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How To Let The Nanny Go

Posted by Vanessa Vidal, FPC on 2/20/14 3:51 PM

Nanny jobs are not forever, and the reasons for letting your child's caregiver do vary. Often, the children grow up and your beloved family nanny is no longer needed. Perhaps the nanny has horrible work habits - always late or a frequent 'no show.' Your family and the nanny simply may not 'click.' The nanny who was a wonderful nurturer of your infant does not have the energy to deal with your demanding toddler. Whatever the reason, figuring out how to terminate an employee gracefully can be an uncomfortable experience for both family and nanny.
How To Let Your Nanny Go

Below are some tips and best practices on how to let a nanny go.

Be compassionate: The golden rule is in full force here. So long as the nanny is not being fired for willful disregard for the work agreement (absenteeism, failure to follow household rules), consider that this news is going to come as a blow to the nanny. When firing a nanny, it is best to break the news at the end of a work day and away from the children.

Don't draw out the conversation:
Short and simple are the best way to deliver the news. Nanny may react emotionally - tears, harsh words, or stunned shock. Don't let yourself become engaged. Use "I" statements ("I am convinced we cannot make this work.") instead of "You" statements ("You caused this to happen because you never [fill in the blank].") If the parting is amicable, assure her of the actions you are willing to take - provide a reference, pay severance, post a Nanny Available notice at your workplace, or the like. If unpleasant, don't rehash the offenses.

How Much Notice to Give a Nanny:
 If you have a written work agreement, you will most likely have a notice provision already agreed to. Adhere to it. If you require a certain amount of weeks of notice from the nanny, be sure to return the courtesy, or provide pay in lieu of the notice.

Sometimes the nanny is being fired for gross negligence or willful disregard for the terms/conditions of employment. In these cases, you have to use your best judgment (try not to be overly emotional) and AT A MINIMUM provide pay at the time of dismissal for all work performed to date. NEVER fail to pay the nanny, no matter how horrible, for the work performed. You could open your family to a world of trouble with your state's Wage and Hour Board should the nanny (who probably doesn't like YOU too much at this time either) files a dispute for unpaid wages.

This is truly decided on an individual case basis. A family relocating out of the area for example may provide "notice" when the "For Sale" sign goes up in front of the house. They may consider offering severance - perhaps 2 weeks pay - if the nanny stays with the family until the move date. This type of severance is also known as a retention bonus. This helps insure the family against dealing with relocation and job issues and having the nanny leave prematurely because she, naturally, is most concerned with her own continuity of income.

Letter of Recommendation:
When you are separating on amicable terms, please consider writing a letter of recommendation, and making yourself reasonably available for telephoned reference checks.

When your nanny is in violation of your work agreement and it DOES NOT endanger the children, providing nanny a written warning that documents the behavior, restates the work agreement, and advises that future offenses may result in termination can protect you from unemployment claims that adversely impact your tax rate. Make sure you have two copies, nanny signs one and gives it back to you. This is common for tardiness, absenteeism, etc. Keep daily time records (you should anyway for myriad reasons) so you can demonstrate, if needed, the dates and nature of the problem. If the nanny's offense endangers your children - forget the paperwork and let her go immediately. Write down as many specifics that day as possible so you have a contemporaneous record to back up your protest of an unemployment compensation claim.

You nanny may be eligible for unemployment compensation from your state fund. This is true even if you were not properly reporting her wages to the state! Presuming you have your employment taxes in order, your responsibility is to respond to the state's inquiry about the terms of dismissal in a timely basis. Failure to respond on time will result in a ruling on the nanny's behalf. If the nanny is awarded benefits, the charges are applied to your account in much the same way an at-fault auto accident is applied to your auto insurance. The total amount of the benefits paid will be part of your tax rate calculation in future years - you have no out of pocket obligation.

But what if you were paying under the table? The state unemployment agency will look back at the last one - two years of the nanny's employment. If you did not report/pay your unemployment taxes, you will be subject to administrative action, including reporting to the IRS, and may be charged with the entirety of the nanny's unemployment benefits. Unemployment insurance (tax) for the full time nanny averages $300- 400 a year - when paid on time. A nanny's benefits may be $200 - 300 per week for up to 39 weeks. That could be $8000- 12000 directly charged to you for failure to pay the requisite employment taxes.

Security & Family Property:
Request that nanny at the time of separation return all house and car keys, as well as any remote devices. Consider changing the alarm or garage door codes if the separation is not amicable. Notify school and medical personnel that the nanny is no longer authorized for pickups, etc. If the nanny had a family credit card for groceries and the like, cancel that card too. Car seats, if provided for the nanny's car, should be returned then too.

What about the live in nanny?
Family options here vary. For even the most egregious offenses, the nanny needs to sleep some place tonight. Consider getting her a room at a nearby Motel-6 and driving her there with her possessions. If the nanny didn't meet your expectations, consider giving her a bus ticket or plane fare back to family. Make sure you have a forwarding address for the nanny so you can provide her W-2 form at year end. NOTE: Some states with Domestic Worker Bill of Rights Legislation require that you provide NOTICE for the live-in nanny to leave.

Telling the children:
You will need to explain to your child that the nanny is leaving separately. If the separation is amicable, you will want to allow the nanny and the child to say their good-byes and share their last moments. Be careful that it doesn't turn into a melodrama. Consider planning a future visit if possible - perhaps you can arrange for nanny to baby-sit one evening a few weeks down the road.

The nanny who was fired for unacceptable job performance should not be left alone with your child, and probably should not engage in good-byes. Take a deep breath and try to calm yourself before you talk to your child. Let your child know why the nanny was fired-if possible- and if the child is old enough to comprehend. Keep it positive to the extent possible. "Suzie was a lot of fun but she knows you need to be strapped in your car seat to keep you safe and she broke the rules. Daddy and I need to keep you safe and we cannot let Suzie stay with you anymore." is far better than "I just fired Suzie and she won't be watching you any more. I cannot believe she put you in the car without your car seat. That was a terrible thing to do! She is a horrible nanny!"

Your child may have become attached to the nanny who let her sit in the front seat of your car without a seatbelt. Be prepared for your child to be angry with you for a while too. Reinforce to your child (and the fired nanny) that your number one job as a parent is to keep your children safe. This will pass, and months from now the child may not even remember who that nanny was - honestly!

Nanny Performance  Evaluation

Topics: household employee, nanny severance, nanny, nanny employee, nanny separation

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