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Nannies - childcare options

Nannies are a popular option. Know what to expect if you employ a nanny and how to find the right nanny for your child


Posted: 20 August 2010
by Maria Muennich

Nannies - childcare with added chores

A nanny comes to your own home to look after your baby or children and effectively replaces a parent in the home. A nanny usually takes on responsibility for all your child's needs including food shopping, cooking, cleaning (children's areas of the home), laundry and taking your child to any playgroups, classes or doctor's appointments as you see fit.

There is no legal requirement for a nanny to have a professional qualification nor be registered with Ofsted's Childrcare Register, as she works largely in your home. However, many nannies do have professional qualifications such as CACHE diplomas (Council for Awards in Children’s Care and Education), NVQs, an Advanced Modern Apprenticeship in Early Years Care and Education, a certificate from a recognised Nanny College or an international nanny qualification.

Some nannies will have voluntarily applied for the Ofsted Childcare register, in which case they will have had to have met certain criteria in order to be registered. These requirements include holding an appropriate first-aid qualification, training in the core skills needed, public liability insurance and a clear check with the Criminal Records Bureau. Nanny Agencies will usually (but not always) have a set of minimum requirements that nannies need to meet in order to be on their books, but these requirements vary from agency to agency.

Nannies can come to your house daily, or you may wish to have a live-in nanny (may be more flexible in terms of hours and responsibilities) in which case you will need to provide a suitable private room for her as well as all her meals. Another option is sharing a nanny with another family, which can work in many different ways (different days working at different houses, all the children being cared for together in one house etc.). When more than two families share a nanny the nanny needs to be registered as a childminder on Ofsted's Childcare register.

Pros

  • A nanny works in your own home so you don't have to get your child ready and take her anywhere in the morning. Your child will also be his/her familial environment
  • Your child will have a single main carer besides you as parents
  • A nanny may have professional qualifications which can reassure you that she is well-trained and equipped to deal with childcare challenges and emergencies
  • A nanny takes on responsibility for a broad range of childcare-related needs around the house including cooking and some cleaning, freeing up more of your time
  • A nanny should follow your wishes expressly in terms of nutrition, discipline and routine
  • You can usually find a nanny to work hours which suit you, although this will be more difficult if you are wanting to cover shift work
  • You can choose a live-in or live out nanny according to your needs, preferences and finances
  • A nanny will look after your child when s/he is ill
  • A nanny can be a relatively economical option if you have several children to be cared for
  • Some nannies are open to a nanny-share option, where she works for two families, reducing the costs for both

Cons

  • You take on a large financial responsibility with a nanny and as an employer you will need to pay taxes and National Insurance contributions as well as her salary - a nanny is usually an expensive option for the care of only one child (unless you have a nanny-share)
  • As a nanny does not have to be registered with the Children's you will need to make sure that s/he has a clean bill from a Criminal Records check, as well as needing to check her qualifications and references carefully (agencies may do this for you)
  • You may not be comfortable with someone working in your home
  • If you opt for a live-in nanny you need to be prepared for what impact this may have on your family life

Rates

According to the Nannytax 2009 wages survey (released in Jan 2010), the average weekly salaries for nannies (after tax and NI have been deducted) are as follows:

Daily nannies

Central London: £466
Outer London and home counties: £380
Other cities and towns: £332
Country: £321

Live-in nannies

Central London: £355
Outer London and home counties: £315
Other cities and towns: £280
Country: £283

If a nanny is listed with Ofsted's Voluntary Childcare Register then as her employer you may be entitled to financial relief relating to her employment.

When drawing up a contract with a nanny make sure you cover her wage details (including National Insurance an tax contributions), details of how wages will be paid, the hours or work and the duties to be included, agreed holidays (specify if there are limitations with when these may be taken and how far in advance they should be organised), the start date and length of any trial period.

Nanny interview questions

Once you have a shortlist of applicants, it's essential that you interview a prospective nanny in person and allow plenty of time for the interview. Make sure you introduce the nanny to your child/children to see how they respond to one another.

  • Does the nanny hold any appropriate qualifications and if so, what? Does she have the certificates for you to see?
  • Is the nanny registered with the Ofsted Childcare Register? (Not necessary but means that certain minimum requirements are met)
  • Why did the nanny choose this career?
  • How long has she been a nanny?
  • What are her reasons for leaving her last two positions?
  • What kinds of activities would she see as suitable for undertaking with your child/children?
  • Ask the nanny to describe how a typical day caring for your child might run.
  • Is the nanny happy working the hours which you require?
  • Is the nanny happy to do all the duties you expect?
  • If you need her to drive your children places, does the nanny have a clean driving license/have driving experience?
  • Find out what the nanny's opinions are in terms of nutrition, routine and discipline. Do these gel with your own requirements in these areas, if not, can the nanny assure you that she'll follow your requirements?
  • Does the nanny have experience of children at the same ages/ in the same numbers?
  • Does the nanny have experience of providing any special requirements you may have e.g. special dietary requirements, dealing with severe allergies, caring for a special needs child?
  • How does the nanny communicate with parents, particularly to address any problems that arise?
  • What references can the nanny provide?
  • How do your children like the nanny, how do they interact with one another?

Bear in mind that the nany will also have many questions for you, and will also be interviewing you in a sense as a prospective employer. Do make sure she has chance to ask you questions and be ready with character references she can follow up for you / you and your partner (this could be a previous nanny, a friend or anyone holding a respectable position who knows you well).

Finding a nanny

You should be able to find a nanny to meet your needs and expectations, as long as these are reasonable, but don't expect to be able to find someone suitable in just a couple of weeks. It's a good idea to start your search two to three months before you want a nanny to start working for you.

Nanny agencies

One of the easiest, and usually quickest, ways to find a nanny is through a reputable agency, which will often have have minimum requirements in terms of qualifications and experience, and should have vetted all their nannies carefully. Some nanny agencies deal only with nannies who have certain qualifications, but don't assume all agencies have the same requirements and standards, and do be sure to ask an agency exactly how they vet their nannies and what checks they conduct.

There are many nanny agencies to choose from, some of which specialise in particular services such as supplying nannies trained to deal with special needs, or nanny share options. You can find local nanny agencies through an online search or in adverts in magazines or your local paper, but the best method is usually to ask friends for recommendations. Expect to pay a fee when using a nanny agency.

Non-agency websites

Nannies may also list their services on directory websites, sometimes for a fee, but there may be no vetting procedure to register with the website, so always check qualifications carefully. Some websites specialise in specific requirements, such as Nannyshare.co.uk an online database of families looking to share a nanny.

Advertising

You can place your own ad for a nanny on similar nanny websites, or place an ad in a relevant magazine or local paper. Nannies may also scour advertising boards at schools, child centres and newsagents for jobs. Your ad should list your requirements and approximate location and ask applicants to prepare a CV and covering letter detailing their qualifications, experience and interest in the job. It's safer to give a PO Box or number rather than listing your full address in an advert.

Although it is often a cheaper option, it may well take you longer to find a nanny this way than through an agency.

Word of mouth Asking friends and other parents for recommendations is often a good way of finding a reliable nanny. Parent networks, organisations and websites can all be good sources of information, but bear in mind that other people may have different expectations from a nanny than you do, and the connection between a nanny and her employers and their children is a very personal one: what works for one family won't necessarily work for another.

Return to our guide to childcare.


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