Best Practices for Household Employers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mar 20, 2020 | COVID-19, Household Employee Management, Household Employer Policies


As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, communication is essential between families and their employees. Everyone is feeling uncertain during this time and there is so much that is unknown as we move forward.

As a family with someone working in their home, you may have questions on how to manage your employee during this COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll share some best practices and questions to consider as you navigate this situation with your employee.

Topics to discuss with your employee

As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, communication is essential between families and their employees. Everyone is feeling uncertain during this time and there is so much that is unknown as we move forward.

These may include:

  • What if your employee may be sick and you don’t want them to come to work? Or your employee needs to care for a family member, like a child or parent, who is sick?
  • What if your employee doesn’t want to come to work at your home because they’re afraid they will get infected?
  • Does your work agreement address paid time off and sick leave?
  • What types of government relief are available to my employee if I can’t continue to pay them or terminate employment?
  • What can we do if my employee hasn’t been paid legally and government relief like unemployment and paid sick leave laws are not available?
  • What if my children or someone in my home is sick and I don’t want my nanny to come to work?
  • What if I need to work from home and I still want my nanny to care for my children?
  • What if I work in a job that is a high risk for exposure (such as at a hospital) and my employee is uncomfortable coming to work?
  • What should your employee do if they are working and start to feel ill?
  • How will your nanny’s routine change if your children are home from school for an extended period?
  • What if I’m considered an essential employee (doctor, nurse, first responder, etc.) and need to go work and rely on my nanny for childcare?

Once you know the answers to these questions, talk with your employee. Let them know how you plan to handle these situations. They are likely feeling anxious about this unsettling time and would appreciate understanding how you plan to approach the coronavirus outbreak. You can also seek their input to make them feel part of the solution.

Our previous posts:

are good starting points for addressing some of these questions with your employee.

Here we’ll discuss how to handle three situations you may be in with the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Your employee can’t work because they are sick
  • You tell your employee to stay home
  • You’re working from home with a nanny caring for your children

For more information on how to protect yourself from COVID-19 and what to do if you think you are sick, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s resource page.

Your employee can’t work because they are sick

If your nanny or other household employee has coronavirus symptoms or has contracted the disease, they need to stay home. This will help stop the spread of the virus and keep your family safe.

Share how your employee can still receive pay while not working.

Continue to pay your employee as usual

Another option is to continue to pay your employee as normal. If this is not a financial hardship, you may want to keep paying your employee. This would be especially helpful for a nanny who may not be able to find other employment to replace the loss in income during this challenging time. Even as they face other struggles, at least they know they have a steady paycheck.

You tell your employee to stay home

If you’re practicing social distancing, have someone in your home affected by coronavirus or with symptoms, or living under a shelter-in-place order, you may need to tell your employee to stay home. Unemployment benefits may be available to employees who are told not to come to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Review your work agreement

Again, you’ll want to review your work agreement. If you guarantee hours for your employee, which is a popular practice for families who employ nannies, you will need to continue paying your worker. With guaranteed hours, employees are paid for a certain number of hours whether they work them or not.

Continue paying your employee

Even without guaranteed hours, you could continue to pay your employee during the time you’ve asked them to stay home. As mentioned, this will help ease the mind of your employee knowing they’ll be paid during the coronavirus outbreak.

Terminating your employee

If your employee is not working for you and is not sick, should you end their employment (even temporarily) and have them collect unemployment?

Unemployment benefits only provide partial income replacement.

While continuing to pay your employee as usual may be a better alternative to unemployment, there may come a time when you can’t afford to pay your worker. Terminating them and having them collect unemployment now becomes an option.

Here is some advice on how to file for benefits and read our Complete Guide to Unemployment Benefits Under the CARES Act.

Working from home with your nanny

If you are asked to work from home and have young children or your kids are home from school, you may still want your nanny to report to work provided everyone is healthy.

You’ll need to establish some parameters with your children. Even though you (and maybe even your partner) are home, it’s still a workday for you and you may not be able to spend all day with them. You could plan to have lunch together or maybe take a short break at some point in the day. Also, you need to let your nanny do their job. You trust them to care for your children when you’re not there and it should be no different when you’re working from home.

GTM Payroll Services is here to help

If you have any household employment questions during the coronavirus pandemic, don’t hesitate to contact us at (800) 929-9213. We’ll be happy to help.

Need more personalized assistance? Our HR Concierge Service (pdf) can help you handle any HR issues, comply with labor laws, and create peace of mind in your home. Call (800) 929-9213 to learn more or get started.

For GTM clients, we want to reassure you that your payroll will continue to process as normal, and your employee(s) will continue to receive their pay. You can continue to reach us by phone, email, and live chat.

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