When Nannies Drive the Kids: Best Practices and Laws

nannies drive kidsWhile some families choose to have their nanny stay in the house with the kids all day, many choose to let their nanny take their kids out, be it to the movies, a park, sports practices, or any other appointment or activity. Families need to decide how the nanny will transport the children – will the nanny use her own car, or will she use a family vehicle?

The overall goals when your nanny drives the kids are to make sure your children stay safe, ensure that you or your nanny have adequate insurance in case of an accident, and to know how to properly handle gas and other expenses. Depending on what arrangement you make, there are different rules and regulations to consider.

Is Your Nanny a Good Driver?

If you hired through a nanny agency, they will have checked the nanny’s DMV records for traffic violations, convictions, accidents, suspensions, and license expirations for a least the last three years. If you hired on your own, you should ask the nanny to obtain her records, which is available from the state DMV, possibly for a small fee.

Alternatively, you can ask your auto insurance company to run a motor vehicle report using your nanny’s driver’s license. It won’t be as comprehensive as a DMV report, but you’ll see any traffic violations, conviction dates, and accidents, and the insurance company probably won’t charge you.

Before hiring the nanny, if you plan to have her drive the children, you can ask her references about any driving-related issues.

If you are exceptionally cautious, taking a test drive with your nanny to experience her skills is another way to feel confident about letting her chauffeur the kids.

What Will the Driving Rules Be?

In the work agreement or contract, any driving rules or requirements should be detailed, such as making sure all speed limits are followed, texting while driving is prohibited, no talking on the phone (or hands-free only), and whether any other passengers besides the kids are allowed in the car. You can also determine to which locations the children can be driven, with the option of adding to that list as necessary.

Confusion and miscommunication can be avoided by including these details in the paperwork, and it ensures you and your nanny are on the same page.

Should My Nanny Drive My Car?

Having your nanny drive a family car is ideal when it comes to safety – you are in charge of the vehicle’s maintenance so you know the shape your car is in. If the nanny will drive your car, you need to add her to your insurance policy, for which you’ll need to send your insurance carrier a copy of her license. Make sure you review coverage options with your insurance company, even if the nanny will only be driving your car occasionally. There could be a slight increase to your premium for nannies who are younger or have incidents on their driving record.

Should My Nanny Drive Her Own Car?

Safety is the name of the game. If you want your nanny to use her own car, step one is to make sure her vehicle has passed state inspection. If you want to pay to have a mechanic look at her car, that could be beneficial as well.

If your children are still in car seats, there are many concerns to keep in mind. The nanny’s car must be able to accommodate the size of the car seats and the nanny must know how to ensure the children are seated in them correctly and securely. If the seats will be removed after the nanny’s shift and then replaced on her next shift, she must know how to install them correctly.

Another safety measure to take is to make sure the nanny’s car isn’t messy and has any items that could fly up and injure the children.

What Kind of Insurance Coverage Do I Need?

If your nanny driving her car and has an accident, the nanny’s medical payments coverage and bodily injury limit on her own policy would cover any injuries to the children. While coverage for bodily injury varies by state and is sometimes as low as $10,000 per person or $20,000 per accident, that may not cover the cost of a serious accident. You will want your nanny to have adequate liability insurance coverage in case the children sustain any injuries in an accident.

Ask for a copy of your nanny’s insurance card before she drives the kids anywhere. Check it periodically to ensure it stays valid and coverage doesn’t lapse.

What if My Nanny Gets Hurt in an Accident?

Your workers’ compensation insurance carrier and the auto insurance company (your or hers depending on which car she was driving) will need to be notified of an incident. Remember workers’ comp is required for household employers in New York. Your workers’ comp policy would cover your nanny’s injuries and any lost wages if she misses work, because she was injured while on the job.

Do I Need to Reimburse My Nanny for Gas and Mileage?

Your work agreement should detail any reimbursement arrangements for when your nanny is driving her own car.

If your nanny is driving a family car, it’s advisable to reimburse her if she buys gas or has to pay for parking or tolls.

The standard mileage rate issued by the IRS calculates the cost of gas, maintenance, and depreciation. You can abide by that rate or set your own. If you will be reimbursing, your nanny should keep a detailed log of the mileage and gas she uses.

You could consider flat-rate compensation if your nanny will drive a consistent number of hours or miles each week. This rate would be calculated to cover her expenses every week. But if anything changes – she’s driving more miles or the cost of gas increases – make sure you adjust her compensation.

Neither you nor your nanny will have to pay taxes on gas and mileage reimbursements, as it is not taxable compensation.

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

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.

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.

When Do You Have to Report a Workers’ Comp Accident?

worker's comp accident reporting in new yorkWe have discussed the importance of having a workers’ compensation insurance policy in your home if you have a nanny or other domestic worker. And in New York, if you have an employee that works 40 hours or more in any one week of the calendar year, you are required by law to have both workers’ comp and disability insurance policies. But that doesn’t mean you have to file a claim for each and every injury sustained by your employee while on the job.

Whenever an injury exceeds any one of the following limitations, a Report of Accident Form (Form C-2) must be filed with the Workers’ Compensation Board within 10 days of the occurrence if:

  1. the injury results in loss of time from work beyond one day following the day of injury; or
  2. treatment for the injury involves more than “ordinary first aid”; or
  3. more than two first-aid treatments are, or will be, required.

It is possible that the need for a third treatment of an injury may not be apparent until after the 10-day reporting period expires. The only reasonable interpretation of the law is that the reporting time limit in such a case does not apply until it becomes known by the employer that additional treatments are necessary.

Form C-2 should be completed and filed as soon as it is known that the injury falls within the reporting requirements. An explanation for late filing should be included on the report.

By not reporting minor injuries, where no report is required, your Workers’ Compensation Policy will have a more favorable experience modification factor, which may help reduce premium costs. Of course, you will then need to pay the medical expenses in lieu of the insurer.

However, a written record of all injuries sustained by employees, including those for which no Report of Accident Form must be filed, must be kept by the employer for 18 years and made available whenever directed by the Workers’ Compensation Board.

Our partners at GTM Payroll Services help household employers obtain workers’ comp coverage and provide expert advice on insurance law compliance. For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Source: Professional Insurance Agents – New York

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.

Long Term Care Insurance to Help with Senior Care

long term care insurance to help with senior careWhile often purchased through independent means, long term care (LTC) insurance as an employee benefit is being offered more often by employers. Under this LTC policy, services to meet LTC needs such as adult day care, home health, skilled nursing care, and custodial care are available to employees, their spouses, and sometimes parents or parents-in-law.

According to AARP, addressing caregiver support issues in the workplace is smart business. AARP noted that companies are finding senior care help to be advantageous because both the employer and employee benefits when workers have options that make caregiving more manageable. According to AARP, about 33 percent of large companies offer basic senior care benefits, as do 25 percent of all businesses. Most are in the form of resource materials and referral services, unpaid leave, dependent care flexible spending accounts, counseling, or back-up senior care. More progressive companies offer subsidized in-home emergency care or adult day care, on-staff geriatric care specialists, and allowing older relatives on health insurance plans.

Many employers are sympathetic to the demands of those providing senior care for their loved ones.  Via the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible workers may access up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family caregiving without the loss of job security or benefits. But many unions and employers have gone beyond that mandate and negotiated the following programs to help employees address their senior care needs:

  • resource and referral services that match providers with appropriate senior care resources and services;
  • pretax programs that establish a tax-free flexible spending account for senior care expenses (as well as child/dependent care expenses);
  • elder care funds that provide direct cash payments or reimbursement for senior care expenses;
  • support services that offer information and support services for retired employees and their families;
  • long term care insurance that helps employees pay for long term care for themselves and their dependents including spouse or parent; and
  • sick time for family members and flex time options  which both allow workers to use their accumulated sick leave to care for sick dependents.

Check with your company to determine if you have workplace benefits for senior care help.

Many families opt to try to save money by becoming their senior’s caregiver themselves, as opposed to hiring help to provide care to their loved one, or using a nursing home. Costs to companies with employees acting as senior caregivers can be high: according to AARP, one study showed that 75 percent of employees caring for adults experience negative health concerns of their own, including stress, depression, panic attacks, headaches, loss of energy and sleep, weight loss, and physical pain. AARP cited a study by the MetLife Market Mature Institute and National Alliance of Caregiving that said U.S. companies paid between $17.1 billion and $33.6 billion annually on lost productivity, equaling $2,110 for every full-time worker who cares for an adult.  Other AARP figures showed a cost to business of $6.6 billion to replace employees (9 percent left work or took early retirement); nearly $7 billion in workday interruptions (i.e., coming in late, leaving early, taking time off during the day or spending work time on senior care matters); and, $4.3 billion in absenteeism.

See some alternate payment methods for senior care, or contact us at (518) 348-0400 for more information.

Nanny Injured on the Job – Now What?

nanny injured on the jobWas your nanny injured on the job? In New York State, you are required to have workers’ compensation insurance if you employ a nanny for at least 40 hours per week, or if you employ a live-in nanny. Workers’ compensation policies cover you and your employee in case he or she is injured while working in your home or traveling with you as part of the job. Your workers’ compensation policy contains a posting notice providing the insurance company name, policy number, and contact information.

Should an injury or illness occur, here are the steps to take:

  1. Contact your workers’ compensation carrier if there is an on the job injury or illness as a result of the employment.  The seriousness of the injury does not necessarily matter.  If the employee requires medical care or will be missing work due to the injury or work related illness, the employer should report the incident. Sometimes nothing further comes of the incident except a medical bill. However, there may be complications unknown at the time of the initial incident and reporting the claim can help to keep future bills in check.
  2. Be prepared to provide the claim adjuster with some pertinent information:
  • Date of incident
  • Name of employee
  • Brief description of the injury and how it happened
  • Your workers’ compensation policy number
  • Phone number or email address on how the adjuster can contact the employee
  1. The adjuster will contact the employee directly for further details.
  2. A form will be sent to the employee to complete.  There will be a section for the employer to fill in their information and employment information, a section for the employee, and a section for the doctor to complete.  The form is then returned to the insurance company.
  3. The adjuster will continue to correspond with the employee and possibly the medical provider until the claim is complete.

Our partner GTM Payroll Services can provide workers’ compensation policies for household employers. Contact us at (518) 348-0400 for more information.

Health Insurance for Nannies – Open Enrollment Starts Soon

health insurance for nanniesWith so many questions surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many household employers and employees are asking for information about how they can obtain health insurance for nannies (and other household employees), so the individuals can avoid paying any fees for not having coverage. The good news is that employees have an opportunity to shop the health insurance marketplace next month during the open enrollment period.

Open enrollment begins on November 15, 2014, and ends on February 15 of 2015. This is an opportunity for individuals who have not yet enrolled in health insurance coverage to obtain coverage – otherwise there may not be another chance to be covered in 2015 until the next open enrollment period sometime next year. For those enrolled in a 2014 Marketplace plan, the benefit year ends December 31, 2014. To continue health coverage in 2015, the current health plan must be renewed, or a new health plan can be chosen through the Marketplace during the 2015 Open Enrollment period.

A potential benefit for nannies regarding the monthly health insurance premium is a tax credit, which depends on household size and income. According to Healthcare.gov, if your income falls within the following ranges you’ll generally qualify for a premium tax credit. The lower your income is within these ranges, the bigger your credit:

  • $11,670 to $46,680 for individuals
  • $15,730 to $62,920 for a family of 2
  • $19,790 to $79,160 for a family of 3
  • $23,850 to $95,400 for a family of 4
  • $27,910 to $111,640 for a family of 5
  • $31,970 to $127,880 for a family of 6
  • $36,030 to $144,120 for a family of 7
  • $40,090 to $160,360 for a family of 8

There are also subsidies that many nannies may be able to take advantage of. The Kaiser Family Foundation has created a subsidy calculator that provides health insurance premium and subsidies estimates for people purchasing their own health insurance in the exchanges created by the ACA. Enter your income, age, and family size to estimate your eligibility for subsidies and how much you could spend on health insurance. You’ll be able to see if you qualify for the premium tax credit or cost-sharing subsidies.

For more information, visit Healthcare.gov or contact us at (518) 348-0400.

HRAs: A Great Option for Employee Health Insurance

HRA nanniesHealth Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) are a creative option for household employers with a range of budgets who want to offer a contribution program for health-related expenses as an employee benefit.

HRAs have been the best option for healthcare benefits in the household employment industry for many years – whether you use an HRA as a standalone option or combine it with a major medical insurance plan.

HRAs are flexible, convenient, and cost-effective, offering:

  • Freedom of choice to help control healthcare costs for your nanny, senior care worker, or other household employee
  • Freedom of control, making your employee accountable for the management of their medical treatments
  • Convenient roll-over feature so you don’t lose your contributions at the end of the year or when an employee leaves
  • Flexible budget options – contribution amounts that you determine
  • Versatility- an HRA can be used alongside other savings accounts and health options and can be used to fund insurance premiums and deductibles
  • Popular with the employee – HRAs use employer contributions, not employee salary deductions

HRAs allow employees and employers to take advantage of the lower premiums offered by high-deductible major medical plans and help keep healthcare costs under control. The employee becomes more self-reliant, aware of healthcare issues, and develops better judgment with health-related costs and arrangements.

The employer offers a useable, affordable employment benefit to their employee that helps recruit and retain the best employees, but doesn’t break the bank.

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

Avoiding a Household Employee Injury

avoiding a household employee injuryA satisfying workplace is only obtained in a healthy and safe environment. It is of utmost concern when a nanny or other household employee is taking care of family members, particularly children and seniors who are more susceptible to household injuries and accidents. Aside from federal, state, and local laws governing a healthy and safe workplace, household employers may take some basic steps to ensure household safety. These home safety measures apply to any home or household member, and can easily apply to household workers. By reviewing the list below, you will be better prepared to avoid a household employee injury.

Top Five Workplace Injuries

While these are the top workplace injuries for all workplaces—not just the home—many are relevant to the home environment and show that when someone is employed in the home it is still his or her workplace, and therefore workplace safety is just as relevant as in another location. Here are the top five workplace injuries based on the 2013 Liberty Mutual Insurance Workplace Safety Index.

  1. Overexertion:  Household workers have to do a lot of manual handling. Sometimes this can be a lot of lifting or other activities that require the use of hands and limbs required for elderly caregiving and work activities related to nursing, carrying children or gardening, to name just a few. Incidents that can relate to overexertion involve hand and arm strain and back pain.
  2. Falls On Same Level:  This pertains to falls that have happened on same level surfaces. Common injuries filed in this category are slipping on wet floors, falling on snow covered surfaces, and others. If an employee falls on your property and is injured because of a slippery sidewalk, or a wet bathroom, they have a workplace injury.
  3. Struck By An Object:  This is usually from a tool falling on the head of the employee from above, and can be relevant to the household industry if the employee works outside, such as a gardener, or sometimes in the home (such as a chef).
  4. Falls To Lower Level:  Falling from stairways, roofs, ladders, and other elevated areas are common injury-related occurrances. Homes that contain stairs or household work that requires ladders (such as gardening) can therefore cause these types of workplace injuries and care should be taken to prevent falls with the proper installation of handrails and so forth.
  5. Bodily Reactions:  Slips and trips are, without a doubt, among the most common accidents occurring in the workplace. Slips and trips can happen anywhere—including the home. Household employers therefore should protect themselves against liability of them occurring in their home with regard to their employee.

Because having an employee carries a risk of injury in your home, we highly recommend having a workers’ compensation insurance policy in place (and many states require you to have such a policy). Workers’ compensation will cover necessary medical bills and a portion of your employee’s wages should he/she become injured or ill as a result of duties. This ultimately protects you, as an employer, from a lawsuit. Another benefit is the security knowing that coverage is available in the event of an employee injury on the job.

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