August is a busy time as many parents work to secure an after-school care plan for the coming year. The scarcity of after-school care options is a major issue that deserves discussion on multiple fronts. In this article, we focus on the decision to hire a part-time after-school nanny.
For parents sourcing a nanny on their own without the assistance of an agency, finding a part-time afternoon nanny is often where frustration levels really soar. Many parents often feel that applicants for these part-time roles seem to be among the most inconsistent and unreliable, turning the search into an ordeal. If you’re considering an after-school nanny or part-time nanny for your family, here are 10 valuable tips to help you:
1. Start by setting your budget for a part-time nanny, and this will determine the experience level of nanny you hire. After-school positions less than 10 hours per week are often ideal for high school students, and these caregivers are at the start of their working life where they may earn a more entry-level wage. In the Boulder, CO, area, high school babysitting typically costs $17.00 to $20.00 per hour. For comparison, in 2021 the McDonald’s in Boulder was starting entry-level workers at $18.50 per hour. College students in our area will typically charge between $22.00 and $25.00 per hour.
It’s often necessary for highly experienced nannies to charge higher rates for very part-time work, such as 15 hours per week or less. Their rates range between $28.00 and $35.00 per hour for very part-time commitments. This helps them to ensure that the commitment makes financial sense. Meanwhile, parents tend to think of that after-school time block from 3:00 to 6:00 pm as “a few quick hours” and assume that paying on the lower end makes sense. From the parent’s perspective, this after-school job is pretty easy and the nanny has other hours of the day to earn more, elsewhere. They don’t realize that an experienced nanny’s time has a baseline value, regardless of the job’s level of difficulty or the hours required. As well, driving someone else’s child is a heavy responsibility and driving is inherently dangerous.
Bear in mind that high school and younger college students will most likely have a few years of experience as neighborhood babysitters, and may have no experience with driving children. Hiring such a nanny will necessitate more guidance and training from you, but can be a rewarding experience.
2. Connect with parents at your child’s school to combine a desirable position for a nanny. You will really struggle to find a nanny if you are offering 10 hours or less per week. You can improve your chances by teaming up with another parent. This enables you to offer higher wages for the limited hours you both need, or to offer the nanny more hours in the week if, for example, you need two days per week and another parent needs two different days per week.
3. Plan to use a payroll provider, and speak with an accountant about the correct way to pay a nanny. Many parents come to my agency with misconceptions about pay, often because they know other parents who pay their after-school nanny by Venmo or cash on Fridays. Naturally, they approach my agency with the hope that we can facilitate a similar setup, perhaps connecting them with a CU Boulder student for the same type of arrangement. As a staffing agency registered with the state, we provide parents and nannies with factual information. Parents are often surprised to learn that, in most cases, hiring an after-school nanny classifies them as an employer according to both state and federal regulations. This entails employer taxes, providing legal payroll, and offering some employee benefits as mandated by our state.
A parent may think that using payroll for an after-school nanny sounds heavy-handed. Consider, however, that this nanny, working 15 hours per week at a rate of $25.00 per hour, will earn nearly $15,000.00 over the course of the school year. Use of a payroll and a W-2 also communicates that this a legitimate job, and you will attract more reliable candidates.
Although payroll may sound daunting or expensive, there are very economically priced payroll companies which specialize in nanny payroll, and can provide you with a low-stress experience. These include Poppins Payroll, GTM, or Homework Solutions, to name just a few.
Nannies often don’t know that receiving weekly untaxed pay through Venmo or in cash can result in doubling their taxes due during tax season. This is because their employers, the parents, are not paying their portion of the required employer taxes. Nannies can take parents to court to recover these funds. If you’re thinking, “My nanny would never do that,” please reconsider. It’s more common than you think, especially if your nanny does the math and realizes how much they are losing at tax season. Parents who think that taxes and payroll seem like a hassle should contemplate the alternative: facing court proceedings or an IRS audit.
4. Call your state’s Department of Labor before you start your nanny search. While informal payment arrangements may work for some, it’s important for parents to understand that having an after-school childcare provider does make them an employer. Gather information about your rights & responsibilities as an employer. I recommend that parents take this step seriously. Legal responsibility remains with you, as the employer, even if you or your nanny were unaware of specific regulations. Your legal obligations as the employer are not waived even if your nanny explicitly requested exceptions, such as asking to be paid “under the table.”
Nannies who join my agency are often surprised to learn of that they are eligible for state-mandated employee benefits, such as accrued sick leave and family leave, among others. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I encountered many nannies who were completely unaware of their eligibility for two weeks of state-mandated paid leave for pandemic-related absences from their nanny job.
5. Start with a job posting that includes all of the necessary details, and is written with professionalism. You’d be shocked by the high volume of grossly unprofessional job postings that nannies encounter, with rude details such as, “lazy people need not apply,” and “must have common sense.” Many posts include discriminatory requirements such as, “looking for someone in their 20s,” “no one over the age of 35,” and, “no overweight applicants.” I have seen a lot of inhumane expectations, such as, “We absolutely will not accept a nanny who is pregnant, or wants to bring their child,” and, “We need a nanny who will not call out sick, ever.” Thoughtless statements like these are common in the nanny industry. Can you imagine applying to jobs in your career field and seeing statements like these? The company would be reported. Their HR director would be fired.
You can attract better candidates with a job posting that clearly states the job duties, schedule, pay range, and benefits. Most good nannies scroll past job listings that don’t list any pay range. They reasonably assume that the pay is likely to be low. Would you spend much time applying for a job that didn’t list any pay range at all? Would you be interested in a job that vaguely stated, “benefits available for the right person?” Probably not.
As you consider the desirable qualifications you’ll look for in a nanny, also consider what you bring to the table as an employer. Be sure to include this in your job posting. Examples include a supportive and respectful work environment, benefits, guaranteed hours, meals or snacks available during the nanny’s shift, a cell phone stipend towards use of their phone for work, use of a family fitness membership, and so on. By taking this balanced approach you will attract responsible applicants who value a positive, respectful working relationship.
Finally, avoid writing phrases like, “We’re looking for someone who will love our kids as much as we do,” “We’re looking for someone to become like family,” or, “Looking for a unicorn nanny!”
…Why? These phrases are red flags. They attract unstable applicants who lack boundaries, and they repel candidates who have good professional boundaries and a healthy sense of self-respect. There’s no question that your nanny will have love for your kids, but becoming like family happens organically over time. You can’t screen for that in a job interview. Looking for that magical connection distracts you from asking pertinent questions and actually hiring the best person for the job.
6. Use the correct industry terminology to recruit the type of worker you need. Terminology is understandably confusing for parents because of course, only people who work in the childcare industry will be fully versed in the correct terminology. A person who comes to your home every week on a set schedule is a nanny. They are not a babysitter, an after-school sitter, or a “consistent sitter.” The term nanny indicates a recurring position with a set schedule, and higher expectations regarding reliability and experience. The terms babysitter and sitter denote more occasional or casual work. The most common misnomer I see is “consistent sitter” being used to describe an after-school nanny who comes every week.
7. Guarantee hours. Guaranteeing hours means that your nanny has the financial stability of receiving the same paycheck even if there are days of the week when you do not need their services. This covers events such as grandparents visiting or your family taking off early for a holiday weekend. If you take off early Friday morning for the weekend, pay your nanny for that day anyhow. Lack of guaranteed hours is one of the leading reasons why nannies have to resign from part-time positions. Another leading reason is when a parent attempts to fill those hours with tasks unrelated to the nanny’s scope. I have spoken with after-school nannies who, went grandparents visited and took the kids, were asked to wash windows, take the dog to the groomer, detail the car, paint a room, and weed flower beds, all chores completely unrelated to their field of work. This undermines the professional nature of their role and erodes the working relationship. Think about it: Would you ask a housekeeping service to go rake the backyard? Would you ask the lawn service to vacuum your living room? You wouldn’t, because these tasks are not within the scope of their profession. A nanny comes to your house to perform a specific scope of work.
8. Offer benefits commensurate with a part-time position. Offering sick leave and PTO benefits communicates that you are a dependable employer seeking a dependable employee, and that this is a legitimate and important job. An example of part-time employee benefits: For a nanny working Monday through Friday from 3:00 to 6:00 pm or 15 hours per week, provide them with 30 hours of paid time off (PTO) if they will be with your family for one year. This allocation is equivalent to two standard workweeks for your nanny. Prorate the amount accordingly, if they will work with your family for less than one calendar year. For after-school nannies, paid time off can often coordinate with your family’s time off around the winter holidays.
Your state’s Department of Labor can tell you about the benefits required for hourly workers in your state. In Colorado, the state where my agency operates, hourly employees are required to accumulate a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. To enhance your appeal as an employer, consider offering a predetermined number of sick days instead. It could take a long time for your part-time employee to accumulate even one day of sick leave, based on this one-hour-per-30-hours formula. Offering a day of sick leave upfront demonstrates your concern for the well-being of your valuable employee. Be sure that the amount of sick days you offer are at least equivalent to your state’s minimum requirements.
8. Address care and gas for the car used for children’s transport. Offer a family vehicle for the nanny to drive the children, if possible. If this is not possible, include some car cleaning in the nanny’s benefits. The majority of after-school care providers would be happy to use a family vehicle rather than incur wear and tear of transporting children in their own vehicle. A nanny using their own vehicle for transporting children will need have their vehicle thoroughly cleaned at least twice per year. In some cases, especially with active children who play outdoor sports, it may be best to have the vehicle cleaned quarterly. The wear and tear from young passengers inevitably leaves its mark over time through scattered bits of snacks, water spots from tumbling water bottles, grass and dirt from soccer cleats, paper remnants from peeled crayon wrappers, and even small footprints imprinted on the backs of the seats.
Provide gas mileage reimbursement if your nanny is using their own vehicle to transport your children or run family errands. Across the vast majority of industries, it is standard practice for employees to receive gas mileage reimbursement when they must use their personal vehicles for employer business. The nanny industry lags behind. A straight forward solution for parents, as employers, is to utilize the IRS gas reimbursement rate. As of 2023, the current rate stands at 65.5 cents per mile.
9. Provide safety products for the car used for children’s transport. Provide and install the carseats, if they’re needed. Provide backseat mirrors, if age-appropriate. Driving is a routine activity for most of us and because of that it’s easy to lose sight of how inherently dangerous driving actually is. Simply put, driving is probably the most dangerous task your nanny will perform.
I always recommend that parents personally install the car seat into the nanny’s car. At my agency, in fact, it is a requirement. This guarantees that the car seat is correctly installed according to the parents’ safety standards, leaving no room for doubt or uncertainty. In cases where the nanny will be responsible for taking a baby sibling along with them for older sibling school pickups, it’s worth buying a backseat mirror for the nanny’s car, too. This allows the nanny to keep an eye on your baby while driving, even for short distances.
If the school is within walking distance with access to safe sidewalks and crosswalks, opting for walking over driving whenever possible is often the safest choice.
10. Use a written contract. It surprises me how often parents enter into childcare arrangements based solely on verbal agreements, despite the fact that parents rely heavily on this childcare in order to keep their own jobs. If your nanny candidate is reluctant to use a written contract, it typically indicates one of two things: they are relatively new to nannying or young and unfamiliar with this industry standard, or they do not want to create written proof of their employment and earnings.
You can download a decent nanny contract online and, with several days of effort and research, compile a suitable contract. At the minimum, your contract should include the start and end date (or contract renewal date) for the position, rate of pay and designated payday, overtime pay rate, expected daily duties, names and ages of children who require care, expectations around care of sick children, employee benefits, car insurance requirements if driving is one of the nanny’s job duties, and the processes for correctly using PTO, calling out sick, and giving notice if leaving the position. If you choose to work with an experienced childcare staffing agency, the contract they provide should be very comprehensive, and tailored to your family’s needs.
An employment contract is a legally binding document. I strongly recommend that parents have an attorney review the document for accuracy and compliance.
The bustling back-to-school month of August spotlights the challenges of hiring an after-school nanny, and the role of parents as employers. I hope that this article provides practical insights from clear communication and legal duties, to safety considerations and the value of a well-written contract. By approaching the hiring of a part-time afternoon nanny with this knowledge, you can greatly increase your chances of securing a great childcare arrangement that mutually benefits everyone involved.