Contract Negotiations...

Received Sunday, February 21, 2010 I am a huge fan of this blog. I know what kind of comments are coming (I'm a pushover, grow some balls, you should quit, etc) but I would also appreciate some feedback regarding the negotiations. I will try to give you as much background info as possible.

I am a live-in nanny for a five year old autistic boy and his 23 month old little brother. Mom owns own business and Dad "works" for business by fixing broken equipment and buying/ordering supplies. I am paid $400 weekly on the books, no benefits. I work anywhere from 50-55 hours per week with Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday off (supposedly). I had 2 years experience as a live-in for one other family before I took this job March 2009.

I feel that the parents are taking advantage of me, mostly in the areas of working hours and personal time. In my contract I agreed to include date nights and anytime that the parents had meetings or appointments as part of the weekly salary. Stupid, I know. I am now working minimum of 5 hours every Thursday and the parents decided Saturday morning if they are going out that night. When I first started the mom had filled out a calendar of what days and hours I would be needed to work extra, but that didn't last more than 3 months. I also agreed to pick up their son from school (40 minutes away) on the days that dad was too busy. Verbally discussed how dad loves to spend time with his son and that he would do everything he can to pick him up on a daily basis. Me picking him up would only be a last resort, backup plan. Since Christmas vacation, dad has picked up him 4 times. I am in the process of getting my master's degree and most nights and weekends I am at the house studying. I really do not have any time left after working and studying to go out. If the parents have something "come up" and they need a babysitter, I am asked if I'm going anywhere. Of course the answer is no because I had plans on studying, but yet I find myself watching the boys. The times that I have said no to them, they call grandma to babysit. Every time I have come back she is asleep on the couch and there is drawings on the wall, one of the boys is hurt, or (this happened the last time she came over) the autistic boy was giving his 2 year old brother a bath. Since then, I have sacrificed the schoolwork to watch them when their parents leave.

Before I started the job, I asked for a higher salary and health insurance. The parents were shocked that I had asked for more money and they said that health insurance was too expensive. Now a year later, I know that I have job security and I'm more confident that they really do need me and that they would have a hard time replacing me. (I heard the horror stories about previous nannies and the interview process to find me).

What way have worked for you (nannies) or you respected (employers) when it came to contract negotiations? How would you go about addressing these issues and still maintaining a good, working relationship with the parents?


CuriousDad said...

I think this needs to be addressed first as it is very much the root of your problem. If you are actually on the books, you are working for $7.27 (50 hours, 10 hours of it is suppose to be overtime) to $6.40 an hour (55 hours, 15 of which is supposed to be overtime). Why are you letting them pay you less then minimum wage? The ONLY thing I can think that MIGHT make you continue to work with them is if rent, food and utilities are so high that you cannot afford your own place or to live at the school dorms (if available) even with a roommate. Since you do not have to pay rent or utilities and possibly food.

Do you honestly think you cannot get a job working fewer hours, with a better schedule, less stress, for more money and benefits?
There are Babysitters making more then you an hour right now. The cashier at McDonalds makes more then you and has better benefits including a limited form of health insurance.

CuriousDad said...

If parents bring up that the grandmother watching them and that you can work fewer hours; remember, it is NOT your responsibility. This is cruel, but it will be far worse in the long term for you to be with a family that is NOT actually your family and fall in love with the children. For if that is your whole reason to stay, then HOW are you going to move forward with your own career in life once you get your Masters? For you will tear yourself up inside if/when you finally leave the family.

CuriousDad said...

Do bring to the table what your duties entail and how many hours you actually work vs. what they pay you.
Do research the going rate for nannies in your area. Look into other nanny jobs and see if you can get a few tentative offers with stated pay. These CAN be used as a soft lever to get more pay.
Do tell them you love watching the kids and want to continue.
In the end the parents may decide to ditch you, they may decide to give you a raise, or they may simply refuse by saying they cannot afford to give you what you need.
It is your responsibility to take care of yourself; it is their responsibility to take care of their kids.
And finally make sure everything is on the table upfront. No hidden agendas.
PS make sure you get a nice reference BEFORE the negotiations and good luck.

a mom said...

CD: good call on OP getting a reference first. OP, I would ask for that right away if I were you. Tell them you would like a letter of reference for your file, for school, anything but do not let on to them that you may be looking for another job. Say it's for a volunteer thing on Sundays or something.

Secondly: when you sit down to negotiate with them, tell them very firmly that you would like to stay if changes are made. If not, then you will have to leave. No wonder you are feeling overworked: you are!!!!

Autism is challenging. My child has autism so I know what your job is like: these parents sound like jerks who completely do not understand what a gem they have in you!

Good luck and please keep us posted!

maryjanepoppins said...

Hey, sorry that family feels that they can take advantage of you, but do not allow that! I am a live out, who works between 35-40 hours a week and I make 2,000 a month, with NO CLEANING TASKS. They have a maid who comes in and cleans, because I never wanted to sign up to clean a house that isn't mine. If they ask me to clean, i ask for more money. Nothing in life is free and I suggest they pony up or you go.

all i want said...

I would present them with the facts- if you are salaried, they might not even "realize" how many hours you are actually working. Decide what you will accept. What is the minimum change you will accept in order to stay. If it doesn't happen, leave. Maybe it's a raise or health insurance or both. You just have to know what you're fighting for, and be confidant that you deserve it.

Also, if they ask you if you are "going anywhere" the answer is ALWAYS "yes." You are going to the coffee shop to study. After Grandma gets there, you may or may not make it there, but oh well, you HAD plans. What happens when Grandma is on duty is NOT your problem.

Laura said...

I would treat it like any other job - as professionals, this will be something they are familiar with and will have a "frame of reference" for. It will also bring home to them that this is your JOB.

After getting your reference (that is such a great idea!), I'd sit down with them with a WRITTEN OUTLINE of your duties over the past year. Break it down into sections - regular hours worked, average "overtime" hours worked, additional duties you have assumed over the course of the year. Without being combative, make clear to them how much value you have in their lives.

Then discuss what you would need to see change in the position to be able to stay. Again, frame this positively. It would be great to refer to what they did well at the beginning of your relationship that you would like to go back to, "It allowed me to plan my schedule and really be there for your children when you kept an ongoing schedule and I was aware ahead of time what hours I would be needed during the week."

Before you go in, figure out what are your needs and what are your wants. Needs are probably salary that reflects your hours, advance notice of additional hours needed, confidence in their back-up childcare. Only you can figure out what is a deal-breaker for you and what you could do without, but have it clear in your head before you sit down. And, if they are unwilling or unable to meet your needs, walk. It's not rude or unprofessional.

cali mom said...

It's not rude or unprofessional to leave a job, but in this economy, it could result in no job, no place to live snd no unemployment benefits.

Curious Dad, a live in is allowed to make less than minimum wage because room and board are included, but OP, it's not fair for you to have to be always "on call" and work unlimited hours for one flat rate. I think it's only fair to you for them to stick to the original agreement as to your days off being your days off, and in the contract negotiations, you should specify that you will include "date night" babysitting for a specified number of hours per month, not just leave it open like a blank check.

Do they know about the near-disasters that have occured when Grandma is left in charge? I can't understand how they would leave the kids in her charge still under those cicumstances. A 5 year old giving a 2 year old a bath? An AUTISTIC 5 year old at that???????

CuriousDad said...

I grant a live in can make less than a live out due to the room, board etc... But that does not mean they are to make less then minimum wage. The feds have pretty much stated: Nannies are HOURLY employees. Granted there are a VERY few ways around it. But she falls under the cut and dried "nanny" position as far as I can see. So any calculation of here pay must be by hours worked, not the "salary" at the end of the week. And $400 a week for 50 hours is barely above minimum wage.
From the Federal Labor law website:
“The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek.”

CuriousDad said...

50 hours is 40 hours of regular pay and 10 hours at time and a half (Usually translated as hours for ease of calculation, so 15 hours in this case for the overtime portion). So $400 a week/55 hours is $7.2727 an hour pay. As soon as she works 10 minutes over those 50 hours she makes less then minimum wage $7.2398. And yes that mere $0.0002 of a cent less than the minimum wage counts as not paying her minimum wage in the laws eyes. A 51 hour week drops her hourly pay too $7.0796 and so on down to the stated 55 hour week @$6.40 an hour. If a judge saw what they were paying her weekly, and if she can prove what she is working is actually greater then a 40 hour week. And the employer’s books do not show the pay breakdown including overtime by an hourly rate that is at least at minimum wage. Then the judge will give her back pay at time and a half of a 40 hour week for her hourly pay. In this case 40 hours at $400 a week is $10 an hour. If she can prove she works 10 hours extra every week, the judge will give her 10 hours times $15.00 for every week she has worked for them. At 52 Weeks of the year times $150 dollars that can come to $7,800 a year. Plus interest owed if the judge REALLY dislikes them. Note this number maybe more or less depending on how much time she gets off for vacation and if she can show she works more than 50 hours at least half the time.

Yeah I know, I am talking to much again. But stuff like this really irks me to no end.

ericsmom said...

no no no. When asked if you have plans. Always say YES. Even if that is going to the movies alone. Or library, or Paneras, Starbucks. Do you have a laptop. Take it if you need to do school work.

Sorry the kids draw on the wall. And grandma is sleeping. Not your problem. NOt your kids. After you leave it will continue. You will not know or care. So don't care so much now

OP said...

Thanks for all the advice. I talked to the mom about getting a reference and she said that she is more than willing to do so and will work on it this week. I have done some research as to what nannies in my area make and I have come up with $600 a week and it jumps up to $800+ with having a special needs child. Then I'm supposed to add on extra for the light housekeeping/laundry/cooking that I do. Now that I have been here a year it's "customary" for them to pay 100% of the health insurance.

To me, that seems like I would be asking for a lot. Any employer would be offended if an employee came to them wanting a 50-100% raise plus extra (math wasn't my strong suit....not sure if that is right or not). On one hand, I found out that daycares in the area charge more per week then what I'm being paid and they have 4-10 other children. I'm really being screwed here, and I have no one to blame but myself. I have the experience, the degree and I am worth the 600-800 a week. On the other hand, I don't know how they are going to react. I don't want them to laugh in my face and then I'm out of a job and a place to live.

Cali mom- yes, they know about the bath incident. I was in the process of cleaning up and calming the boys down when the parents came home. Grandma was still asleep.

East Bay Nanny said...

OP, I can understand why you'd be hesitant to ask for a 100% raise all at once, even if it's what you should have been getting all along.

Perhaps you could propose they gradually bring your pay up to market rates. Start by raising your pay to daycare rates (show them your quotes), then over the next six months to a year raise your pay the rest of the way.

I also think it's an excellent idea to interview around a little and have some offers lined up. That way if they fire you you're not SOL. Best wishes, that sounds like a tough, tough situation.

Didi K. said...

I'd love to be kept up to date on this - I know how you feel I nannied for about 8 years for various families and it's very hard to approach them about getting more money, but I DEFINIELY think that you should! :)

Anonymous said...

To the OP,
I understand your dilemma. First, I want to commend you for sticking with this family, if it was me I might have been gone a long time ago. Children with autism need extra TLC and you have a dear heart!

Second, I agree with what the other posters have said. Bring it up to the parents. My guess is that since the mom owns her own business she works long hours and doesn't think about her employees also working long hours. You need to approach them with this. Even if you lose your job you may be helping their future nanny by bringing this to light.

Good luck!

i dunno... said...

I'm in the Los ANgeles area, and I don't know of any live-ins that make 600-800 a week. Your salary sounds reasonable, but the boundaries are blurred. You need to be off when you're off.