Political Discussions with Your Nanny

political discussions with your nannyOne of the things some household employers struggle with is the idea that their home is a workplace when their nanny or other employee is on the clock. Because the home is a casual environment and not separate from where the family lives, it’s hard to draw the line between home and work when an employee is on duty. Employers that have a successful relationship with their employee recognize that their home is a workplace, and create policies accordingly.

This year has already been an intensely political one (and will continue to be), with the presidential campaigns creating a lot of passion and debate on both sides. Because of how much the campaigns are in the news, it seems to be a natural topic of discussion, especially in a more relaxed setting like a family’s home. But it’s crucial to remember that just like in an office environment, political discussions with your nanny may not be a good idea.

The key thing to keep in mind is that you have a professional relationship with your nanny. While it may seem more casual because the nanny works in your home, it’s his/her workplace. So what do you do if your nanny shows up one day wearing a shirt in support of a particular candidate (especially if it’s a candidate you dislike)? Or has a campaign pin on her purse or backpack? Are you allowed to ask that it be removed from your home?

Generally speaking, a private employer can ask an employee to remove political signs—or otherwise limit political expression in the workplace—as long as they don’t run afoul of protected Section 7 rights or applicable state laws.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to talk about the terms and conditions of their work. While this law protects some political activities, it doesn’t give employees a right to display political signs on their person or the right to discuss, during work hours, politics that aren’t work-related. It is also important to keep in mind that several states more broadly protect the political speech of employees while off duty, so household employers should focus on workplace behavior and not on limiting the beliefs or protected outside activities of their employees.

So what happens if you’re a nanny, and the family you work for tries to initiate a political discussion, even something as simple as asking who you’ll be voting for? In this case, it’s up to you as the employee to decline to discuss it. Tell them that you prefer not to talk politics at work, that you have a professional relationship and are uncomfortable bringing up personal issues. The family must accept this and respect your wishes, just as you must accept and respect their wishes should they not want you to wear clothing or have items that bring political issues into the home.

The bottom line, again, is that your home is a workplace when your nanny is there, and political discussions should be avoided. Keep the relationship professional and focus on topics that either pertain to the job or are just small talk. Families should include a section in their employee handbook regarding political or religious discussions. That way you are covered if an employee ever takes issue with your restrictions.

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

New York Paid Family Leave Law Affects Household Employers

new york paid family leave household employersEarlier this month, Governor Cuomo announced the New York Paid Family Leave law, which is the nation’s longest and most comprehensive. This law impacts all private employers and employees in New York, regardless of size – including household employers and nannies.

How much does it cost employers and employees?

The family leave program will be funded by a payroll deduction of between 45₵ and $1 per week from each employee’s paycheck. It will become part of the deduction for New York State’s Temporary Disability Insurance, and it will not require a contribution from employers.

When will it take effect and how much are the benefits?

The paid family leave will be phased-in over a number of years. Beginning in 2018, paid leave benefits will be set at 50 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage and capped at 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. When fully implemented in 2021, the benefits will be set at 67 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage and capped at 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.

When the plan is fully phased-in, employees who have worked for an employer for six consecutive months will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. Part-time employees become eligible on the 175th day of employment. Leading up to the full phase-in, employees will be eligible for 8 weeks in 2018, 10 weeks in 2019 and 2020, and 12 weeks starting in 2021. The leave is protected, meaning employees must be returned to their same job or a comparable position, with the same benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.

What can it be used for?

Employees may use this time to care for and bond with newborns or newly adopted children or foster children, to take care of themselves or a family member with a serious health condition, or to address certain legal, financial, and childcare issues that arise when a spouse is called to active military service.

Please note: this is not the same as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is unpaid leave and only applies to employers with at least 50 employees.

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

Refer a Family – Get a Gift Card!

image33013Could You Use a $15 Gift Card?

A New England Nanny is proud to announce our new referral program!

If you have a friend that could use a part-time nanny, occasional babysitting, housekeeping, or any other service we offer, we have a great deal for you.

Simply send us their information, and if they sign up with us, you’ll receive a $15 gift card from Panera. Plus your friend will thank you when they receive the same great service and support that you already do.

Get started today by filling out a very brief form. When your friend signs up, we’ll email you your gift card!
referFor more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Another National Nanny Training Day Success!

We had another fantastic event this past Saturday for National Nanny Training Day! It was our highest-attended event yet.

Everyone enjoyed our speakers Michelle McNabb, Christina Nazarenus, and . Your presentations were very informative and engaging, thank you so much for coming!

Thanks as always to Nikki Sementa for performing the CPR training and certification for our nannies. We appreciate you helping us out year after year!

And special thanks to our friends at CAPCOM, The Children’s Museum of Saratoga, Bounce Around, Chuck E. Cheese, Miracles on Lice, and GTM Payroll Services for sponsoring our event.

And of course, thanks go out to all the nannies who attended! We love working with you and we’re so glad you could join us.

Here are some photos from Saturday. Thanks again to everyone involved in making the 2016 National Nanny Training Day a great success!

Christina demonstrates some housekeeping techniques.

Nikki giving CPR instruction.

 

national nanny training day 2016

Our awesome group!

Celebrating our 25th anniversary this year!

Great info on lice treatment and prevention from Miracles on Lice.

Nanny Jenifer and Michelle McNabb enjoying the day.

I Didn’t Know I Hired an Illegal Immigrant – Am I in Trouble?

hired an illegal immigrantThis year’s presidential election has brought many topics to the forefront of American minds, including increased discussions about illegal immigration. Ivana Trump, ex-wife of candidate Donald Trump, recently weighed in on employing immigrants in an article in the New York Post:

“As long as you come here legally and get a proper job … we need immigrants. Who’s going to vacuum our living rooms and clean up after us?”

Regardless of the rhetoric coming out of sound bites on news stations, immigration will continue to factor into our country’s political and economic makeup.

According to a Pew Research Center study published last year, there were 8.1 million unauthorized immigrants either working or looking for work in 2012. The study also shows that the largest number of unauthorized immigrant workers are found in service occupations, which include maids, cooks, or groundskeepers. In fact, maids and housekeepers account for 25% of undocumented workers within those occupations. These employees make up a critical part of our economy.

Household employment has always been impacted by this issue, as many employers consider hiring an undocumented worker to keep their expenses low by paying minimum wage (or sometimes less) and believing they don’t need to pay employment taxes because the worker is undocumented. But the law does not discriminate when it comes to paying federal and state taxes for an employee – employers who make the choice to hire undocumented workers still must comply with tax, labor, wage, and other employment laws as if the workers are legally eligible to be employed. Domestic workers can apply for what’s known as a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) in lieu of a Social Security number, which you can use for filing payroll taxes.

Certainly there are household employers who believe the worker they’ve hired is legally eligible to work in the U.S., only to find out later that they were misled by fraudulent documents. All employers in the United States must complete a Form I-9 for every employee hired. This ensures that only people legally able to work in the United States are hired. Therefore, employers use Form I-9 to verify the identity and employment eligibility of employees. However, families cannot be expected to be experts on whether a document provided to them is genuine. The USCIS says that you should accept documents that “reasonably appear on their face to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting them.” By following the proper procedures on good faith, you should be free of liability if the worker’s status is discovered.

The bottom line is that household employers should only hire people who are legally authorized to work in the United States, including U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and other aliens authorized to work, such as refugees, asylees, and persons in Temporary Protected Status. There are many reasons why you should not hire illegal workers, mostly because you can face harsh penalties if you do so incorrectly and there is the risk that the worker may have to be deported back to their country of origin, which can be traumatic for a family, especially if it’s a nanny that the children have bonded with. It is also much harder to perform background checks and gain verifiable references when contacting international sources.

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

Guide to Employing Home Care Workers

guide to employing home care workersThe Department of Labor (DOL) recently released a new publication to help families that employ home care workers deal with the very strict wage and hour requirements of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal minimum wage and overtime law that applies to most home care workers. The Guide for Employing Home Care Workers was created to help individuals and households determine their responsibilities under the FLSA.

The guide explains several things about who must follow the FLSA rules, with examples showing how it applies when:

  • You hire a home care worker directly
  • You use a home care agency
  • You arrange care through a self-directed program

The guide describes what to do when your paid home care worker is a family member, and if you have a live-in home care worker. Also included are instructions to comply with the FLSA rules, such as minimum wage and overtime rules, tracking employee hours, and record keeping.

It’s very important to understand the rules about whether your home care worker is an employee or an independent contractor. If you hired the worker yourself, if you set the worker’s hours and dictate what tasks are to be done, then the worker is most likely an employee, and therefore you are subject to the FLSA rules on proper wage payment.

Download the guide here, and contact us at (518) 348-0400 if you have any questions.

New York’s Minimum Wage Going Up to $15

new york's minimum wageGovernor Andrew Cuomo has signed a law permitting the New York minimum wage to increase to $15 per hour over the next several years. The timing for compliance with the new law is based on location within the state. Household employers need to begin preparing to accommodate these changes based on the timeline provided by www.governor.ny.gov:

  • For workers in New York City employed by small businesses (those with 10 employees or fewer), the minimum wage would rise to $10.50 by the end of 2016, then another $1.50 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2019.
  • For workers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, the minimum wage would increase to $10 at the end of 2016, then $1 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2021.
  • For workers in the rest of the state, the minimum wage would increase to $9.70 at the end of 2016, then another .70 each year after until reaching $12.50 on 12/31/2020 – after which will continue to increase to $15 on an indexed schedule to be set by the Director of the Division of Budget in consultation with the Department of Labor.

Beginning in 2019, an annual analysis of the economy in each region will be conducted regarding the effect of the minimum wage increases statewide to determine whether any temporary suspension of the increases is necessary.

More than 2.3 million people are estimated to be affected by these minimum wage increases.

For more information on tax and labor laws for household employers, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Avoid Discrimination During Job Interviews

avoid discrimination during job interviewsHousehold employers sometimes struggle with their home being both a personal residence and a workplace for others. The U.S. government enforces many laws and regulations that protect workers against discrimination, so household employers must recognize that their home is their business location, and take the steps to become educated about preventing discrimination in the workplace, including how to avoid discrimination during interviews.

We have discussed previously the types of questions you can and cannot legally ask when interviewing a nanny or other employee, including not being allowed to ask about an applicant’s religion, sexual orientation, birthplace, etc. But what if the applicant reveals during an interview that they are part of a protected class?  If an applicant reveals protected information, your primarily responsibility is to make sure you do not allow this information to become a factor in determining whether to hire them.

If an applicant expresses concern as to whether their inclusion in a protected class will harm their chances of being hired, assure them it will not. We would recommend telling them that you will be making the decision solely on their ability to perform the essential functions of the job.

If there is a formal application that you have candidates fill out, you may want to include the following in that document (we also recommend this language if you are posting any job openings online or advertising in print):

“We are an Equal Opportunity Employer. Equal employment opportunity includes, but is not limited to, employment, training, promotion, demotion, transfer, leaves of absence, and termination. All applications will be considered only on the basis of the applicant’s knowledge, skills, and ability to perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation. It is our established policy to provide equal employment opportunities to all qualified persons without regard to race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability, military or veteran status, genetic information, citizenship status, or any other protected classification, in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws.”

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

Tax Time Reminders for Household Employers

tax time remindersWe’re a month away from the April 15th tax filing deadline for individuals, but we’re only two weeks from the electronic filing deadline for employers, including household employers. If you haven’t filed yet, here are some tax time reminders about what you need to do, plus how to take advantage of a couple of ways to reduce your tax burden.

If you haven’t done so already, you must electronically file your copy (Copy A) of an employee’s Form W-2 and Form W-3 to the Social Security Administration by March 31. The W-3 is a reconciliation of all W-2s for each of your employees, even if you have only one domestic worker. Also, you’ll need to file Schedule H with your federal income tax return. Schedule H is an annual reconciliation form that is used to report Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and federal income taxes, as well as wages paid to your employee throughout the year (GTM clients can find these forms under the “Reports” tab in your online account).

Looking to reduce what you owe? Reimburse your dependent care expenses with pre-tax funds through an employer-sponsored Flexible Spending Account (FSA). You are allowed to set aside up to $5,000 per year of tax-free money. Check with your own employer’s human resources department to see if there is a program available to you.

You can also take advantage of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit on your personal income tax return (regardless of income level or filing status). Claim up to $3,000 of qualifying child care expenses (such as your nanny’s salary) for one qualifying individual or up to $6,000 if you have two or more children. You can reduce your taxes by 20 percent of your claimed expenses (i.e. up to $600 for one child and $1,200 for two children).

Need help? Give us a call at (518) 348-0400 and we’ll be happy to assist.

How to Talk Taxes with Your Nanny

NannyYou’ve found the perfect nanny for your family. You’re now in the process of negotiating a salary and your nanny says she wants to be paid “off the books.” You know the importance of being compliant with payroll and taxes, but your nanny likes the additional money in her paycheck. However, for the small cost in taxes, your nanny gains important short-term and long-term advantages. Here are some topics to discuss when talking about taxes.

Verifiable Income
If your employee applies for a car loan, student loan, mortgage or even a credit card, they’ll need to show that they can pay monthly installments. Being paid legally provides that. If your employee’s pay is not documented, they have no way to show that they have income.

Legal Employment History
Getting paid “on the books” creates a work history. This is also important when your employee applies for a loan, credit or their next job.

Unemployment Benefits
Let’s say your nanny has worked for you for a few years. Your children are now school age and no longer need a full-time nanny. Unemployment benefits will partially replace your employee’s lost wages for a period of time while they look for a new job.

Social Security and Medicare Benefits
Money paid by you and your employee into Social Security and Medicare is set aside to help pay for living and medical expenses when your employee retires.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits
With a worker’s compensation policy in place, your employee will receive assistance with medical expenses and lost wages if they are injured or become ill on the job. Workers’ compensation is required for household employers in many states.

Health Care Subsidy
The Affordable Care Act requires everyone to have health insurance or pay a fine. A health insurance marketplace has also been created to help people find coverage. If your employee buys a policy through this marketplace, they could qualify for a subsidy and cut the costs of their insurance. Provided, of course, they are being paid legally.

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