By Dana Barnett, Washington State Organizer, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network
(Estimated reading time: 4 minutes)
Deciding on a childcare provider for our little ones can be one of the biggest decisions that we make early on as parents. We all want the best relationship between us, a nanny, and our child, and many of us are at a loss about what our role is when we employ a nanny for the first time. It can be strange or surprising to think of ourselves as employers and our home as a workplace, but in fact, when we hire a nanny we are subject to legal requirements and other responsibilities. At Hand in Hand The Domestic Employers Network, we’re here to help families foster dignified and respectful working conditions in their homes.
We will share some of the legal requirements and the best practices for employing a nanny in your home, which many households are not aware of.
Legal Requirements: Nannies and other domestic workers were historically excluded from basic labor protections and are still in the process of gaining basic rights. Because of this, the laws vary by state and even sometimes by city. Unfortunately, most Washington State labor laws still exclude domestic workers. The city of Seattle offers more protections for domestic workers. For this reason, we hold Seattle’s ordinance as a model for employers. This article provides information about a few of the legal requirements in Seattle* as well as additional best practices, since legal requirements are just the bare minimum that all employers should provide.
- Fair Wages and Overtime: Nannies may not be paid under the minimum wage and should receive time and a half for hours worked over 40 hours per week. In a nanny share, each family must pay at least the minimum wage. However, the minimum wage is not a living wage and is far below the going rate in the Pacific Northwest! You can use this resource for calculating fair wages from the Nanny Parent Connection.
- Meal and Rest Breaks: Nannies should receive a 30-minute meal period for every five hours worked, and a 10-minute rest break during four hours of work. Rest breaks are always paid, and meal periods may be unpaid depending on the circumstances.
If a nanny is unable to get a 30-minute uninterrupted break, regularly or on a given day, they should be paid an additional 30 minutes at their rate, on top of their regular hours. Breaks are so important, and they can be tricky in this unique work environment. For more information and tips, check out our new resource about what you need to know about meal and rest breaks for nannies.
- Paid Sick and Safe Time: Everyone needs to be able to take time off to care for their own health and safety as well as that of their family members. In Seattle, and throughout Washington state, employers are required to provide one hour of sick and safe time for every 40 hours worked.
- Day of Rest: Nannies are entitled to a full day off (and should not be on call) for every six days worked. This is most commonly applicable to situations where childcare providers are living in your home.
Additional Best Practices:
- Work Agreements: One of our top recommendations at Hand in Hand is to make a work agreement with the nanny you employ. Work agreements are a vehicle for you and the nanny to communicate clearly about expectations and needs. They are key to having a good relationship and avoiding or managing conflict.
- Vacations, Holidays, Family Medical Leave: These are benefits that most working people in the US have, and that many of us find essential. We recommend that you offer at least 2 weeks of paid vacation a year, paid time off on the major federal holidays, or agreed upon holidays of the employee’s choice, and include at least one month of paid family or medical leave in the event that the nanny has a family or medical emergency. Read more about navigating paid time off for nannies.
- Health Care: We all know how important and expensive health care can be. While you may not be able to fully cover the cost of a plan, here are some tips for how to assist the nanny in your home with access to health care for themselves and their family.
Hiring a nanny can be overwhelming and it can also be an essential lifeline for you and your family. We hope this information will provide you with a foundation to build and maintain a wonderful relationship with the person you hire in your home! Interested in a free consultation? Set up an appointment with a member of Hand in Hand.
*This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.
About the Author
Dana has been active in social movement organizations for equity and justice across a range of issues and campaigns. Prior to joining Hand in Hand, Dana worked for over two decades as a mediator, and race equity trainer, both on staff for organizations like the Washington State Bar Association and the Mediation Center of Dutchess County, as well as a consultant. Dana became involved with the domestic worker rights movement in 2019 and served as a member of the Seattle Domestic worker standards board where she was the chair. Dana also served as a member of the Washington State Labor & Industry advisory board for ending the exclusion of domestic workers’ eligibility for workers’ compensation.
Dana and her partner are East Coast transplants in Seattle who are raising their child far away from family and support networks, and deeply appreciate the domestic workers in their lives who make it possible to hold together a household and work full-time. She is excited to continue that work as the Washington Organizer for Hand in Hand and to keep building the domestic workers’ rights movement in Seattle centered around care, interdependence, solidarity, self-determination, and dignity.