What You Need to Know Before Getting a Nanny Cam

nanny camWhile the hope is always that a family will have a great relationship with their nanny, many times that’s not the case. Tragic incidents have occurred in homes around the country involving nannies, leading some parents to want to install a hidden camera known as a “nanny cam” so they can keep an eye on their children during the nanny’s shift. These devices aren’t solely for nannies either – some families use them to keep tabs on pet sitters or housekeepers – anyone who might be in the home when the parents are not.

While nanny cams may provide peace of mind for parents, it’s crucial to understand the laws regarding these surveillance devices before you install one in your own home.

It is legal in all 50 states for a household employer to install a hidden camera in their home. It is illegal, however, to place a nanny cam in a private area such as a bathroom or, for live-in nannies, their own bedroom. Typically these cameras are installed in a playroom, the kids’ rooms, or other general living areas.

While making video recordings is legal in all states, recording audio secretly is not always legal. In California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, you cannot use hidden audio recording devices. But it is legal in New York.

It’s also important to keep in mind that if you install a nanny cam, the recordings can only be used for the monitoring of your home and loved ones. If you use the footage for business purposes or share the recordings with others, you could face legal trouble.

The benefit of having a nanny cam is being able to monitor how your children are being cared for, and to be able to address any issues immediately. It is up to the family whether or not to tell the nanny about the camera(s) – if you are installing the device based on a suspicion you have, then you may wish to keep the camera a secret if you’re hoping to “catch them in the act.” But if you are merely using it for general home safety, you might want to disclose this information to your nanny when you install it or when you hire the nanny. If you don’t tell her and she happens to find the hidden camera on her own, it could negatively impact the level of trust she has with you and your relationship could suffer. If you decide to inform the nanny about the device, you may wish to have her sign a release form stating that she is aware she is being recorded.

A New England Nanny seeks to minimize the need for our families to install nanny cams through our rigorous background checks and screening process. But we also understand that some families just want an extra layer of security when it comes to those they love most. If you have any questions regarding nanny cams, please contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Payroll and Tax FAQs from Nannies

payroll and tax faqs from nanniesAs a nanny or other domestic worker, you may have questions about your employment status and tax obligations. Even if it’s just a temporary placement, it’s important to understanding your (and your employer’s) responsibilities at the beginning of employment.

Here are some payroll and tax FAQs from household employees.

Am I an employee or an independent contractor?

In almost all situations, nannies and other household workers are employees and not independent contractors. If you take instruction from the employer, have your schedule set by the employer and use your employer’s supplies, tools, and equipment, then you are an employee. If you work under your own conditions, sets your own schedule and use your own supplies, then you are an independent contractor. Tax agencies like the IRS treat nannies the same way as people who work in an office, retail store, or restaurant.

Do taxes need to be taken out of my paychecks?

Yes, if you earn more than $2,100 (2018) from one family during the year. In that case, your employer must withhold Social Security at 6.2% and Medicare at 1.45% of your gross pay. Your marital status and how many allowances you choose to claim on your W-4 form will also impact how much federal and state income tax is withheld from your paycheck.

Will I need to pay any taxes?

Even if you earn less than $2,100 (2018) from any family, you will still have to report any wages earned during the year on your annual income tax return. Be sure to keep an accurate record of your earnings to help you pay both federal and state income taxes for the calendar year when you file your tax returns.

Our friends at GTM Payroll Services have a nanny tax calculator to help you figure out how much in taxes will be withheld from your paycheck.

What if my employer doesn’t want to pay taxes?

Your employer is required by law to withhold taxes if they are paying you more than $2,100 (2018) in a year. We realize that many families want to avoid paying nanny taxes and would prefer to pay you “off the books.” But the truth is that being paid legally isn’t just in their best interest – it’s in yours as well. Here are some reasons why your employer should follow the law:

  • Your employer can take advantage of their employer’s flexible-spending plan (commonly called an FSA) and deduct your salary as a qualifying expense.
  • The IRS may investigate, fine or penalize families that don’t report your wages; they must withhold taxes for you and disclose the amount on their personal income tax return.
  • In order to add funds to your Social Security account, give you the ability to obtain credit, and protect you if you become unemployed, you must be paid legally.
  • You and your employer will have a happier employment relationship. The risk of an IRS audit for your employer is greatly reduced , as is the risk of hefty fines for not following the law. And you will have a legal, recorded employment history and be eligible for Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment assistance.

Read more about legal pay for household workers, and contact us at (518) 348-0400 for more assistance.

Hiring a “Mary Poppins” Nanny

hiring mary poppins nannyHaving placed nannies for over 25 years, we can say honestly we have seen it all when it comes to families hiring in-home caregivers. When a new mom calls to find out about our agency, one thing we often hear is “Can I have a Mary Poppins nanny?” Unfortunately, wanting to hire Mary Poppins and pay her $10 an hour is not very realistic. Mary Poppins used magic to care for the Banks children. The nannies we place do not seem to have those magic powers. But they are loving and nurturing individuals who are dedicated to caring for children and making a difference in a child’s life (despite not having a fashionable hat and a parrot umbrella when they show up on your doorstep).

Families need to be honest about their expectations of the person they will be hiring, as well as their budget. Although many tend to equate babysitters and nannies, ask yourself whether you would hire the high school student down the street care to care for your 4-week old baby on a full-time basis. Nannies are not babysitters. In fact, the majority of them have chosen this as their career.

From our years of experience, there are a few key points to keep in mind when hiring a nanny:

  • Nannies need to be accommodating and flexible with the families they work with. On the flip side, the family also needs to be accommodating and flexible with the nanny they work with.
  • Make sure there is a connection with the nanny and feel comfortable with your decision. We’ve seen families hire the first person they interview and others who hire the tenth person.
  • Consider your job description and the attributes you are looking for in the person you hire.
  • Share your child rearing philosophies with the candidates; having the same approach can be very helpful, since it means both of you are on the same page.

As you go through the process of interviewing various personalities, if you finally think you found your “Mary Poppins” (or as close as you can get), make sure to check references and conduct a background check. We have encountered so many families that find their nannies elsewhere and end up having to come back to the agency for a replacement because they did not do the proper screening prior to hiring.

Our last tip: if anyone mentions paying your nanny “off the books,” understand that as a household employer, you are responsible for paying your nanny legally.

We have heard so many wonderful stories about how a nanny becomes a part of the family. A New England Nanny has placed nannies who have been working with the same families for 5, or even 10 years, and that is what makes our job so rewarding. Call us at (518) 348-0400 and let us know how we can help you!

Making the Relationship Work: A Nanny’s Perspective

making nanny relationship workMany years ago, one of our nannies – Siobhan – provided some great insight into how families and nannies can keep their relationship healthy and productive. We thought it would be a good time to revisit this, as her observations and advice still ring true.

I have been a full time nanny for over 6 years now, and during that time I have learned a lot about forming a great relationship with the families I have worked for. As with any type of relationship, the realtionship between family and nanny should include both trust and open communication so that it can be successful in the long term.

Having a nanny is unlike any other boss-employee relationship. The nanny is not there to help you run a business; instead you have a nanny to help teach your children and treat them in the same way that you would.

Having an open stream of communication is very important right from the start. Letting your nanny know what your expectations are early on is a great way to ensure that you are on the same page moving forward.

Trust is another important part of having a nanny. You need to trust that if something goes wrong or something new and exciting happens then your nanny will tell you about it. For example, if there is a problem with your children’s behavior, your nanny should feel comfortable telling you about it. Being on the same page with how you want your children to behave is very important. If your nanny does not allow your children to jump on the bed for safety reasons, but you let them do it, then your children will be confused and will say “But mommy lets me do it!”

Remember that your nanny is always using her best judgment in all of the different situations that arise when taking care of children. If your nanny puts your child in time-out, there was probably a good reason for doing so. If you then come home and tell your child that they can get out of time-out, you will just be undermining the nanny’s judgment and send a message to your child that they do not have to listen to the nanny when you are around.

The ultimate goal is for you to feel like your nanny is part of your family’s team. You should feel completely at ease leaving your children with their nanny, knowing that when you get home your children will be healthy and happy, and your house will be in order.

 

Retaining Your Nanny: an Infographic

Once you’ve found the perfect nanny for your family, you’ll want to do all that you can to retain your nanny. After putting a lot of time and effort into finding the right match, you’ll want to keep a good employee for as long as possible. Losing one employee and searching for a replacement is costly, time-consuming, and disruptive to your family, especially your children.

Based on recent surveys of household employers and nannies, our friends at GTM Payroll Services have created this infographic, which lays out the best practices for retaining your nanny. It includes what a nanny is looking for in a family, how to show appreciation for your nanny with bonuses and benefits, and why nannies want to be paid legally.

Establish your family as an employer nannies want to work for and improve their job satisfaction by following this data. A happier nanny leads to a more productive workplace – not to mention happier children! Click the image below for a larger version of the “Retaining Your Nanny” infographic.

retaining your nanny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Performance Review for Your Nanny

performance reviews for nanniesCompanies of all sizes establish periodic (written) reviews and evaluations of employees. It is a good employment practice for household employers to conduct performance reviews for nannies, because it allows the employer and employee to communicate what the employee has accomplished and areas that may need development. With the reviews, nannies are provided an opportunity to improve, and the employer has a documented history of the nanny’s performance and problems.

While informal employer-employee discussions relating to job performance and goals are encouraged and expected throughout a nanny’s tenure, it is common practice for an employer to perform a formal written performance review at the end of an employee’s introductory period, and then on a scheduled basis. Many employers choose to review nannies on a yearly basis. Some prefer to evaluate employees every six months. The work agreement and the employee handbook should detail expected review times.

When reviewing a nanny’s work performance, employers need to remember to focus on work performance and not on the employee’s personality or characteristics. Employers should:

  • be as positive as possible, but very clear about situations—speak frankly and in a straightforward manner;
  • offer a review of both strengths and weaknesses;
  • cite specific examples of when the employee has exceeded, met, or failed job expectations;
  • set reasonable goals for the employee to work toward (and meet) in developing and improving skills;
  • schedule a second review to determine the employee’s progress if her or his performance is weak (this could be done in three months or six months—whichever is considered a fair amount of time for the employee to improve and demonstrate better performance); and,
  • list in the review any disciplinary actions, including termination, if the employee fails to improve his or her performance.

Employees may thoroughly examine all performance reviews and may provide a written opinion to be placed in the personnel file. Some evaluation forms have a designated area for the employee’s response. It is common practice for both the employer and employee to both sign the review. This documentation helps protect the employer from any false claim made by a current or former nanny.

Performance reviews may or may not be accompanied by a salary increase consideration. Employers should clearly state that salary increases are awarded in light of an employee’s significant performance and at the employer’s discretion—and certainly are not guaranteed. Salary increases are evaluated by the employee’s:

  • ability to perform all job tasks and functions;
  • attendance and punctuality;
  • willingness to work;
  • ability to cooperate with other employees and household members; and,
  • adherence to all household policies.

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

Reasonable Suspicion of Nanny’s Drug or Alcohol Use

reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol useEnsuring a safe and healthy workplace is a top concern of household employers, and one of the ways to accomplish this is to inform your nanny or other employee that drug and alcohol use is not permitted. But what if you suspect your nanny is not following this rule?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers may be able to identify workers with substance abuse problems by noting aspects of their performance and behavior. While these symptoms may not mean that a worker has an alcohol or a drug abuse problem, employers should be alert to any of these aspects and may have a nanny or other household employee submit to a drug test on “reasonable suspicion.” It is very helpful to have documentation of what observable physical characteristics and behaviors were used as a basis for that reasonable suspicion in case you are ever challenged on it.

Remember, it is not the employer’s job to diagnose substance abuse, but it is the employer’s job to ensure health and safety within the work environment. Clear and firm communication with the employee focused on his or her job performance is key, as is explaining the drug-free workplace policy, performance policies, and what will occur when performance expectations are not met.

Our friends at GTM Payroll Services have created an Alcohol and Drug Use Reasonable Suspicion Checklist to guide you on what symptoms to look for and what testing procedures to follow should you deem it necessary.

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

 

Drug Use in the Workplace – Your Home

drug use in the workplaceMarijuana has been in the news a lot lately. In recent years, recreational use has become legal in Colorado, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington D.C. Plus more than twenty-five states allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Recent polls show, for the first time in history, that a majority of Americans would approve of complete legalization of marijuana. So what does all this mean for employers (including household employers), particularly those in states where recreational use is legal or may become legal?

The important thing to remember is that none of these laws require an employer to allow drug use in the workplace, or to tolerate employees who come to work under the influence. If you have a drug-free policy in place for your home, you are not required to alter it. Therefore, your nanny or other employee that violates this policy can still be disciplined or terminated, regardless of what the laws in New York are regarding marijuana legality.

The difficulty that may arise in an employer’s mind relates to what your employee does in their time away from your home, their workplace. If your nanny has a few drinks after work, you might not think twice about it. But if she smoked marijuana after work (if you lived in a state where it’s legal), would you have a different reaction?

This all comes down to your personal choices, and these issues should be discussed with a candidate prior to hiring. You have the right to implement a drug-free workplace policy. Included in the employee handbook, the policy needs to clearly state why the policy is being implemented—to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. Include consequences, such as immediate dismissal, but take care that these consequences are consistent with other existing personnel policies, and of course, any applicable laws.

In the drug-free workplace policy, an employer may want to include information on drug testing. While most private employers have the right to test for a wide variety of substances, federal, state, and local regulations may apply. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers who drug test without a drug-testing policy are exposed to liability. Employers may request that employees take a drug test after a job is offered and that employment is contingent upon a successful outcome. Local drug stores sell drug testing kits for about $20.

Again, just because marijuana is now legal in many places, you still have the right to enforce a drug-free environment for your workplace. If the laws change in New York, it may be prudent to make changes to your policy to clarify what you expect from your employee in terms of impairment, safety, marijuana use, and termination.

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

Creative Benefits for Nannies

creative benefits for nanniesFamilies looking to recruit the best household employees need ways to attract them, especially if they’re unable to pay higher salaries. Something that often does the trick is finding some creative benefits for nannies, particularly if those benefits address specific needs. Here are a few ideas.

Retirement Benefits
One benefit to consider is a 401K plan. Our affiliate company, GTM Payroll Services, has a SIMPLE 401K Plan offered through the National Household Employers Association (NHEA) that will not only give you a recruiting advantage over other families without a 401K plan and a retention tool for your nanny, but it will also help your employee build an excellent source of retirement income and experience the benefits of tax-deferred growth. Other options are the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and the Roth IRAboth are fairly simple programs to establish as an employee benefit, and therefore, suitable as a household employee benefit.

Educational Reimbursement
Continuing education, training, seminars, and conferences play an important role in helping promote professional growth and elevate employee performance—making the educational reimbursement benefit a win-win proposition for both the employer and employee. You may also consider paying for professional membership fees or trade journal subscriptions. Employers who offer this benefit can claim up to $5,250 tax-free for employer-provided educational assistance; graduate-level course work is also covered. The IRS does state that employers who offer tax-free educational assistance are required to have a written plan describing the terms and benefits. If you decide to offer this benefit, laying out an educational assistance plan in your employee handbook or work agreement is essential.

Student Loan Repayment
For those nannies that have recently graduated, many of them may have accumulated substantial debt. A benefit families may wish to offer current or prospective employees is student loan repayment. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that repayment of a student loan is considered taxable income, and at present there’s no tax write-off for employers who offer a loan repayment benefit. Employers, however, do have some leeway on how to offer the benefit. The amount of the benefit can be offered monthly or as a lump sum, it can be capped, and it can be tied to an employee match. A waiting period is also fine.

Prepaid Legal Services
Some employers offer prepaid legal services as an employee benefit. Prepaid legal services may involve citizenship, divorce, adoption, and so on, and create a unique value to nannies who require legal advice and representation. Employers need to clearly state in the work agreement and the employee handbook the premium requirements for prepaid legal services, and if such services are provided at the employer’s discretion.

A few other benefit ideas include:

  • Provide your nanny with a mileage reimbursement or a gas card to help with their commute or with transporting children.
  • If your nanny has their own car, provide an auto club membership or periodically cover the costs of tune-ups and oil changes.
  • Establish an employee assistance plan or gift certificate to a spa/health club as a way to help your nanny de-stress.
  • Provide your nanny with scheduled free time each week for them to make personal errands and phone calls.

If you’re looking for an enticing benefit to attract new talent, one of the benefits described above may be something to consider. If these benefits aren’t desirable or doable, that’s okay. The important thing is that you appeal to potential employees by distinguishing yourself, and there’s no one way to do that!

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

Register for National Nanny Training Day 2017!

national nanny training day 2017Calling all nannies! Registration is now open for our annual educational event, National Nanny Training Day.

We hope you can join us for this FREE event. You’ll hear from a management consultant about professionalism in the workplace; see a presentation on how nannies should be prepared for, react to, and calm the children in her care in the event of an emergency; learn the benefits of being paid on the books; receive CPR training; and more! Lunch will be provided as well, along with raffle prizes and great giveaways. We know this year’s event is going to be bigger and better than ever!

CPR will be offered for those of you who did not attend last year. (If you participated last year, your certificate is good for another year.)

Did we mention it’s FREE? Click here to register – don’t miss out on what is always a fun and educational event!