choose to use it for your own vacation (what PTO is intended for), then that means you won't get paid later on when your boss decides to go on vacation. Or how about scenario 1? You are expected to make your job a priority, but your bosses don't show you the same respect. And then there's scenario 5 where your boss decides they don't need you for the week so they refuse to pay you AND you get to leave the comfort of your own home to housesit for free...because that's totally a vacation, right?

Let me guess, no one reading these scenarios is thinking "Where can I sign up?!" Far too many nannies are expected to indefinitely block off time each week for their nanny job, even though some weeks they might not be needed and won't get paid. Parents, if you wouldn't take the job you're offering, why do you think a nanny would? Let's take it a step further -- parents, would you encourage your own children to take a job like this? One where they do not have consistent income even though they are offering consistent availability?

Sadly, many nannies do take these jobs because they are in a bind and need to find work quickly. Or many nannies don't know what they should be entitled to. Or oftentimes nannies are afraid to rock the boat by speaking up. I mean, just look at scenario 3 where the nanny did speak up and was let go soon after. While nannies certainly need to be more vocal about demanding what's fair and right -- that is not an excuse for parents to take advantage of them. I also want to point out that had the parents in scenario 1 offered guaranteed hours to their nanny and agreed to pay her when they went on vacation, then their nanny would have been available for their last minute schedule change. Remember, guaranteed hours is paying to reserve your nanny's time -- guaranteed hours ensures your nanny will be available for their regularly scheduled hours with your family.

I really want to encourage parents to take pride in being an employer. Think about what you expect and need out of a job, and offer that to your nanny. I'm sure reliable income is one of those things you expect and need out of a job -- ya know, so you can budget and pay your bills. As I've said many times, employing a nanny means you are agreeing to provide someone with a living wage -- one that is consistent and reliable. If you literally cannot afford to pay your nanny when you don't need them to work, I'm going to have to boldly say that you cannot afford a nanny and should look for an alternative, less expensive childcare option.

And to all the nannies out there...

"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option" - Maya Angelou