First Steps to Becoming a Household Employer

becoming a household employerThe IRS defines a household employer as any person who employs housekeepers, maids, gardeners, and others who work in and around an individual’s private residence. A nanny is an example of such an employee. In becoming a household employer,  it is critical that you begin with a clear definition of what you want in a household employee. First, understand what your objectives are in bringing an employee into your household. Many people have taken that nerve-racking first step. For you, it does not have to be a step into the unknown.

Viewing a situation from another person’s perspective is always a good barometer for how something will work out. When it comes to employing household help, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What do I want to accomplish in the short- and long-term?
  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Who does this benefit?

Most household employers want to balance personal life with work life. You want to know that your child, parent, or home is being cared for so that you may focus on your career. Hiring household staff is often the best solution to cultivating a lifestyle of convenience, peace of mind, and freedom.

You may be surprised to discover that more than just the people living in your household are stakeholders in some way or another to your household employment. Other than your spouse, children, and you, a household employee could affect and benefit extended family members, neighbors, friends, and coworkers, among others.

In any household employment situation, the biggest mistake any one of us can make is not planning on being successful. Many people do not take the time necessary to be a proactive employer. Without a well-designed ground plan, your nanny, your family, and you may be unprepared for the day-to-day issues that arise. These issues can result in wasted effort and time, often pulling you away from your professional duties to attend to a household matter that could likely be handled individually by the nanny or housekeeper if plans had been established from the start.

No matter if you are hiring a nanny to care for your child, a senior care provider to care for your parent, or a houseman to care for your property, you need to make a real effort to learn about, plan for, and practice being a manager of a household employee. Naturally, you will need to manage your way through some bumps in the road, but once everyone is engaged, you will be positioned to build and maintain a successful employment relationship. No matter who is working in your home, keep in mind the reality of the situation. You are making difficult decisions that affect your household and your family. Household employment is very much a personal endeavor. You do it to manage your life, provide optimal care for your children or ailing parents, and maintain a smooth and peaceful household. It is not easy, and there is no other hire as important. No matter what the type of household employee, the process is the same—learn, prepare, plan, communicate, gather feedback, and revise (if necessary). By preparing, planning, and practicing as household employer, you are on your way to engaging a critical member of your household team, one that will help you with your goal of achieving life and work balance.

Learn how A New England Nanny can help you with this process – contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Tattoo Policy for Nannies

tattoo policy for nanniesQ:  My nanny wants to get a tattoo. Can I ask her not to do so, or require that she cover it while in my home?

A:  An issue like this warrants a discussion with your nanny, and in this case it’s fortunate that she brought up the idea with you beforehand, as opposed to her showing up at your home one day with the tattoo already there. One way to avoid this issue arising during employment is to go over your dress code policy – including tattoos – prior to hiring your nanny.

Some families are widely accepting of “body art” like tattoos and piercings, while others may feel it’s inappropriate for any employee – particularly one that cares for your children – to have them. Assuming your nanny is over 18, she can legally get a tattoo without parental consent. However, as an employer, you have to right to enforce a tattoo policy for nannies. We recommend following your written dress code policy regarding tattoos in the workplace – your home. If your dress code policy does not address covering visible tattoos, or do so in a way you like, consider revising it. You may decide to prohibit visible tattoos entirely or you may simply prohibit tattoos that are offensive, distracting, inappropriate, or over a certain size. The policy could even be something general like “Tattoos must be appropriate and in keeping with a professional image.”

As an employer, you create the rules to promote the “company culture” of your home. You may want to stress that a nanny is a role model of sorts for your children, and seeing their nanny with inked skin may encourage them to want one as well. If that goes against the values you want your children to follow, you need to explain that to your nanny as a reason you do not want to see a tattoo while she is with your kids. If you decide that it’s ok for her to have one, provided it’s covered while in your home, keep in mind that if she takes the kids swimming and wears a bathing suit, the tattoo will likely be exposed.

Whatever you decide, your policy and practice must allow for religious accommodations. Some religions do not permit the covering of tattoos or other religious items, and you should be prepared to make exceptions. When you’ve decided on a policy, be sure to communicate your reasons to your nanny and update your employee handbook.

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

Your Kid Has Lice? Don’t Panic!

Lice - don't panicBy Deb Medina

If you are a parent with kids in school, you have probably gotten a letter in the backpack indicating “a reported case of lice in your child’s class.” As you start to panic a little while checking your child’s head, you might wonder if you really even know what you’re looking for.

If you’re just looking for bugs crawling around, that is not always the case! Yes, you may see actual lice crawling around if the eggs or “nits” have hatched. However, if the louse has laid eggs and moved on, you may just see a small white speck on the hair strand which you could easily mistake as a fuzz or dry scalp. The difference is when you try to flick it away, it hangs on to the hair shaft for dear life.

I never knew to look for nits. The first time this happened was last fall after we got the dreaded letter. I took my daughter to the doctor for something unrelated. I asked her to check her head, even though I told her I already did and didn’t find a thing. That’s when the doctor said, “See these little white specks? Those are nits.”

I immediately went to the store and bought the typical lice treatment remedy.  I spent $100 on a nasty chemical, then spent the next 2 hours with a crying 6-year-old sitting in front of me while I used a comb that continuously pulled at her long hair, and with each pull she screamed at me. She cried, I cried, and both of us were nearing a nervous breakdown. By the end, we were both physically and mentally exhausted. We vacuumed, bagged things and washed everything in hot water as instructed per the box. I never wanted to go through that again.

liceMonths later, I was in my car and heard an advertisement for the Miracles on Lice Treatment Center in Ballston Lake. After looking on their website, I really wish I knew about this place sooner so I wouldn’t have put my daughter through that ordeal.

But even though school is out for the summer, lice don’t take a vacation. I picked my daughter up from camp one day, and later while brushing her hair, I found nits!

This time I immediately called Miracles on Lice.  They were very nice and accommodating, and I was given an appointment for the next morning. I hoped that they would say she was clear because their treatment is expensive, but if they could indeed perform a “miracle,” it would be worth every penny.

The first thing they do is a head check which runs $25. So if you get the dreaded letter from school and you aren’t sure whether your child may have lice, the $25 is worth it. If they do have it, everyone in the family is given a head check at no charge, and then they will give you the options to treat it.  The treatment process is extremely time-consuming and done in more than one stage while you’re there. They don’t fool around – they wear headlamps and are certified in the “Shepherd Method,” which is strand-by-strand nit and lice removal, which is supposed to be the most effective method.

Unfortunately my daughter did have nits, so we spent the next 3 hours at their office (they checked me and thankfully I was clear). They had movies and other things to occupy my daughter, who went from being scared before we arrived to actually not wanting to leave! When her treatment was done, they gave her a braid of her choice and me a letter clearing her to go back to camp the next day.

Miracles on Lice is run by a local family of licensed hair stylists who saw the need to help families. The mom worked in a salon for children and when they had to turn away lice-infected kids, she realized they needed help, so they started this business.

While the cost is high, I was willing to pay more to let the experts treat it and treat it right.  Did you know you can get lice from going to the movies? Many other heads touch that seat before you sit down in it, so the risk is there. I would have never known that without visiting Miracles on Lice!

I also learned that to help prevent lice:

  1. Stop using sweet-smelling hair products. Most kids’ products smell fruity and sweet. Rosemary and mint aromas can actually repel lice. Miracles on Lice has their own brand which contains a special mix of scents that lice hate most (I bought a set of their shampoo and conditioner – I’m not playing around either).
  2. Always have long hair in braids or buns when around others (especially at school).
  3. Do not let kids share hats, combs and brushes, hair bands, and other items. If kids’ coats are hung next to each other, lice can walk right on over. Miracles on Lice also has a repellent spray that lasts 8 hours – spray on coats, backpacks, etc.

I hope sharing my story will help any families that might be dealing with lice, whether it’s just to get a head check or a full treatment – you can check out pictures of my daughter’s visit below. I am very grateful to the staff at Miracles on Lice!

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Affordable Care Act Changes May Affect Household Employers

affordable care act changes may affect household employersWhen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect several years ago, it provided transitional relief for small employers.  As of July 1, 2015, it no longer offers that relief and the following Affordable Care Act changes for household employers are now true:

  • An employer cannot pay for an individual health insurance plan directly to an employee’s insurance company or reimburse an employee for it.  Instead, they can increase their employee’s salary and allow them to set up a pre-tax deduction with a Premium Only Plan (POP).  Our affiliate company, GTM Payroll services, does offer POP plans and can set up for your employee – get a free quote here.
  • An employer cannot discriminate and must offer the same benefit to all employees who have the same job status.
  • Employees are only allowed to pre-tax an individual insurance premium if it is not already tax advantaged.  It’s recommended that they not pre-tax any insurance premiums paid through the Federal or State exchange.

Employers with two or more employees can no longer set up or fund a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to pay for their employees’ individual plans.  Those with only one employee can continue to set up an HRA to help fund their employee’s individual plans.

See more information from the IRS and read about the ACA and household employment here.

Contact us with any questions at (518) 348-0400.

Not-So-Frequently Asked Questions from Nannies

frequently asked questions from nanniesWe hear many questions from both current and prospective nannies about what it means to be a household employee, but sometimes we hear some not-so-frequently asked questions, such as the ones below, that bring important issues to light.

Q: I am a nanny and my employer is paying my Social Security and Medicare but has asked me if I would like income taxes withheld. I am uncertain whether to have income tax withheld from my paycheck. What is the best scenario?

A: What is best depends on you. First, please know that choosing to withhold income tax from your paycheck is not the same as choosing whether to pay it. You must pay it. The option you ask about is whether you want your employer to withhold income tax from your paycheck or you want to pay the income tax yourself. So, this becomes a budgeting and convenience issue. We strongly discourage employees from trying to pay taxes on their own.

Q: Is there a difference between being covered by Social Security and being eligible for Social Security?

A: Yes, and it is significant. To be eligible for Social Security, you must work forty calendar quarters to be fully insured and eligible for retirement, disability, death, and survivor benefits. To be covered, you must work at least ten calendar quarters to be insured and eligible for limited death benefits.

Q: I’m a nanny, but I’m not a U.S. citizen. Does my employer still have to pay U.S. minimum wage?

A: Yes. Minimum wage, as well as federal and state labor laws, generally applies to domestic and household employees working in the United States or a U.S. possession or territory, regardless of employee citizenship or immigration status.

Q: I just started caring for an infant of brand new parents. If they decide to install a nannycam in their home, do they need to inform me that I may be monitored?

A: It is fair and proper for a household employer to fully disclose to an employee whether he or she will be monitored in the household. Check local laws for the legal use of these devices in your workplace. The parents should disclose this information during the hiring process to ensure that the applicant is comfortable with this practice.

Q: The family I work for has a five-year-old daughter with chicken pox. I’m concerned that I was exposed to the illness and was carrying it home to my husband, who has never had chicken pox. Should my employer provide me with protective gear?

A: Every employer in the United States must ensure that a workplace—even one in the home—is a safe and healthy environment in which to work. Employers can provide a housekeeper with gloves and a face mask when using a chemical cleaner; gardener with eye goggles and ear plugs when using landscaping equipment; senior care worker with medical gloves when injecting medication; or in your case, provide you with medical gloves and a face mask when caring for a child with the flu, measles, chicken pox, and so on. Such universal precautions are standard in any work environment and are an ideal topic for employers to discuss with employees during the development of a work agreement and review of the employee handbook.

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

Conference & Event Child Care

conference and event child careComing to the Capital Region for a business trip, conference, meeting, training session, or other work-related function where children cannot attend? Contact us for your child care needs!

Why Work With Us?

  • We can cover as little as a one-day event to a multiple day program.
  • We can tailor our events to your budget and your specifications.
  • As many or as few details as you choose can be handled by our Agency Coordinator.
  • We provide sign-in and sign-out sheets for children for each date of your event.
  • For large groups, we provide color-coded and numbered wristbands with emergency contact info.
  • Our nannies wear agency T-shirts for easy identification.
  • Upon request, we can provide age-appropriate activities* such as arts and crafts projects, board games, coloring, play-dough, outdoor games and activities, and special take-home projects for each child.
  • We can coordinate more extensive activity requests with outside vendors such as petting zoos, science labs, small carnival games, balloon twisters, and caricaturists.
  • You can choose to pay the nannies directly at a flat hourly rate, or use our payroll service to process payment and withhold taxes.

*Cost dependent on number of children and is provided with proposal.

Contact us at (518) 348-0400 for more information!

Workers’ Compensation for a Bee Sting?

workers' compensation for a bee stingWorkers’ compensation insurance for nannies and other household employees is becoming a crucial issue for household employers to address, and here in New York, if you employ a nanny who works 40 hours in any week of the year, you are required to have coverage. Without coverage, if your nanny is injured or becomes sick while working, you may be responsible for medical bills and lost wages. The following example demonstrates another issue that may arise, especially during the summertime.

Yesterday your nanny was playing with the kids outside and was stung by a bee. She’s allergic and had to go the ER. Are you responsible for workers’ compensation for a bee sting?

Possibly. Whether or not this work injury qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits will depend on a few factors. The sting was not work-related, but the nanny was on the clock. Your workers’ compensation carrier will have to assess whether or not the sting arose out of and in the course of employment. A preexisting condition or existing illness is often only covered under workers’ compensation if it was worsened by working conditions or by performing the job duties. It may come down to how much either party wants to press its case. An ER visit may or may not be worth an insurance battle and the time of the lawyers involved.

We recommend you offer the workers’ compensation paperwork to your nanny, letting her know that she must file a claim in order to receive any workers’ compensation benefits. If she chooses not to file, then ask her to put the decision in writing and note on the workers’ compensation form that the nanny did not want to file a claim. Remind her that you will not retaliate against her either way.

In most circumstances, we recommend allowing your employee to file a claim and contacting your insurance carrier to inform them of any concerns. Once the carrier has the claim and related information, they can analyze the claim and decide how much they want to contest the benefits. In general, it’s best to let them handle the complicated appeals and approval process. After all, they want to control costs just like you do.

No matter how this particular claim plays out, you should inspect your home and arrange for safe removal of any beehives or other pest infestations that present a hazard.

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

Senior Care Tips: Estate Planning

senior care tipsThere are many issues that arise when it comes to senior care – one of the senior care tips to keep in mind regards estate planning. You’ve likely been repeatedly advised to ensure for your own estate planning, but as you take on caring for your elderly loved ones, you may also need to become familiar with their estate plan.

If your elderly loved one has not put his or her affairs in order, it should be done immediately, so you can be sure about his or her wishes before he or she becomes too incapacitated to communicate those wishes to you. Wills need to specify not only wishes for “handing on” precious keepsakes and possessions but also written directives as to how your elderly loved one wishes his or her remains disposed of, funeral and burial plans, and so on. Advance directives include the senior’s living will, which states his or her wishes in case he or she is near death and wants no life-saving, artificial measures taken to restore or preserve life, and medical power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy, enables the senior to designate a loved one as the decision maker for medical concerns in case he or she is unable to do so. A power of attorney allows the senior to give another the power to act on his or her behalf if he or she is in unable.

Be sure your senior caregiver is aware of where these important papers are kept (or has copies of them) and can access them in order to provide medical professionals with these critically important instructions during medical emergencies . For instance, emergency medical professionals in an ambulance or at a hospital emergency room will request copies of a patient’s  do not resuscitate order (DNR) or medical power of attorney.

Advance directive

This is a legal document that specifies that you do not want to be kept alive on artificial life support and can direct other aspects of health care if the elder is unable to speak for him- or herself. As with most legal documents, this needs to be as specific as possible, providing instructions regarding respirators, feeding tubes, and pain medication, among other things. Advance directives usually include a DNR, a living will, and a durable power of attorney.

  • Do Not Resuscitate: known as a DNR, is a written order directing health care professionals to not resuscitate a patient in case of cardiac or respiratory arrest. DNRs are generally given when resuscitation would only delay the inevitable and leave the patient severely and permanently incapacitated.
  • Durable power of attorney: enables a senior to authorize a specific person to make financial or health care decisions for him or her. Durable powers of attorney are most often effective when a doctor certifies that the patient is incapacitated; however, a durable power of attorney could begin upon signing the document. It will depend on the document’s wording as to when the powers begin.
  • Living will: a document that states in detail acceptable medical procedures and life-sustaining measures. It does not name someone to act on a senior’s behalf like a health care proxy, or medical or durable power of attorney. Living wills should be made available upon admission to any health care facility and to doctors, as well as kept on hand in the elder’s home. (A living will is not necessarily legally binding—state laws vary widely. Some hospitals and physicians may refuse to honor a living will in an attempt to keep the senior patient alive.)

Legal guardianship

A guardian is appointed by the court to have custody of another. Legal guardians may be appointed on a temporary basis (for a fixed period, i.e., one year) and for a senior’s medical consent. In short, a guardian may make medical decisions for the senior and work directly with medical professionals.

Living trust

According to AARP, a revocable living trust is a written agreement designating someone to be responsible for managing the senior’s property. It is called a living trust because it is established while the senior is alive. It is “revocable” because, as long as you are mentally competent, the senior can change or dissolve the trust at any time at his or her own discretion for any reason. Typically, a living trust becomes irrevocable (cannot be changed) when the person dies. As a trustee, you (as the senior’s designated relative or friend) can manage the assets, including selling or investing them.  You may also name your spouse as your co-trustee. If every asset is transferred into the living trust while the senior is alive, a living trust may substitute for a will. A pour-over will can be written to ensure that at the time of death any property not in the living trust is poured over into the trust.

Will

This is a legal document in which the senior declares who will manage his or her estate after he or she dies. The estate can consist of anything he or she owns—it may be as big as the senior’s home and as small as the deceased’s grandmother’s cameo pin or even a photograph.

There are professionals, namely attorneys and financial advisors, who specialize in elder law and estate planning. Since laws vary by state and are often subject to change, it is advisable to contact one. New York State’s legal services department may offer help at its Division of Elder Law, or you may access AARP’s prescreened list of attorneys.

For more information about how we help families with senior care issues, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

7 Tips to Retain the Best Nannies

retain the best nanniesWhile there are many quality nannies out there, once you find one you really like, you want to do what you can to make sure she/he wants to keep working for you. Usually this doesn’t mean heaping extravagant gifts on your nanny or giving in to anything your employee asks. Open communication and treating your nanny like the professional she/he is goes a long way to maintaining a strong working relationship. To retain the best nannies, we recommend following the seven tips that follow.

Top 7 Tips to Retain the Best Nannies

  1. Provide a clear and consistent job description. Update the job description when changes in the job occur.
  2. Be sure to orientate your nanny to your neighbors, friends, family, and the general area. Include a list of emergency names and numbers, and any other pertinent family information.
  3. Have a daily meeting in which you and your nanny can discuss the day’s activities. This can also be a time to discuss any concerns or questions regarding the job, children, etc.
  4. To get and keep the most talented employees, employers must treat employees like professionals. Therefore, offering employee benefits is an important consideration for all household employers. Consider benefits such as medical or dental insurance, paid time for vacation or sick leave, a retirement plan, annual pay increases, and flexible hours.
  5. Treat your nanny as a member of the family.  Make sure that she/he can approach you at any time with any concerns.
  6. Ensuring that your nanny is fairly compensated is one of the keys to retaining a quality employee. Employers must make sure that their nanny is paid for all hours worked, including overtime.
  7. Invite your nanny to lunch/coffee at least once a month, away from the home, to discuss the job, the children, and any suggestions for the future. Remember this relationship requires team effort!

For more information and to learn how we help support household employers with their relationships with their nannies, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Eight Steps to a Successful Nanny Share

steps to a successful nanny shareThinking about participating in a nanny share with another family? In a nanny share, the nanny cares for the children of two or more families at the same time.

This arrangement can help you save money and maintain your flexibility with child care. Your children will still receive individual attention from the nanny and get the added bonus of socialization with the other kids in your share.

Remember, a nanny share is a business relationship you enter with another family (or families) and the nanny. To ensure a successful nanny share — one that benefits you, your children, other families, and the nanny — make sure you follow these important steps.

1. Create a Work Agreement
Get together with the other family/families and create a work agreement to specify the nanny’s schedule, wages, benefits, and responsibilities.

2. Communicate throughout the Process
The key to any business relationship is communication. This means between you and the other family/families and with the nanny. Make sure any issues between the families are worked out BEFORE talking with the nanny. This makes sure your communication is clear and eliminates confusing or conflicting messages.

3. Register with the IRS
Each family must register with the IRS and the New York State revenue department. A tax identification number will be issues to each family.

4. Obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance
New York requires workers’ compensation insurance for domestic employees who work 40 or more hours in any week. For nanny shares in New York, each family must obtain coverage for the nanny.

5. Provide Your Nanny with Employment Forms
Your nanny must complete an I-9 form and a W-4 form for each family.

6. Withhold Taxes from Your Nanny’s Pay
Each family must withhold federal and state taxes from each paycheck.

7. Complete a Schedule H
Each family must complete a Schedule H form when filing their personal income taxes. Schedule H accounts for the federal taxes withheld from your nanny’s pay.

8. Issue Form W-2 at End of Year
Each family must issue Form W-2 to the nanny at the end of the year.

The tax responsibilities and legal obligations for a nanny share can be complicated and time-consuming. Doing it incorrectly could mean fines and penalties from the IRS. Being non-compliant with the law — paying your nanny under the table — could lead to audits or employee lawsuits. Using a payroll company like our affiliate company GTM Payroll Services will remove the guesswork, ensure you are compliant, and free up your time for the things in life you enjoy.

Contact us at (518) 348-0400 for more information.