Renegotiating Contracts: Snow Days, Sick Days and Vacations

opinion 2 I have an issue I'm not quite sure how to resolve. I have worked for my present family for almost a year (in early June.) I went through a reputable agency and we signed a contract. However, I'm not happy with how they have handled my sick/vacation leave and don't know what to do about it.

First, when I started last June, I was given 5 sick days and 10 days vacation (5 of which was supposed to be their choice - ie when they go on vacation - and 5 of my choice.) I had assumed those were valid for a year and would renew themselves again this June. Well I was told about a month ago that this was not the case and they are for the "calendar year" and I only had a pro-rated amount for last year. I don't get it, but ok.

Now, because I was unsure what days off I have left with this new system, I requested an update. Apparently, they are counting snow days as sick days (there were 2) which I think is completely unfair because there was no way I could get to work in those conditions and also the mother works for the government and both days there was a liberal leave policy where she was able to work from home, so it's not as if she couldn't work. They are also telling me that I only have 4 vacation days left for the entire year, so because of that, they are not going to pay me while they go on vacation (they have 3 upcoming trips scheduled - one of which I am going with them on and they are paying me my regular salary, no more, which is another issue.) Now I had explained to MB when I was interviewing (they are first time parents) that it is custom in the nanny industry that if they cancel for whatever reason (vacation, baby sick, etc) that I would still get paid and she agreed, however, that is not laid out in the contract.

I was planning on renegotiating my contract in June and asking for 2 weeks vacation of my choosing, because first of all, they are trying not to pay me now when they go on vacation and also because as mentioned above, I believe they should always pay me when they go on vacation, not just for 5 days a year (they travel a lot.) But now I'm unsure how that will even work since everything reset in January apparently.

So my questions are: do snow days count as sick days? And how should I approach them about paying me while they are on vacation and also renegotiating the contract? Thank you!


Alex said...

Hi, I am sorry you are having issues. I am actually a little confused reading your post. How many vacation days/sick days did you use last year (June-December) and did you have any left over at the end of the year? I do feel like they should have told you they were for the calendar year & not from June-June like you assumed (I probably would have too). Since nothing can be done about last year (although a little shaddy) I would just leave that alone.

For this year though, have you taken any sick days or vacation days? I am not sure how I feel about the snow days though. I can see your point but then I can also see the mom's because even though she could work from home she did have to work and that would probably be hard with a child to watch at the same time.

Now as for the vacation days left, have you already used 6 days? If they are saying you only have 4 left, did you go somewhere? If you used the 5 of your choosing, then it is okay for her to choose the other 4 that are left. You didn't mention whether your contract states you are paid for vacation days though and if you are paid for vacation days then they should be paying you for the days they are choosing to call vacation days.

Although, maybe you are meaning that they are not calling those vacation days and are also trying to not pay you and that is not right. You did not choose for them to go out of town and as this is your job and means of income they can not just not pay you. It does not matter that it reset in January but just because they choose to not use you because they are going on vacation, they still have to pay you. You have bills etc to pay.

Truth Seeker said...

I read and re-read your post and am confused on certain parts. But I will try my best to advise you on the parts that I think I understand. First, regarding snow days, I think they should not count as your "sick days" in general. While I live in CA and no such day exists in anyone's vocabulary around here, we have had wildfires in the past where everything (I mean everything!!) shut down and I couldn't work. My employers then usually just gave me the time off as a natural disaster kind of thingy, I wasn't docked any sick days but I wasn't paid for these days either which I considered fair. I had a question..are you full-time? If you are, then everything sounds fair to me except for the sick days being docked due to snow.
I do not agree that it is customary for a nanny to still get paid when the family takes time off and/or the child is ill. I work for a lovely family, however on occasion they may decide to take an extra day off (to make a 3-day weekend a 4-day, etc.) or sometimes unexpectedly the child's grandma comes to visit and she takes over. I do not get paid for this time and I wouldn't expect to. In most other jobs, when business is slow, people don't get paid for 40 hours a week even though that is what they indicated on their applications and employment interviews. They may be lucky and work overtime one week, then the next they may have only 35 hrs due to slow business. The only jobs I know of where people get paid the same regardless of hours actually worked is those that work on salary such as teachers. Most nannies work hourly and unless you are on salary, I don't think you should get paid if you don't work. I am a little old-fashioned though and I have a feeling I will be criticized for such a conservative view. I know you have bills to pay, etc..but unless you agreed to salary pay, they really are not obligated to pay you unless you actually work.

Check please said...

Always negotiate getting paid 52 weeks a year.

christine said...

As I read these posts regarding the nanny- parent relationship and dynamics, I am always floored that parents who entrust their most precious things, their children, to a caregiver seem to want to create an atmosphere that is adversarial. The nanny, babysitter, child care provider or whatever you choose to call her is taking care of the human beings you love the most! To make issues about a few days of paid vacation or a "snow" day seems a silly thing to do with a person so intimately involved with your lives. The nanny is in your home all day, taking your place as your child's main caregiver. Why not throw her a few perks and make her happy so she continues to work for you- happy and morale driven instead of unhappy and resentful? I just don't get it...

Further, if this parent/employer wants to make a point of a "calandar" year, she is way off base. Using the scenario of the calandar year being Jan-Dec, a new year started in January and you should have received a whole new round of vacation and sick time. You assumed the "year" was June-June. This parent needs to make up her mind because what she is essentially saying, if I have it right, is that you'll see no new time until next January? That's not right.

nanny2 said...

OP, add me to the list of those who are confused. If your vacation is for the calendar year, and is not accrued gradually over the pay periods, then this past January you should have been given your 10 days of vacation. Assuming you have not taken any, you should still have all 10 days. Even if they are accrued over the course of the calendar year, at this point you would have earned 2.5 days and will continue to accrue them.
You would have earned only 5 days last year (because you started in June)- did you get 5 vacation days paid in 2010?
As far as your snow days, I think you need to negotiate that with your employers. Generally in other jobs, if you don't come in due to weather, you have to use some of your time off (sick day or vaca day) unless your place of employment is actually closed.
I would ask to clarify these issues as soon as possible with your employers (don't wait until June imo), and advocate to be paid on salary.

nycmom said...

You should be paid for 52 weeks a year. Your setup: 10 days vacation, 5 sick days is standard. I think resetting in January is a bit sneaky, but may be a genuine misunderstanding if they are first-time employers. Every nanny I've had with regular weekly hours gets paid for those hours (whether a salaried full-time nanny or a guaranteed 20 hours/week hourly nanny), unless she requests time off above the agreed-upon amount. However, when I employ occasional part-time sitters without a set schedule who are paid hourly, I do not pay for 52 weeks/year.

The snow days are a tough one. I agree with above that I've never had a job that doesn't require some sort of exchange. Either I would have to use a sick/personal/vacation day or I would not get paid. However, I've never taken a sick day! If public transport isn't working, I walk even if it's 2-3 miles. But I live in a city where that is possible, and it would not be in many areas.

Christine, I understand your sentiment. It definitely doesn't make sense to view your nanny as an adversary - that is silly. However, I think it is equally silly to view her as someone you need to give perks in order to "keep her happy."

You wrote: "Why not throw her a few perks and make her happy so she continues to work for you- happy and morale driven instead of unhappy and resentful?"

The relationship should be professional and driven by a sense of fairness as an employer/employee. When I was first employing nannies, I felt I had to "give" on every request in order to make sure she was happy. I found this was not an effective long-term solution. Over time, the requests multiply and you, as an employer and parent end up feeling taken advantage of. Worse, the end result still ends up being less than stellar care for your children because you aren't setting clear job expectations. You've established that the "job" can always be changed at the employer's desire and that doesn't work in any employment situation. A parent can't live in fear that if they do not give in to their nanny and "make her happy" then she will become resentful and take it out on the children. Decisions need to be based on mutual respect and fair negotiations. Now, that doesn't mean being petty toward your nanny or randomly refusing reasonable requests out of principle. It does mean approaching contract negotiations as a professional and expecting your nanny to adhere to the contract - while also making absolutely sure you do so too!

Manhattan Nanny said...

Truth Seeker,
I have to disagree with you on the issue of families not paying when they take off. Most full time nannies in my area ARE on a weekly salary. It works both ways. A working mom has to be able to count on the nanny for the hours she works. The nanny has to be able to count on the income. If the nanny is paid hourly, the mom can't depend on her always being available. This may work for SAHMs but not for moms who must show up at their jobs come hell or high water.

OP, you seem to have a very poorly written contract. Reread it. Does it say it is for the calendar year? If not, then the year of the contract starts the day it goes into effect. If you want to stay with this family write down what you are going to ask for in the renewal talk. #1. Guaranteed salary 52 weeks a year. Spell out every detail re; snow days, sick days, choice of vacation etc. If they balk, I would be prepared to walk. They don't sound like nice people.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason I am confused is because the OP's employers are making it deliberately confusing, always to their advantage.

A nanny has a professional position, and should be paid 52 weeks a year. Period. It's not confusing, and the payers can't keep moving the posts.

I don't think a mere contract will keep some people honest. Just sayin'.

christine said...

NYC Mom... I have never employed a nanny so I guess I am not familiar with how things go. I am not saying anything more than a paid day for a bad snowstorm shouldn't become a bone of contention between a nanny and her bosses. I wouldn't make a big deal out of it and drive a wedge when it is obvious that it DID snow and nobody could get to work. Is it a requirement? No, but what's the big deal? I guess the "perk" I was referring to is letting the small stuff slide and keeping the nanny on your side.

On the other hand, my boss used to give me a monthly gift of a massage, which was way over the top and I never once used it. So, I am not talking as a person who needs perks to get by on the job. Just mutual respect and understanding can go a long way in any job setting.

oh well said...

You said that the mother could work from home on snow days. That means that she is expected to work and take care of her kids at the same time on those days if you are not around, which is at best difficult and at worst impossible. It does not seem fair under these conditions that you should get a paid day off. Offering some compensation - for instance extra hours or duties - would make sense to me, with the understanding that you are paid for that day and that you keep your sick and vacation days. Also, asking for a weekly salary is a no-brainer to me, because you still have bills when your employer is on vacation. If they take more time off than you, they obviously need to pay you even if you can't work for them.

Truth Seeker said...

@nycmom: I agree that a parent should not be always "accommodating" a nanny, but in this situation it would simply be the parent being nice and doing the right thing. I once had a family who called me over the weekend just to let me know they re-calculated the amount they had just paid me and figured out the overpaid me by six dollars and would be deducting it out of my next check! Needless to say, by Monday morning they were out of a nanny for their children. Tacky.

Anyway, if a family is more than happy with their nanny, then by all means, I would just pay her already. Like Christine stated, it is best this way.

@Manhattan Nanny: I said that if a nanny is working on salary, then yes she should get paid for days not worked. But not if she was paid hourly. I got the impression that OP was not on salary so I didn't think she should get paid for days not worked. However, the snow day being under the category of "natural disaster" may be an exception. I am not clear on what was initially agreed upon, but I do not think OP's sick days should have been affected. I also do not necessarily think she should have been paid either.

sick said...

they're nickle and diming you.

I am so sick of these self-entitled parents who want something for nothing.

OP: they are assholes. Leave.

Manhattan Nanny said...

Yes, the post is confusing. I just assumed she was on salary because she said she had a contract.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

According to the IRS, Nannies and any other household staff are hourly employees.

However, most savvy nannies (and savvy parents who employ a nanny!) that are scheduled to work regular weekly hours declare themselves (or are declared to be) "Salaried", which makes it obvious that paying the nanny 52 weeks per year is the correct thing to do.

In this sort of situation, a salary is declared in the contract, and then that salary is broken down into an hourly rate and an overtime rate if nanny is a live out and works more than 40 hours per week. Those figures are also put into the contract.

This detail protects the employers from being sued for "missing" OT pay if nanny and parents part on poor terms and nanny chooses to go after the parents in court.

Sorry for the diversion OP!

IMO, you need to ask for a sitdown meeting with your employers, and re-negotiate your contract so that all the areas in which you have had issues are discussed and fully covered. If you can't come to an agreement with them, you likely need to plan to move on once you find another job.

Good luck!

nycmom said...

Truth Seeker, having just re-read your first post, I think I finally understand a lot more about your "theory" that nannies shouldn't do any other tasks but care for the kids and keep them entertained: You aren't actually a very savvy nanny and you aren't getting paid as a professional nanny! Of course if "normal" in your nanny/employer relationship is that you don't get paid if the parents go away, then of course you don't think you should be doing anything above the minimum. However, the reality is that your setup is very unusual and very disadvantageous to you. Thus, I'm sure the parents are happy to make concessions on their expectations of you - they do not view you as a professional they need to pay 52 weeks a year. I also don't expect my caregivers who I don't pay 52 weeks/year to do anything but entertain my kids and keep them safe. Mystery solved!

Next, you seem to be arguing for its own sake. You yourself said that you felt it was fair that you were not paid, nor docked any sick/vacation days, during a natural disaster. Yet, when I express the exact same opinion you respond that: "Anyway, if a family is more than happy with their nanny, then by all means, I would just pay her already. Like Christine stated, it is best this way." Then shouldn't your family have paid you during those wildfires? Shouldn't they pay you when they take those long weekend vacations or when grandma visits? Come on, you can't have it both ways!

Truth Seeker said...

@nycmom: Believe it or not, my situation is not very unusual. I actually know other nannies who, like me, work hourly vs. salary. I can't believe you just said that a nanny who isn't being paid 52 weeks is not viewed as professional. That is jibberish. Many nannies do not make salary, some even work for agencies and the like and they are viewed as professional by their families. You just insulted a bunch of (us) nannies by saying we are not "professionals" just because we get paid on an hourly basis.

In regards to being paid for a natural disaster, the family is not obligated to pay the nanny if something happened such as a wildfire, tsunami or earthquake, since they probably did not work that day either and possibly lost some income. However, I agreed with Christine because I believe that if the family wants to maintain "goodwill" with their nanny, it would be the right thing to do in this situation.

Just because something doesn't necessarily NEED to be done, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

For the record, I am viewed as a professional nanny in spite of the fact that I do not do any housework aside from child-related tasks. I have a great family who loves me to death and will give me a great recommendation when their children graduate to preschool. They don't view me as less than professional since I get paid on an hourly basis. Your thinking is flawed and you must think you are living in 1950. Wake up.

christine said...

Let me say that I am a professional Financial Planning Assistant and I am paid hourly... being paid a salary would make the position no more professional. Suffice it to say I am well paid by the hour.

To pay a nanny for a day she simply could not come to work because of the weather does not lessen the professional employee/employer relationship. Nor does it somehow give the nanny the impression she is gaining the upper hand. It is just a nice thing to do. NYCMOM- I read your posts and I find you to be fairly reasonable as an employer. However, in this instance I find you to be too "bosslike". A nanny works too intimately with your family to be treated as just an employee. And, spreading "goodwill" is exactly what should happen in a circumstance like this. Why let the nanny fester on an issue like this and maybe ultimately feel under valued and eventually leave for a family who would not make such a big deal out of a snow day?

All of that being said, I have never employed a nanny so I am not well versed on that sort of dynamic... it just seems to make good business and family sense to keep the relationship on good terms even if it means paying a days wages or not docking sick days.

nycmom said...

TruthSeeker, as Tales has explained on here many times, all nannies are legally required to be paid hourly according to the law. However, families generally set it up so that it is a guaranteed salary, broken down into an hourly rate up to 40hrs, then an overtime rate above 40hrs. Are you paid on the books? If so, you should familiarize yourself with these laws because they directly affect you.

Regardless, you are missing the point. The issue at hand is not hourly vs salary. It is being paid 52 weeks a year. I would never consider paying my nanny for less than 52 weeks a year. This is the core reason I believe you get away with refusing normal nanny duties like light housework. I, too, would be willing to hire a babysitter who does nothing but childcare if I had the luxury of not paying her whenever I did not need her to work. I would end up saving more than enough money to add extra housekeeper hours.

Christine, I respect your sentiment. As I said in my initial post I do think snow days is a tough issue. Honestly, if my current nanny could not get here for a snow day I *would* just pay her anyway because she is amazing and I have 100% confidence she would have done everything possible. My prior wonderful nanny of almost 5 years had a major medical problem that meant she needed (i forget) 10-15 sick days instead of her normal 5. I paid her for those as normal too because we did have goodwill. I think what I was trying to express initially (albeit not very clearly) is that making these concessions should not be a given. It should not be done out of fear of poor job performance or mistreatment of your kids. It should be done out of mutual respect and earned trust. I do agree with you, though, that giving on issues like this IS the right thing to do many times.

christine said...

nycmom... I knew you were a great boss from reading your posts!

Beth said...

I was a little confused reading your post as well, but here's my point of view from my current job.

I would have thought the same as you (June-June) but I don't think there's anything you can do about that. They are saying you should have taken all 10 vacation days between June & December of last year?

I work full time for a family and have since last September. With this family, I have one week paid vacation/sick days. As of yet, I haven't been sick at all nor have I taken any vacation, but there was one day when it was very icy and I decided at 6 am it wasn't worth risking my life. I didn't get paid for that day, which was fine with me.

If my nanny family takes vacation (they will be gone for a week in August), I will get paid for that. In addition, there have been a few days here or there where they have gone away for a long weekend and I've had Friday off. I got paid for those as well. This is my full time job, and if I didn't get paid for those days, my salary would be all over the place and I likely would get behind on bills.

Truth Seeker said...

nycmom, there really is no connection in me doing household chores vs. pay. Even if I was paid salary 52 weeks a year would not make me want to do housework. You live in NYC, where I live out on the East Coast so the nanny dynamics may be different. Who knows? I have many friends who work as nannies and no one is guaranteed pay for 52 weeks at all. Families get laid off, get ill unexpectedly, have to leave town on family emergencies and the like. Not ALl families pay a weekly salary 52 weeks guaranteed. Even a grocery store checker or a Mickey D's cook cannot get a guaranteed promise of pay regardless whether they are needed or not. I do get paid on the books so I an entitled to over time pay as well as holiday pay. I also use my paychecks as proof that I work (yes, I do work, in spite of what you may think), in order to obtain a car loan and a cell phone. I get 1/2 my health insurance paid for, yet I am responsible for any co-pays and I do not have any vision or dental..that must come out of my own pocket should the need arise.

I consider myself professional as this is my main job which supports me fully. I also go to school, but do not qualify for some grants because I have to report my earnings (since it is over the table) on my FAFSA each Jan. My family refers to me as their nanny and I think I have it pretty good considering you think I am a slacker because I prefer not to fold Dad's boxers and scrub last night's pot roast off the pans.

pgh nanny said...

I am a nanny in Pgh, PA...every nanny that I know is paid 52 weeks a year.