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Does it Matter What Type of Bonus I Give My Nanny or Other Household Employee?

Posted by HomeWork Solutions on 2/8/24 3:47 PM
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Does it Matter What Type of Bonus I Give My Nanny or Other Household Employee?

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In the world of employment and compensation, bonuses are like icing on the cake. They are the reward that make hard work and dedication feel appreciated and recognized. For hourly employees like nannies, caregivers, and , bonuses can take two primary forms: discretionary and non-discretionary. But what are the key differences between these two, and how do they impact overtime pay? 

Discretionary Bonuses:

Most bonuses are granted at the discretion of the employer. They are not tied to specific criteria, such as performance goals, or attendance records. Instead, they are given out as a gesture of goodwill or as general recognition for a job well done.

Discretionary bonuses can take many forms. They might be holiday bonuses, on-the-spot bonuses for exceptional performance, or even special recognition awards. Because they are not mandated or guaranteed, they can vary in amount and frequency. These bonuses create a positive work environment by acknowledging and rewarding outstanding efforts.

The key characteristic of discretionary bonuses is they don't have to be factored into an employee's regular rate of pay for overtime calculations. This means if an employee earns a discretionary bonus, it won't affect the overtime pay received.

Non-Discretionary Bonuses:

Non-Discretionary bonuses are guaranteed or earned based on a pre-determined formula.   Since non-discretionary bonuses are directly tied to an employee's performance, they impact overtime pay calculations.

When it comes to overtime pay, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the United States requires non-discretionary bonuses be considered part of an employee's regular rate of pay. This means these bonuses are included in the overall compensation used to determine the overtime rate. As a result, employees who earn non-discretionary bonuses are entitled to higher overtime pay.

Put simply, if you're an hourly employee who earns a non-discretionary bonus, your regular rate of pay for overtime purposes would include your hourly wage plus the bonus you earned. This can significantly increase overtime earnings.


It's essential for both employers and employees to understand the distinction between discretionary and non-discretionary bonuses. Employers should clearly communicate the nature of bonuses to their employees, avoiding any confusion about their impact on overtime pay. 

While discretionary bonuses are gifts of appreciation that don't affect overtime pay, non-discretionary bonuses are tied to performance and boost an employee's earnings when calculating overtime. Understanding these differences can help both employers and employees navigate the complex landscape of compensation more effectively. 

If you have additional questions about hourly employee bonuses, just give us a call, 1-800-626-4829 or send us a contact request. One of our household payroll & tax specialist would be glad to speak with you.

Topics: senior care, nanny, agency, senior, CPA

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