Social Media and Nannies

social media and nanniesAs people of all ages know, social media can be a fun and rewarding way to share your life and opinions with family and friends around the world. Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, and other sites have become increasingly popular over the years, particularly with the younger generation. However, use of social media also presents certain risks and carries with it certain responsibilities.

Safety is of utmost concern to parents, and unfortunately there are people with bad intentions out there who know how to exploit information found on social media sites. Many families choose to simply not permit their nanny to post anything work-related on social media, putting something very basic in their Employee Handbook or the Work Agreement like:

“Please respect our family’s privacy, and do not take any pictures of the children, our home, or anything related to our family and post on ANY social media site.”

For household employers who permit their nannies to include the family in social media interaction, it’s still advisable to have rules in place. One way to help protect a family’s personal information is to create a social media policy for nannies to ensure private information stays private. Please see the general guidelines below as a sample policy that household employers can implement to make sure you and your nanny are on the same page when it comes to social media use.

Guidelines
In the rapidly expanding world of electronic communication, social media can mean many things. Social media includes all means of communicating or posting information or content of any sort on the internet, including to your own or someone else’s blog or online journal, personal web site, social networking site, web bulletin board or a chat room, as well as any other form of electronic communication.

Ultimately, you are solely responsible for what you post online. Before doing so, consider some of the risks and rewards that are involved. Keep in mind that any of your conduct that adversely affects your job performance or otherwise adversely affects family members or their friends, may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Be Aware of Privacy
Posting something seemingly harmless like “Not looking forward to another 7am-4pm shift with the 2-year-old again” tells anyone who can see it when the child’s parents aren’t home and the age of the child. Taking a photo of the kids and tagging your location, such as “Having fun at Central Park” lets people see what the kids look like, your location, and implies that there is no one at the family’s home. Keeping your privacy options activated will ensure only your direct followers will be able to see it. You should also not post the names of any family members. Nicknames or initials may be acceptable. Never post the address of the family’s home.

Be Respectful
Keep in mind that you are more likely to resolve work-related complaints by speaking directly with the family than by posting complaints to a social media outlet. Nevertheless, if you decide to post complaints or criticism, avoid using statements, photographs, video or audio that reasonably could be viewed as malicious, obscene, threatening or intimidating, that disparage family members, or that might constitute harassment or bullying. Remember that the internet archives almost everything; therefore, even deleted postings can be searched. Never post any information or rumors that you know to be false about the family or their friends.

All of the above issues should be discussed in detail between the family and the nanny, and then the rules agreed upon should be written down and have a signed approval. This will hopefully prevent any social media problems during the nanny’s tenure in your home.

For more information, please contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Hiring Senior Care

hiring senior careIn 2011, the first of America’s baby boomers—78 million people born between 1946 and 1964—reached their 65th birthday. These baby boomers began to turn age 65 at a rate of 8,000+ per day. According to the U.S. Administration on Aging (AOA), people reaching their 65th birthday today can expect an additional 18.6 years of life, creating a staggering number of seniors over the age of 80 by 2026. Already, senior care has become more and more critical in our lives, and the data available supports that it will continue to be so.

Many people today find themselves as part of the “sandwich generation” – not only are they caring for their own children, but for their elderly parents as well. This type of household is becoming increasingly common in the United States. With elderly parents living longer and families choosing to care for them in the home, as well as having a family of their own, families are tasked with managing the care of their dependents around their careers. With so many different pressures on them, this type of family can save a lot of time and hassle from understanding the correct way to look after their household workers from the start. With more and more available senior care options for the home environment, a sandwich-generation family can hire a senior caregiver to achieve a successful work/life balance that benefits everyone in their family.

Senior caregivers include medically trained professionals like physical therapists, registered nurses, and nutritionists, but can also include those who simply run errands, do the laundry, cook meals, and provide companionship. Regardless of what type of senior care you need, it is crucial that you use due diligence when it comes to hiring a caregiver for your loved one.

For more information about the senior care companions that we provide, please contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Deducting Job-Related Moving Expenses

deducting job-related moving expensesAs the weather and economy continue to warm up, employers around the country may be looking to hire more workers, including some already employed at high-paying jobs. If you go to work for a new firm, or your current employer transfers you to a different branch, you may qualify for deducting job-related moving expenses – if you pass two key tax law tests.

But if your move isn’t job-related — for example, you’re moving into a bigger house where you’ll raise your kids or downsizing to a smaller home now that your children are grown — no deduction is generally allowed.

Assuming the reason for your move isn’t personal, you must still meet the following tax law tests for distance and time:

Distance Test. Your new job location must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your old job location was from your old home. The IRS uses the shortest of the most commonly traveled routes to measure the distance between the two points.

Example. Ms. Smith works for ABC Co. She’s transferred from an office in Eastside to a comparable position in Westside. Before she moved, Smith lived 10 miles from her job in Eastside. But her new job location in Westside is 55 miles from her previous home. Smith’s new home is 25 miles from her new job in Westside.

Because Smith’s new job is only 45 miles farther from her old home than the old job was, she is not permitted to deduct moving expenses. In other words, the IRS doesn’t care how far away you live from your new job. This isn’t part of the distance test.

Time Test. If you are an employee, you must work full-time for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months after you arrive in the general area of the new job. But you don’t have to work for the same employer as long as the 39-week test is satisfied.

Example. Mr. Jones works for Company A. He gets a new job with Company B and subsequently moves 100 miles farther from his old home than his old job location was from his former home. Jones works for Company B for six months before quitting to join Company C, where he still meets the distance test. He stays at Company C for another six months.

During this time, Jones stays in the home he acquired when he started work at Company B. Because he meets both the distance and time tests, Jones qualifies for a moving expense deduction.

Self-employed individuals must work full-time for both:

  • At least 39 weeks during the first 12 months, and
  • A total of at least 78 weeks during the first 24 months after they arrive in the general area.

Important Note: There are certain other exceptions to the time test:

  • You are in the Armed Forces and moved because of a permanent change of station.
  • Your main job location was outside the United States, and you moved to the United States because you retired.
  • You’re the survivor of a person whose main job location at the time of death was outside the United States.
  • Your job at the new location ends because of death or disability.
  • You’re transferred for your employer’s benefit or laid off for a reason other than willful misconduct.

To claim the last exception, you must have obtained full-time employment and expected to meet the test when you started.

Rules for Deductible Expenses

If you pass the two tests for a job-related move, you can deduct the reasonable costs of moving your household goods and personal effects to your new home, as well as the travel expenses (including lodging but not meals) between the two locations. Normally, this will include charges by a moving company or a truck rental.

As stated above, the costs must be “reasonable.” Therefore, you can deduct the cost of traveling on a direct route from one location to the other. But costs attributable to any side trips for sightseeing are not deductible.

If you travel by car, you may deduct the actual expenses for the move, assuming you keep all the necessary records or opt for an IRS-approved flat rate. The flat rate for a job-related move in 2015 is 23 cents per mile (plus tolls and parking fees). This rate, which is indexed annually, was 23.5 cents per mile in 2014 when gas costs were higher.

Important Note: Certain “indirect costs” of moving — such as meals, house hunting trips, temporary living expenses, attorney fees and real estate commissions related to the move — are not deductible.

The deduction generally covers qualified expenses for moving yourself, your spouse (if married) and other members of your household, such as dependent children. A “member of your household” must reside in both the old and new homes.

Rules for Employer Reimbursements

Some employers have programs for reimbursing employees for moving expenses. If reimbursements are made under an “accountable plan” that meets IRS standards, the benefits are tax-free to the employee, assuming any excess reimbursement is returned to the company within a reasonable period of time.

For payments made under an unaccountable plan, the reimbursements are treated as taxable compensation to the employee. However, if you meet the tax law tests above, you can offset the income by deducting job-related moving expenses on your personal return, just like a taxpayer who isn’t reimbursed.

Good News about Moving Expense Deductions

If you qualify under the complex tax rules, moving expenses are deducted “above the line” on your Form 1040, thereby reducing adjusted gross income (AGI) for other purposes. What’s more, the deduction isn’t subject to the “Pease rule” that reduces most itemized deductions for upper-income taxpayers. If you plan to deduct moving expenses on your 2015 tax return, remember to keep detailed records in case the IRS decides to challenge your moving-related tax claims.

 

©2015 Thompson Reuters

Key Elements of the Nanny Work Agreement

nanny work agreementA work agreement benefits both the employer and nanny; it helps establish clear standards, rules, and procedures for the household and for the job.

Ideally, consulting with an employment attorney is a best practice in developing a work agreement. Employers may extrapolate ideas from template samples, and obtain input from friends or colleagues who have developed their own work agreements for their own household help.

The following list of key elements provide an overview of the common components that are included in most work agreements.

Key Elements of a Work Agreement

  • Recitals—Employer is an individual and a Household Employer, resident of ___________(state), and over the age of 18.
  • Employment—Employment under this agreement is to begin on ____________ and continue unless sooner terminated as provided herein.
  • Compensation—Subject to the following provisions of this agreement, the Employer agrees to pay the Employee a gross compensation hourly rate of $_______. (An explanation of gross vs net income is advisable).
  • Benefits—Employee is entitled to _____ days of paid vacation annually. The vacation must be scheduled thirty days in advance and agreed to by the employer. Vacation is based upon normal payment for a forty-hour workweek.
  • Terms and conditions of employment—Employee may not drink alcohol, use illegal drugs, or smoke while on duty for the employer.
  • Termination of agreement— Employer may terminate employment for violation of the work agreement that holds an employee may not drink alcohol, use illegal drugs, or smoke while on duty for the employer.
  • Modifications and interpretation—The job description may change by mutual consent. Therefore, the work agreement must be revised to reflect any changes.
  • Applicable laws—The provisions of this agreement shall be constructed in accordance with laws of the state of _________.
  • Signature and date lineEmployer and employee should sign and date the original and each revision of the work agreement.
  • Work schedule (optional)—Additional detail of a daily schedule broken down by day and by hour.

For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Resume Fraud and Household Employment

resume fraud and household employmentIn a tight job market and in the age of internet-based diploma mills, resume fraud is an increasing concern among employers, including those families that employ nannies or other household employees. On the other hand, with today’s internet-enabled easy and cost-effective access to information, families can easily verify resume facts with a few clicks of the mouse. The following examples show how seriously resume fraud is taken.

David J. Edmondson, Radio Shack CEO, resigned under pressure after it was learned that nearly a decade before, he had claimed on his resume that he held two degrees from a Bible college. The company learned that the school had no record of Edmondson graduating.

Notre Dame football coach George O’Leary was forced to resign just five days after stepping into the coach position after it was revealed that he lied about his academic and athletic achievements.

Food Network chef Robert Irvine was fired from the network in 2008 after it was discovered that many of the culinary accomplishments he claimed to have achieved were fabricated.

Such has been the growing concern of resume fraud within employers’ ranks that the Washington State legislature passed a bill in 2006 that would create civil and criminal penalties for lying on resumes or failing to disclose that a degree is from an unaccredited institution. The international employment screening firm, HireRight, conducted a 2014 survey which revealed that 88 percent of employer respondents reported discovering a person who lied on a resume.

Relevance for Household Employers

Checking resumes is particularly important when it comes to caregivers in the home. If a nanny says she has a certificate in early education and it is important to the family that she has, then you need to check it out. Similarly, if a senior caregiver for an aging parent claims to be a certified home health aide or a Licensed Practical Nurse without the required qualifications, this could be extremely dangerous in certain circumstances.  Therefore, lying employees who are directly involved with patient care are aggressively pursued in the legal arena and typically reported to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services to bar them from future employment in that type of work.

To learn more about how A New England Nanny takes steps to combat resume fraud and our other procedures for ensuring your family’s peace of mind, contact us today at (518) 348-0400.

Mother’s Day 2015

It’s less than 2 weeks away! Don’t wait until the last minute (like so many of us do)!

mothers-day-gift

The Importance of Workers’ Compensation Insurance

workers' compensation insurance for nanniesThe International Nanny Association’s 30th Annual Conference is currently underway in Cancun, Mexico, and one of the workshops being held tackles the importance of workers’ compensation insurance for household employers. This is an issue that more and more employers are finding they need to address, either because their state requires they provide it for their nanny, or because they are worried about the consequences of not having a workers’ comp policy in place should their nanny get injured on the job.

Note: In New York, all household employers are required to provide both workers’ compensation and disability insurance for any nanny or other employee that works at least 40 hours in any week (so even if your nanny usually only works 30 hours a week, if she were to work 40 hours in one week at any time, you would need to have a policy in place).

To help illustrate the importance of having workers’ compensation insurance – even if you only have a part-time nanny – please see the following example of how not having insurance can impact a household employer and their employee.

The Smith family decided they needed to hire a full-time nanny, Jenny, to provide child care for their one-year-old son. Both parties agreed that the nanny would be paid “off the books” to avoid paying any taxes. Two weeks into her employment, Jenny was working in the Smith’s home and bent over to pick up the baby boy. Upon lifting him up, Jenny felt intense pain in her back, and after the family returned home, Jenny informed them she needed to go to the hospital as her back was causing her great suffering.

At the emergency room, the intake desk worker asked Jenny where the injury had occurred, and she informed them it was while she was at work in the Smith’s home. At this point, her injury is now considered a workers’ compensation case and she will fill out the appropriate paperwork. The doctor informs Jenny that she will need to be on bed rest for the next two weeks, and will then require three weeks of physical therapy to heal her injury.

The Smiths now face a problem – their employee will be out of work for at least 2-3 weeks, with possibly limited availability during her physical therapy treatments. This means they will have to hire a temporary replacement for Jenny. Jenny expects that the Smiths will compensate her for the hours she will miss while recovering and will cover her medical bills as she doesn’t have health insurance. The Smiths do not want the added expense of paying for Jenny’s bills and her lost wages on top of paying a replacement nanny. But the Smiths also fear Jenny will sue them if they do not compensate her.

The Smith family is now at risk of:

1) being exposed as paying their employee illegally (“off the books”) if there is a lawsuit

2) being exposed as paying their employee illegally if Jenny has her own health insurance

3) being sued for medical bill payments and compensation for lost wages

4) facing even further penalties because they live in New York, where workers’ compensation insurance is required

For more information and to learn how our affiliate company, GTM Payroll Services, helps families obtain workers’ comp coverage for families, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

National Nanny Training Day 2015

We had such a fun time on Saturday with a great group of nannies! We heard from the Red Cross about emergency preparedness, watched an important and impactful presentation on bullying, heard from an inspiring business woman, had a delicious lunch, and got CPR certifications done!

Here are some photos from the event (click them to see larger versions). Thanks to all our sponsors and to all the wonderful nannies that attended – see you next year!

national nanny training day 2015

The Red Cross presents tips on emergency preparedness.

national nanny training day 2015

The Red Cross “Pillowcase Project”

national nanny training day 2015

Group discussion.

national nanny training day 2015

Some of our lovely nannies!

national nanny training day 2015

Nikki Sementa does Heimlich maneuver training with our ladies!

 

national nanny training day 2015

Another successful National Nanny Training Day!

Lose Weight, Get a Tax Deduction

lose weight get a tax deductionIt’s hard getting motivated to lose weight, but here’s something that might help: The IRS  recognizes obesity as a disease and allows taxpayers to deduct certain weight-loss expenses. (IRS Revenue Ruling 2002-19)

Prior to this ruling, individuals could only claim a tax deduction for weight loss to treat a condition “associated” with obesity (such as high blood pressure) — not the obesity itself.

But as usual with tax breaks, there are a few conditions:

  • Deductible weight-loss treatments include bariatric surgery, FDA-approved weight-loss drugs, doctor and hospital-based programs, behavioral and diet counseling, and nutritionists. But you must have a doctor’s diagnosis before weight-loss expenses can be deducted.
  • Expenses related to general health, such as health club dues, nutritional supplements, diet foods or exercise equipment, are not deductible – unless they’re related to a doctor’s diagnosis.
  • Fees for weight reduction programs, such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, are potentially deductible. However, the cost of diet foods or beverages cannot generally be written off because they substitute for what is normally consumed to satisfy your nutritional needs.

For more information, contact your tax preparer or visit IRS.gov.

©2015 Thompson Reuters

Vacation Time for Nannies

vacation time for nanniesTo get and keep the most talented employees, employers must treat nannies and other household employees like professionals. Therefore, offering employee benefits is an important consideration for all household employers. By providing an attractive employee benefits package, the employer is helping to maintain a satisfied workforce. Satisfied employees equal a happy workplace, which in turn equals a happy family and life for the employer.

One of the most popular household employment benefits is paid vacation time for nannies. There are no legal requirements for offering paid vacation time, but as we all know, being a nanny can be an exhausting job, and nannies need time to relax and recharge just as any other employee. According to the International Nanny Association’s (INA) 2014 Salary and Benefits Survey, 62% of the nannies surveyed receive paid vacation time as an employee benefit. In general, nannies receive about 2 weeks of paid vacation time per year, but it’s up to the employer’s discretion as to how many days will be provided.

It’s important to include the amount of vacation time offered in the work agreement at the time of hiring, along with any accrual requirements – many businesses do not allow an employee to use any paid time off until they have worked for 60 or 90 days, though they may start accumulating time off at the start of employment. The agreement should also include any rules pertaining to the use of vacation time – how much notice is required of the nanny when asking for time off, how the request should be submitted (email, text, in-person, phone call), and how many days the nanny can use at one time (can she take two weeks all at once, or does it need to be split up). Again, these rules are completely up to the employer’s discretion – you need to decide what will work best for your family and your employee.

If your family will be taking a vacation and you won’t be bringing the nanny along, it may be wise to encourage the nanny to take some vacation time during your family’s vacation. If you will be bringing your nanny with you on a trip, read about our guidelines for compensation.

Over the past decade, many employers that offer both vacation time and sick days have moved to a more flexible Paid Time Off or “PTO” benefit that incorporates both into one all-inclusive plan. If you wish to offer both vacation and sick pay to your nanny, here are a few advantages and disadvantages of combining separate paid time off benefits into a single PTO plan.

Advantages:

  • Nannies don’t feel they need to lie about being sick or having a doctor’s appointment in order to use all of their annual sick days, resulting in more transparency in the employee/employer relationship.
  • Research has illustrated that incorporating a PTO policy will result in nannies taking more vacation time and less sick days. This benefits household employers by typically receiving more notice about scheduled vacations, rather than unexpected absences due to illness.
  • Employees tend to value the flexibility that PTO provides.

Disadvantages:

  • Nannies are more likely to use all of their PTO, whereas they may not have used all of their sick or vacation days in the past.
  • Nannies tend to save all of their PTO for vacations and therefore might come to work when they are sick, which may cause illness to you or your family members.

For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.