Nanny – Do you get laid off every summer ?

You needn’t get the Summer blues just because you’re a nanny.
By Nanny X,
It always amazes me just how quickly summer descends in the City. By mid-March parents are feverishly sourcing the best camps. By April/May families are looking at their calendars planning their annual vacation. Come June school is winding down. In the midst of all this frenetic activity a nanny can often feel side-lined.
For most nannies, the summer brings along with it a certain kind of dread. It doesn’t matter how invaluable her services are for the rest of the year, over the summer, her very job survival can hang in the balance. Why is this?
1) Nanny herself avoids the issue and simply hopes for some loyalty and a schedule she can work to.
2) Parents find themselves in a moving landscape where their children’s needs are in constant flux, and as such, thinking about the nanny is way down the to-do list.
3) The cost of camp, vacations and out-of-school activities in the City makes it cost-prohibitive to maintain a full-time nanny.
4) Parents deliberately avoid addressing the ‘nanny in the summer’ issue by waiting until the last minute to disclose what their plans are.
Just before summer officially breaks the chatter amongst nannies contains a familiar theme: what will they do with me over the summer? Will my hours go down when school resumes? I hope they don’t ask me to live-in at their country house.
Nannies with children of their own face a double quandary: how can I remain in service while organizing my own children’s downtime?
Essentially the answer to the ‘summer lay-off’ is simple. It is the exact same solution to almost every problem governing childcare. It is this: define in an annual review (beginning in January of every year) a new contract or agreement that governs: pay, duties, sick-days, vacation pay/summer retainer and over-time.
Summer retainer
When you sign a contract with an employer effectively they are buying your time and services for 12 months, not 9 months. You in turn guarantee your labor, commitment and services for that time period. If your employer is unwilling to retain your services over the summer and if they believe they have every right to ‘let you go’ without pay for 3 months of the year, then you are not being treated as a professional childcare provider. You are being viewed as a casual worker and via your consent, that is, returning every September to ‘business as usual’, you are condoning your own mistreatment.
Parents who vacation away from their usual location will often cite economic reasons for why they cannot retain their nanny June-September, but this is not a legitimate reason, if they are able to rent a second home it is a lifestyle choice. If affluent employers can get away with employing casual workers without any benefits, they will. But you as a professional nanny also share some responsibility in protecting your rights as a full-time or even part-time worker.
Spring is not the time to raise the issue of being retained over the summer, January is. When you begin a new job, lead with a contract. Contracts do the talking for you. In the contract add a clause that states both parties will re-negotiate the terms of the contract annually, at the beginning of the year. Don’t let your employers fob you off with the excuse that they can’t plan that far ahead. Most employers will know ahead of time what school or camp their children will attend over the summer.
The summer should not be synonymous with being let go or going weeks without a wage. Nannies, like all professionals, deserve to be retained during any period of time where they are available to work but their employers are not. In other words, it is not your responsibility to guarantee work it is your employer’s.
In my next article I will be outlining what your contract should look like.
Got any nanny summer horror stories? Send them in.