How to hire a nanny

Hiring a nanny should be handled in the same way that you would search for and select any new employee. In this case the stakes are much higher, as you are leaving your most precious possessions in their care – your children. There are several reputable agencies using tried and tested procedures to take the guesswork and hard work out of hiring a nanny. If you decide not to use a professional agency, then there are a number of factors we recommend you seriously consider.

Advertising: Be careful where you advertise. It is better not to put your contact details on local bulletin boards. Do not give out too much information over the phone when people answer your advertisements (e.g. do not divulge the children’s name/s, or where they go to school). Try to meet on neutral grounds first, or have another adult with you. After all you are inviting a ‘stranger’ into your home.

The interview: When you interview a prospective nanny, be prepared with your questions – have them written down, since it is easy to forget what you wanted to ask.

Suggested questions:

  • What kind of childcare experience have they had? Ask them to explain the best and worst experiences.
  • How do they handle issues of discipline? Be specific. Ask what they would do if your baby cried for an hour or more. What if your toddler was defiant?
  • Would they watch TV while your child was playing or napping? Would they offer television as a regular activity?
  • How do they feel about the rules you have set for the children? If their philosophy differs from yours, can they comfortably follow your standards?
  • Find out what they would do in an emergency such as your child suddenly becoming ill or a fire in the building.
  • Do they have a valid driver’s licence? A car? Child restraints? Insurance?

Reference and background checks: It is strongly recommended that you do thorough reference and background checks. This includes the Working with Children Check, which is now mandatory in most states and territories in Australia. These checks differ by state and you can learn more here.

The decision and responsibility of hiring any carer rests with you. Be sure you have the facts regarding previous employment, criminal records, driving records, immigration, and visa status so that you can make the most informed decision possible.

Duties/parenting philosophy: List specifics of the nanny’s responsibilities. For example, the children’s routines, nap times, feeding times, reading times, gymbaroo classes, swimming classes, park visits, mothers’/nanny group.

Include your parenting philosophy, disciplinary measures, TV time, sleeping methods, nutrition – what the child is allowed to eat, hygiene – washing hands before and after nappy change, safety, no-go zones for the child/nanny in the house, and who can visit the child or pick up the child – grandparent, sister, ex- husband.

Contract of employment: We recommend that you take a business approach to the hiring of a nanny, at the core of which is establishing a contract of employment. Such an agreement should limit misunderstandings regarding employment conditions, making sure that all parties are aware of their obligations.

Areas covered in the employment contract can include:

  • Salary – Set down the agreed salary including, pay per week/month/hour; the pay period and when they will be paid; the method of payment, for example, cheque, cash or in to a nominated bank account; whether an overtime rate will apply.
  • Hours of work – Set out the expected hours of work and agree on public holiday entitlements.
  • Sickness and holiday entitlements – All full time employees are entitled to a minimum of 20 days annual leave or pro-rata for the hours/days worked. Part-time employees receive the same entitlement on a pro-rata basis. The standard sick leave entitlement is eight days sick leave in the first year, or pro-rata for the hours/days worked.
  • Income Tax – The contract of employment is one of an employer and employee, therefore, you should register with the ATO to allow for income tax deductions. For further information visit or call the ATO on 132 478.
  • Superannuation – If the nanny works for more than 30 hours a week they are entitled to superannuation. This is currently nine percent of the employee’s gross wage (Superannuation Guarantee ruling SGR 93/1), so take this into account.
  • Workers’ Compensation and Personal Liability Insurance – When you hire a nanny, your legal responsibilities expand significantly. If a worker is injured on your property, you may be liable. Make sure you take out enough insurance to cover potential personal injury claims. Public liability insurance is often a component of home insurance policies, but check your policy carefully. Be sure domestic workers under your employ are not excluded from the personal injury component of your cover. In addition to your public liability cover, double-check that domestic workers’ compensation is included in your existing household insurance policy. If you are not sure, contact your insurance company or WorkCover as rules differ by state.
  • Automobile Insurance – If the nanny has use of your car, make arrangements to include the nanny under your policy. Check to ensure that compulsory third party insurance also covers third party property damage, and if your nanny is under 25 years of age you should check what additional provisions need to be made to cover them under your policy.
  • Out of pocket expenses – Any additional expenses should be agreed to early on. It is a good idea to set aside an additional cash amount each week to cover outings, snacks, excursions, swimming classes etc.

How to keep your nanny

Look at longer-term benefits to make the job as attractive and enjoyable as possible.

Benefits you may wish to consider include:

  • Good living quarters (if applicable) adequately furnished – e.g. TV, CD, video, DVD, own phone, mobile phone.
  • Use of a car.
  • Occasional late starts and early finishes.
  • Cash bonuses.
  • Health cover.
  • Night out, movie tickets, pampering package, weekend away.

All of the research about early care and education leads to one overriding conclusion – quality matters. So, when you put a great deal of effort into obtaining a quality carer, remember caring for them will make that investment pay off for the long term.

Above all, go with your instincts. The most experienced nanny with ‘glowing’ references can turn out to be a dud, while the younger person who gets down on the floor with your two year old and makes mud pies can turn out to be a real gem. Just remember, if you were hiring someone to work in your company, you would undertake a rigorous recruitment, interview and screening process. Why would you do any less when it comes to your own children?

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