10 Reasons You Need a Written Nanny/Employer Work Agreement

GUEST COLUMN Submitted by Nancy Parker
While having a written work agreement may seem like a simple formality between a nanny and employer, the reality is a written work agreement is essential for a successful employment arrangement. In fact, in some jurisdictions, a written work agreement may actually be required. There are many reasons why a written nanny/employer work agreement is essential. These include:

Reason 1. A written work agreement establishes a professional relationship between the nanny and the employer from the start of the relationship. When a written work agreement is executed, the employer, employee relationship is formally created.

Reason 2. A written work agreement spells out the logistics of employment. From the nanny’s role and responsibilities, to who is responsible for withholding payroll taxes, to the nanny’s salary and benefits package, a work agreement outlines each of the parties’ duties, responsibilities and expectations.

Reason 3. A written work agreement gives you something to refer back to when questions arise. How many times has a nanny gone home on a Friday night thinking she has the Monday holiday off, only to get a phone call Monday morning from her employer asking where she is? A written work agreement allows you to say “Let’s look at what we agreed to” when questions about holidays, paid time off, or other topics arise.

Reason 4. A written work agreement foresees possible situations and outlines how they will be handled. What happens if the family decides to move across the country a few months after they have hired their nanny? Who pays the insurance deductable if the nanny is in a car accident while on duty? A written work agreement addresses how things like early termination, insurance coverage and deductibles and relocation will he handled.

Reason 5. A written work agreement may remove you from at-will status. In at-will states, workers can be fired for any reason at anytime, provided the reason is not illegal. A written work agreement that includes a specific start and end date may override a nanny’s at-will status. However, if the written work agreement cites that a nanny may be fired for cause, no cause or for specific reasons, she can still be fired according to the terms in her agreement.

Reason 6. A written work agreement offers proof of employment terms. Perhaps a nanny is forced to quit her job because her employer changed her role or responsibilities drastically. Or maybe the nanny’s employer didn’t pay her portion of state payroll taxes, although the employer agreed to. What if a nanny claims her employer was supposed to be withholding her portion of state payroll taxes, but her employer never agreed to do so? Having written documentation of the employment terms can protect both the nanny and employer when sticky situations arise.

Reason 7. A written work agreement provides clarity to both the employer and employee on crucial issues. Unlike with a verbal agreement that may be subject to the memory of each party, with a written agreement, there is no question as to what both parties agreed to. A written work agreement should spell out things like house rules, daily responsibilities and duties, pay periods, tax responsibilities, pay and benefits packages, sick days, personal days, holidays off, the nanny’s start date, end date, weekly schedule and more.

Reason 8. A written work agreement is legally binding. A written work agreement, or contract, is enforceable in court. So if an employer doesn’t allow her nanny to take the agreed upon vacation time or if the nanny quits without giving the two weeks’ notice that was agreed upon, legal action can be taken.

Reason 9. A written work agreement serves as a starting point for negotiating. Each year, both the nanny and employer should review the written work agreement and evaluate if it needs to be changed or altered. Even if no changes are needed, a new written work agreement should be executed.

Reason 10. A written work agreement articulates household and employment policies. If a nanny wakes up with a stomach bug and can’t get into work, knowing how and when to notify her employer can help ease anxiety for the nanny and allow enough time for the employer to secure back-up care, should it be needed.

While there are many reasons to have a written nanny/employer agreement, there is really no good reason not to. Take the time to do things right and lay everything out on the table. That way there are no surprises and everyone knows what to expect. A healthy working relationship is vital.


MissMannah said...

#8: no it isn't. Maybe if it is notarized, but otherwise it is just a piece of paper.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

As a Nanny who has never really worked w/a written agreement, this article illustrated to me just how important it is to have one. Now I don't think I would want to accept a position w/out one.

Great article. Informative. Well-written.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

It is true #7 that a written agreement offers clarity for both parties since one cannot simply rely on memory. Having something tangible to back one up is very important.

Tessa said...

These are all very good reasons to have a work agreement. Do any of you have advice for when parents react negatively to my suggesting a contract? I have had some parents look uncomfortable, or say, "wow, that seems so formal," a dad once said half-laughing, "so you don't trust people much, do you?" I like to feel relaxed and somewhat informal with my nanny families, but I also would like something concrete to refer to if trouble arises. I don't think families are trying to get away with anything, they just see a work agreement as something you have in the corporate world, not in the nanny world.

MissMannah said...

Refer them back to this article, or just give them some of the reasons presented here. If they push back again, find another family.

Village said...

RE the DB who thinks the nanny has trust issues. I'd quote Ronald Reagan, 'Trust, but verify.'

Nay the Nanny said...

All of my nanny family relationships have been very informal and comfortable. I never had a written contract before but also never worked more than 35 hours. Now that I have a full time, 45-50 hour per week position I decided I really did prefer a contract...luckily for me, the family I work for now are lawyers! They had no issue and with the contract we still have a very laid back, casual and comfortable relationship. :) It can work! Just say that you want things in writing so its all spelled out for everyone. No surprises!

bostonnanny said...

Nay, the nanny,

I would be very worried about a contract that two lawyers wrote up. They could easily word something to benefit themselves in the long run. I would def get another neutral lawyer to double check everything.

bostonnanny said...

Number 5 and 8 are not true unless it is notarized.

Sara said...

A work agreement sounds great in theory, but honestly, every time I have had a contract in place, the job ends up being awful. It seems that the parents who want a work agreement are really uptight and hard to work for. All of my favorite jobs through the years have been without a contract. I wish I could find a balance there, relaxed chilled out parents who are ok with a work agreement.

MissMannah said...

Sara, I wonder if the parents are as uptight as you say or if that is just your perception of them. I also wonder if you are subconsciously rebelling against a strict work agreement so you go into the job disliking the parents.

So what I'm a rock star... said...

Miss Mannah...why don't you just stop trying to incite other posters???? Get a life. Really.

Nay The Nanny said...

Boston Nanny,

Thanks for the advice but honestly, we went through the contract line by line and it is totally fair for both parties. No legal mumbo jumbo and after working for them for a few months I am thrilled with the way they treat me. But I hear what you're saying. :)