The outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is top-of-mind for many people especially as more families and individuals are quarantined to help stop the spread of the virus. Urban areas may be at an increased risk because they have a denser, more-traveled population.
If you employ a nanny, you may be wondering what to do if your family and/or caregiver develops symptoms or about precautions your nanny should take when caring for your children.
We’ll help guide you through the employment aspects of working and caring for children during this coronavirus outbreak. For the latest updates and detailed information on prevention, symptoms, treatment, and how the disease spreads, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s web page on Coronavirus Disease.
1. Take preventive measures for your home
Coronavirus is thought to be spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Hand washing, as well as other good hygiene practices, can help prevent spreading germs at home.
These practices include:
- Washing your hands frequently – especially when you return home after being out in public –and ensuring your nanny and children do the same.
- Placing anti-bacterial hand sanitizers throughout your home and encouraging everyone to use them frequently.
- Staying away from people who appear to be sick.
- Covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow when you sneeze or cough, dispose of tissues immediately and use hand sanitizer.
- Seeking medical attention if you begin to feel sick.
It’s also a good idea to continue disinfecting frequently touched surfaces including:
- Children’s toys
- Doorknobs and handles
- Light and dimmer switches
- Computers, tablets, and laptops
- Landline telephones
- Chair and arm rests
- Kitchen countertops
- Dining room table and chairs
- Sinks, toilets, and faucets
- Remote controls
- Alarm code keypads
- Home office desks, printers, and equipment
This can be an opportunity to teach your children about cleanliness and explain why it’s important all year long and not just in the rare instances of a virus outbreak.
2. Decide how to discuss coronavirus with your children
If your kids are old enough, they may be hearing lots of information about the coronavirus at school, from friends or on the news that may or may not be true. You and your caregiver should decide what your children need to know about the outbreak and how to act around them.
It’s recommended to discuss age-appropriate facts about the outbreak and avoid talking about your fears of the virus. Review how you can remain healthy by practicing good hygiene.
Stay calm but don’t dismiss your children’s feelings. They may be experiencing some anxiety and ignoring their concerns won’t help them manage these emotions. Talk about the facts of the situation and how you are taking preventive measures to keep them safe.
According to the CDC, children that contract the virus may only show mild symptoms (fever, runny nose, and a cough) as if they have a cold or the flu. Severe complications appear to be uncommon. Children with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk of severe infection.
3. Create a prevention plan with your nanny
Opinions about the severity of the coronavirus outbreak vary wildly. For some, they think it’s vastly overblown and wish to continue life as normal. Others are clearing the supermarket shelves of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. Most people are probably somewhere in the middle. They’re not panicking but know they need to take preventive steps to keep themselves and their children safe and healthy.
It’s important to discuss an approach with your caregiver and get their input and perspective. They may have thoughts and concerns that can be integrated into your plan. Even if your nanny doesn’t fully agree with your approach, they need to be on board and follow your directives. Ultimately, it’s your home and children so you need to feel comfortable with the strategy.
Besides the preventive measures for your home, you may want to limit using public transportation, going on errands, and visiting public places like playgrounds, libraries, and museums.
If your nanny takes public transportation to get to work, you could adjust their hours to start later and end later, so they avoid rush hour. Or you could pay for a ride-sharing service, so they steer clear of buses and subways altogether. Neither suggestion is foolproof but could cut down on possible exposure to the virus.
4. Share information that can help inform decisions
Check your state, city and/or county government websites to see if they offer email or text notifications with coronavirus updates. Both you and your nanny should sign up and discuss any new developments and how they may impact their work.
The CDC offers email updates about COVID-19.
Your children’s school or pre-school may also send emergency notifications. See if you can add your nanny to their lists. This way everyone is updated with the same information and can act accordingly.
Talk with your nanny about recent travels. Have you or your nanny visited a country like Italy or somewhere in the U.S. that is also dealing with a coronavirus outbreak? You may want to keep your nanny home if either of you may have been exposed to the virus while traveling. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. What if you or your nanny have plans to visit an area that’s considered high-risk? Will you self-quarantine upon your return or ask your nanny to do so?
If you or your nanny are feeling symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath be sure to see a doctor and inform the other party.
5. Develop an action plan
You’ll want to formulate a plan around each of these scenarios. These are questions to discuss and come to an agreement with your nanny now and not when a situation arises.
Your nanny becomes sick or develops symptoms
What happens if your nanny develops symptoms or becomes aware that they may have had contact with an infected individual? Depending on the severity of their symptoms or the risk of spreading the virus, you may not want your nanny to come to your home and be around your children.
If your nanny is sick for a short period of time, their paid sick leave and PTO we well as paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act may provide income while they’re out. You could also continue to pay their regular hours and let them preserve their sick leave if you know they’ll be back to work soon.
States and cities that mandate paid sick leave should also provide paid time off for an employee who has contracted COVID-19.
If your nanny will be out for an extended period of time due to the virus, how will they be paid? They could very quickly use up their paid sick time and vacation time and still be out of commission. Will you help them financially until they can return to work? Remember you may also need to pay a back-up caregiver while your nanny is out sick.
Your nanny may be eligible for expanded unemployment benefits if you let them go because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your nanny may be able to recover some of their lost wages if your state requires disability insurance, which covers accidents and illnesses that occur outside of work.
Federal legislation has also been introduced to provide paid sick days to all workers – including household employees – in the light of the current crisis.
Update: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has been passed into law.
Again, it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear. If, after this time period, you feel confident that your nanny is not affected, then you could resume your normal schedules while still taking preventive measures.
A parent becomes sick or develops symptoms
What if you or your spouse have been exposed or has the symptoms of coronavirus? Does your nanny still report for work? Will the affected parent be relegated to a certain room or part of the house? How will the affected parent limit their contact with the children? Will you quarantine your entire family as a safety precaution? Will you want your nanny to take on extra responsibilities like house cleaning, laundry, and meal preparation?
If you ask your nanny to stay home because a parent is ill or you decide to self-quarantine your family, the nanny should still be paid their regular rate of pay.
A child becomes sick or develops symptoms
Your child has been exposed to the virus, developed symptoms, confirmed to have the virus or is sick. Each of these situations may have a different plan of attack. If you have a child who is sick and other children who aren’t, your nanny could still work and care for the healthy children while the sick child is quarantined in a different part of the home and looked after by a parent. Again, if one family member develops symptoms or could have been exposed, you may want to self-quarantine your entire family to help stop the spread of the virus.
If your nanny is told to stay home and not work because your child is sick or your family is quarantined, they should still be paid as usual.
Your child’s school closes
If your children are in school, you may only have a part-time nanny for after school. Is your nanny available to work full-time, if your children’s school closes due to coronavirus? Let’s say your nanny is available or you find back-up care. What guidelines will you put in place to help reduce the chance of exposure? Will playdates, public outings and/or socializing with friends be allowed? What should happen during the day considering screen time and outdoor play?
You are asked to work from home
As a precaution and to encourage “social distancing,” your employer may ask you to work from home. You could still have your nanny report to work as usual but you’ll need to establish some parameters with your children. Even though you (and maybe even your spouse) 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.
6. Prepare for back-up care
If your nanny is sick and can’t come to work, who could look after your children? Can you and/or your spouse take time off or work from home? Do you have family members, friends or neighbors who can help? You can also contact a local nanny placement agency to see if they have temporary help available.
7. Stay positive
With the right planning, preventive measures, and lots of communications, you’ll be well prepared to take on whatever the coronavirus throws your way.
For clients of GTM Payroll Services
We want to reassure you that GTM Payroll Services has a business continuity plan in place to handle situations like the outbreak of COVID-19. Your household payroll will continue to process as normal and your employee(s) will continue to receive their pay. Our continuity and disaster preparedness plans help us continue to function during times when outside forces – like severe weather, widespread blackouts, and public health emergencies – could disrupt our business operations.
Need more personalized assistance? Our HR Concierge Service 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.