Image via Unsplash
Take a moment to imagine the following scenario: You work at a job that requires you to use your personal vehicle for business related drives. You have to drive all around town running various errands, picking people up/dropping them off, driving people to and from activities, etc. Unfortunately, your employer does not reimburse your mileage. That's right -- your job requires you to use your personal vehicle for work, but it's an expense you have to incur on your own -- you have to cover all the gas and the added wear and tear on your vehicle (i.e., more frequent oil changes, needing new tires, depreciation of your vehicle, etc.). When you deduct all of the money you're spending in gas/wear and tear for your job, your take home pay is significantly less.
Parents - I really want you to think about if you would EVER be okay with this. I cannot imagine a single parent saying they would allow an employer to do this to them. I mean, maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so. And honestly, if a parent does tell me they would be okay with it, I don't think they are being truthful because no rational person would ever think it's fair or acceptable to personally fund job related expenses. Because in case you weren't aware, that's exactly what a nanny is doing when parents refuse to reimburse mileage -- the nanny is personally funding the child's transportation needs. Parents -- we are not responsible in any way shape or form to personally fund the cost of raising your family. Forcing your nanny to do that is 100% taking advantage of them. There's no other way for it to be interpreted -- if you do not reimburse mileage, you are taking advantage of your nanny. And nannies, if you allow an employer to do this to you, you are ALLOWING yourself be taken advantage of. It takes two for something like this to happen.
I recently interviewed with a family who required me to drop off and pick up their child from school everyday. It was only about a mile down the road, so because of that, they did not reimburse mileage. What? I was firm with them at the interview and said that I would need to be reimbursed because even if it's just 2 miles everyday, it adds up ($283.40 per year, to be exact). They were appalled. They looked so annoyed and started talking to me like I was trying to take advantage of them. They said to me "It's not that big of a deal. No other nanny has made us reimburse any sort of mileage or asked for a gas stipend. It's literally a mile down the road". To that I replied, "You're right, it's not that big of a deal. It's very simple to track and calculate. In fact, I use a mileage tracker app and will export you the total at the end of the month, so it requires very minimal effort on your end -- I will document everything and you just have to reimburse. This is non negotiable for me". The parents continued to look annoyed and the interview went downhill from there. I wanted to scream "Why do you feel it's fair for me to be responsible for the costs associated with raising YOUR child?!" The moment they put up a fight about reimbursing my mileage, I knew that I did not want to work for them.
Here's a helpful tip nannies: If parents start fighting you and pinching pennies at the very beginning, especially for very standard things like mileage reimbursement -- it's generally a red flag. In my experience this usually means one of two things: 1. They are cheap and don't value you, seeing as they don't even feel you deserve to be reimbursed mileage or 2. They genuinely are financially at their limit and are struggling just to be able to afford a nanny's hourly rate, therefore they literally have no wiggle room to offer things like mileage reimbursement, sick days, etc. Both of these options are bad for a nanny because more often than not, money will continue to be an issue in the relationship. I refuse to work for people who don't value me and I also refuse to work for people who can't afford a nanny. Because affording a nanny is not just being able to pay a nanny a living wage, it's being able to reimburse mileage, provide benefits like every other full-time job does (vacation time, sick time, paid holidays, etc.), provide guaranteed hours, cover child-related activity expenses, etc.
When a family fights a nanny on mileage reimbursement (whether because they are cheap or because they actually can't afford it) it's usually an indication of other potential problems in the future. For example, nannies have reported that because the parent doesn't want to pay for mileage reimbursement, the nanny is not "required" to go anywhere with the kids, unless the nanny wants to pay for it themselves. Basically, the parents try to get around paying by saying they aren't requiring the nanny to go anywhere, that it's the nanny's choice to get out and about, and therefore a cost the nanny must incur. Other nannies report that when parents do begrudgingly agree to mileage reimbursement, they heavily micromanage where the nanny can go, because they don't want it to cost them too much money in reimbursement. These nannies are only allowed to go out a couple times per week to places very close to the home. Parents please know that more often than not, no good nanny will stay at a job like this, so unless you want high nanny turnover, this approach is not recommended. Nannies need to get out of the house -- in fact cabin fever is a top reason nannies quit, as notated in the article, Hermits: When Nannies Can't Take the Kids on Outings. Plus, forget about the nannies -- kids need to get out of the house too! Why even have a nanny if you aren't going to let them go anywhere? That's one of the main perks of having a nanny! Parents, mileage reimbursement and admission costs for outings are an expense you should budget for when hiring a nanny.
Another point I want to touch on is one I don't think many parents even consider. Please take a moment to think about the fact that when your nanny graciously agrees to use their personal vehicle for your family, they are also agreeing to pretty much permanently trek around your kids' car seats in the back of their car, even during their off hours. Because let's be real, uninstalling and reinstalling car seats on a weekly basis is an annoying, difficult hassle. Plus, unless a nanny is a CPST and a trained expert on how to install car seats properly and safely, it's best to just keep a properly installed car seat in it's place. Nannies generally only take out the car seats if they absolutely have to. Because of this, your nanny pretty much has a useless backseat even though they themselves don't have children. In addition, when a nanny does uninstall the car seats out of sheer necessity, it takes more time than you think -- and keep in mind, this is all done while the nanny is off the clock and not being paid. I'm not trying to get nit-picky about every minute a nanny works and I'm not implying a nanny should invoice a family for the 10-15 minutes it takes to uninstall/reinstall car seats on the weekend, but I just want parents to think about what is going on behind the scenes when your nanny agrees to use their personal car for your family. In my opinion, having car seats in my backseat at all times unless I want to take them out and put them back in, is a huge sacrifice.
Now, if I'm being honest, I'm surprised mileage reimbursement is something I have to address at length, but since so many nannies continue to report a problem with this even after I touched on it in Top 10 Reasons a Nanny Feels Taken Advantage of, I felt it needed its own article. So how exactly does nanny mileage reimbursement work? It's really simple -- if your nanny is using their own car for transporting your kids around or running errands for your family, you should be reimbursing their mileage at the current IRS rate of 54.5 cents/mile (as of 01/01/2018). In fact, in two states you are legally required to: California, Washington D.C.. While it’s not legally required in all other states (I genuinely have no idea why it isn't), it is the industry standard and the right thing to do. A flat gas stipend is NOT recommended because it's not just the gas that needs to be accounted for, it's the wear and tear on the vehicle. If you are absolutely against reimbursing mileage, there is another option: provide your nanny with a nanny car. Many families find that for just a little bit more per month, they can just pay a car payment for a nanny car, since reimbursing at the IRS rate adds up quickly. Having a nanny car is nice because the parents then have a designated "kid" car to use on weekends and can keep their personal vehicles free of kid messes. With a nanny car parents also can rest assured that their kids are being transported in a well maintained, fully insured, safe vehicle (i.e., do you know if your nanny's tires are in good condition and that they aren't putting off getting their tires replaced?).
Of course I should also mention that reimbursement doesn't just stop at miles driven -- parents need to be reimbursing for all costs associated with taking the kids out (i.e., admission costs, food if dining out, toll roads, parking meters, etc.). It's important to remember that mileage reimbursement is non-taxable, since it is not income. Because of this, it's imperative the mileage reimbursement is not just added to a a nanny's paycheck, because it could be confusing and look taxable. It's also important to note that a nanny's commute to and from work should not be reimbursed, since it is not considered a work related drive. In addition, many families also offer their nanny regular car washes/biannual car detailing because the standard IRS rates do not account for the additional messes children make in cars. Let's be real, we all know kids are messy -- they love to kick the back of the seats, push their sippy cup in just the right way so all the liquid starts leaking out, drop gummies that then get stuck to the seat, etc. If your nanny has to use their own personal car to transport your children around, offering car detailing a couple times per year is something your nanny will greatly appreciate.
Parents, I beg you, please do the right thing. Do not expect your nanny to cover the costs associated with raising you children. It's just wrong. And nannies, don't work for families who take advantage of you. Stand up for yourself and advocate for what you deserve. A good place to start is with a thorough contract that promotes healthy communication and educates on nanny laws/industry standards. Nanny Counsel offers a FREE Nanny Contract available for download -- it covers anything and everything, including mileage reimbursement.
*This article was updated 4/3/2018 to reflect the 2018 IRS reimbursement rates