Firing Your Nanny the Right Way

Apr 5, 2019 | Household Employer Policies

firing your nanny the right way

With the proper preparation, a professional attitude, and an understanding of the law, you can handle firing your nanny even in the most difficult of situations.

Firing your nanny isn’t easy. Since you’ve invited this person into your home and they care for your children, there may be personal bonding that goes beyond a typical employer-employee relationship. You’re also taking away their source of income with potentially very little notice.

It may be a little easier if there is an amicable split and you no longer need a nanny. It could be you’re your children are older and now going to school during the day or your family is moving.

But what if you need to fire a nanny for cause? Those separations could be tougher to initiate and become more emotional.

We’ll lay out the steps to firing your nanny starting even before they begin work.

1. Add termination/resignation language to your work agreement

Before your nanny’s first day of the job, the work agreement should contain a section on how terminations and resignations will be handled including notice, severance, and reasons for immediate firing. Indicate that any action that is illegal or inappropriate is grounds for prompt dismissal and repeated, documented issues can also lead to termination of employment.

Also, add an at-will statement to the work agreement.

The work agreement should be signed by you and your employee, which serves as an acknowledgment that they have read and understood the document. Keep the work agreement with your records and supply a copy to your nanny.

2. Understand at-will employment

At-will employment means your nanny works at the will of your family. You can fire your nanny at any time for good reason or no cause at all. You do not necessarily need to give a warning before a termination provided it’s indicated in your work agreement.

It also means your employee can also quit at any time.

Potential exceptions to at-will employment include a signed contract for a fixed period of time and violations of state law.

In every state but Montana, employment is presumed to be at-will.

3. Conduct job performance evaluations

Common in traditional work settings, regular job performance reviews can help you identify areas of improvement for your nanny and open conversations on how they can get better at their jobs. You may be able to avoid firing your nanny altogether and start another childcare search if your employee can turn around their performance. Evaluating their work, providing feedback, and establishing guidelines can help your nanny get back on track if they’re struggling on the job.

4. Identify, address and document issues

If you’re having problems with your employee, it’s important to identify these issues and address them as soon as possible. Provide written documentation that is dated and signed by you and your employee. Again, provide a copy to your employee and keep one with their personnel file.

Now you’re providing your employee notice about their unsatisfactory performance and you have a record of employee issues.

Addressing the problem early on gives your nanny a chance to correct their problems before you decide to terminate their employment. If their performance improves, then you have avoided turnover. Still let them know that if issues continue, they can be fired.

By having documentation, you can show just cause for firing your nanny. It also demonstrates a progressive process and that you tried to rectify the situation and terminating employment was a final step. Documentation may also be needed if your nanny files for unemployment and the state contacts you. They can be denied benefits if they were fired because of their own actions.

5. Ask yourself why you want to fire your nanny

There are certainly plenty of reasons to dismiss your employee. But you shouldn’t fire your nanny because you set unrealistic expectations, or you have poor communication skills. Nannies are child care professionals, but they can’t read your mind.

You could fire your employee over repeated instances of:

  • Absenteeism/unreliability
  • Poor work quality
  • Failure to perform tasks
  • Tardiness
  • Lack of attention/neglect
  • Failure to enforce house rules

By law, you can’t fire an employee based on race, creed, national origin, age, handicap, gender, sexual orientation or marital status.

6. Know when to fire immediately

Poor performance doesn’t necessarily mean your nanny should be fired on the spot. Some issues can be fixed, and you may wind up having a better employee.

However, do not give your nanny second chances for illegal actions, reckless behavior or putting children in danger. Your family’s safety is your primary concern and any of the following can be means for immediate termination:

  • Misconduct
  • Theft
  • Neglecting their duties
  • Misused family property
  • Substance abuse (on the job; or showing up to work under the influence)
  • Dishonesty
  • Safety concerns

7. Set a backup plan for childcare

If you’re firing your nanny without notice, you’ll want to have a backup plan in place. Perhaps you and/or your spouse will take time off work or rely on friends or family members to fill in while you find a new nanny. A placement agency may be able to provide a temporary caregiver.

8. Check your state’s employment laws

You’ll want to make sure the termination is consistent with relevant state employment laws to minimize any chance of legal action by your employee.

9. Decide whether to give severance and/or notice

Severance isn’t legally required. If you’ve included it in your work agreement, you’ll need to follow what was agreed upon. It’s ok not to provide severance if your nanny is immediately fired for misconduct. safety concerns or illegal actions.

Notice is also not required and not recommended if you’re firing your nanny for cause. You’re better off finding temporary care rather than have a fired employee care for your children for a couple of weeks or longer.

If your nanny is let go through no fault of their own, because your kids are now going to school or your family is moving, it’s acceptable to provide severance that is financially affordable for you. A common guideline is one week’s pay for every year the employee worked for you. Providing notice is also customary and you should provide as much as possible or follow your work agreement if you’ve included language on amount of notice. Try to give at least two weeks’ notice and possibly up to four weeks or more depending on your circumstances.

10. Write a termination letter

Put the termination in writing and provide this document at the end of your conversation. The letter should include:

  • Time and date of termination
  • What’s included in the final paycheck
  • When the final paycheck will be issued
  • Any other relevant information

11. Write a letter of recommendation

If you need to let go of your nanny through no fault of their own, then providing a letter of recommendation is the right thing to do. It will help them find their next job. You may even want to let other families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues know that your nanny is available for work. Offer to be a reference as your nanny starts a new job search. Being laid off and losing your source of income can be a scary time for your employee. Try to do what you can to ease their anxieties.

Obviously, if you had serious issues with your nanny, you don’t have to write a recommendation. However, if you’re letting your nanny go because it wasn’t a good fit for your family, you had different approaches to child care or the relationship just wasn’t working, you may want to provide a recommendation as your nanny could be a good match for another family. You may even say you could be a reference. If a family calls you about your terminated employee, be honest about why you fired them and talk about their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

12. Have a professional, honest conversation

As mentioned, you may have developed a personal as well as professional relationship with your nanny while they worked for you. That could make a tough conversation that much more uncomfortable and difficult. Plus, you may not have experience in terminating an employee under any circumstances.

However, you should never fire an employee over the phone or through text or email. This needs to be done in person.

Here are some other guidelines on dismissing an employee.

The best time to have this discussion is at the end of the workday to minimize the time between terminating and leaving.

Be honest. Tell your nanny exactly why they’re being fired. Mention that you’ve addressed and documented past issues and you’re still unsatisfied with their job performance.

Be concise and stick to the facts. Avoid an emotional or angry response.

Let your employee know about any potential severance and possible unemployment compensation. Make sure they understand the confidentiality agreement – if you included one in your work agreement – remains intact even after their employment has ended. Anything they learned about your family should remain private.

While you’ll want your nanny to have their say – this shouldn’t be a one-way conversation – you still need to be firm and not allow them to talk their way back into their job. You’ve given them a few chances to improve and haven’t seen the progress you desired. Don’t provide false hope that maybe you’ll hire them back at some point or use them for babysitting. Make a clean break.

Have an adult witness present when you have this conversation. It should be held in private – never in public and never with children around.

Collect items like house keys, car keys, credit cards, car seats, and anything else that is a family item that you may have provided to your nanny.

13. Provide a final paycheck

Your employee should be paid for all work performed up to their termination even if they are immediately fired. You may need to pay for unused paid time off based on your work agreement. Never withhold pay for hours worked as that can get you into legal trouble. Again, check with your state’s labor department on the laws around the final paycheck. It could be required by the next available payday or at the time of termination.

If you use a payroll service, let them know you have terminated your employee.

14. Document your termination discussion

Right after you let your employee go, write down what was discussed and keep it in your employee’s personnel file. Again, this will help in case there is any legal action from your employee.

15. Take precautions after termination

After you’ve fired your employee, there are a few precautionary steps to take. You’ll want to change your home security codes as well as notify neighbors, school personnel, daycare staff, doctor’s office, and others that your nanny may have interacted with that they no longer work for you.

16. Respond to any correspondence from your state

If your nanny files for unemployment – whether they are eligible or not – your state will ask you about the terms of dismissal. Let them know your nanny was fired for cause and provide any documentation if requested. Make sure you respond to their communications. Without your input, they will rule on your nanny’s behalf. If they are awarded benefits, you’ll see your unemployment tax rate increase.

Be prepared if you’ve been paying illegally

A nanny filing for unemployment is one of the easiest ways for a household employer who has been shirking their tax obligations to get caught. If you haven’t been paying unemployment taxes, your state could report you to the IRS and you’ll be required to pay all your employee’s unemployment benefits. Considering a full-time nanny could get around $250/week for up to 39 weeks in benefits, you would be on the hook for about $10,000 or more. It makes sense to employ your nanny legally and pay your unemployment insurance tax, which may be only a few hundred dollars a year.

This is the first in a four-part series on termination and resignation. Coming soon … how to handle your nanny’s resignation, understanding why your nanny quit, and what to do about your children’s “separation sadness” when your nanny leaves.

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