Being a nanny or other household employee is, in many ways, no different from being an employee in a traditional workplace. But because the work environment of a home is more informal, it’s important to remember that conventional employment rules and policies still apply. We often hear many questions about the rules of being a household employee, but sometimes we hear some not-so-frequently asked questions for nannies, such as the ones below, that bring important issues to light.
Q: I am a nanny and my employer is paying my Social Security and Medicare but has asked me if I would like income taxes withheld. I am uncertain whether to have income tax withheld from my paycheck. What is the best scenario?
A: What is best depends on you. First, please know that choosing to withhold income tax from your paycheck is not the same as choosing whether to pay it. You must pay it. The option you ask about is whether you want your employer to withhold income tax from your paycheck or you want to pay the income tax yourself. So, this becomes a budgeting and convenience issue. We strongly discourage employees from trying to pay taxes on their own.
Q: Is there a difference between being covered by Social Security and being eligible for Social Security?
A: Yes, and it is significant. To be eligible for Social Security, you must work forty calendar quarters to be fully insured and eligible for retirement, disability, death, and survivor benefits. To be covered, you must work at least ten calendar quarters to be insured and eligible for limited death benefits.
Q: I’m a nanny, but I’m not a U.S. citizen. Does my employer still have to pay U.S. minimum wage?
A: Yes. Minimum wage, as well as federal and state labor laws, generally applies to domestic and household employees working in the United States or a U.S. possession or territory, regardless of employee citizenship or immigration status.
Q: I just started caring for an infant of brand new parents. If they decide to install a nannycam in their home, do they need to inform me that I may be monitored?
A: It is fair and proper for a household employer to fully disclose to an employee whether he or she will be monitored in the household. Check local laws for the legal use of these devices in your workplace. The parents should disclose this information during the hiring process to ensure that the applicant is comfortable with this practice.
Q: The family I work for has a five-year-old daughter with chicken pox. I’m concerned that I was exposed to the illness and was carrying it home to my husband, who has never had chicken pox. Should my employer provide me with protective gear?
A: Every employer in the United States must ensure that a workplace—even one in the home—is a safe and healthy environment in which to work. Employers can provide a housekeeper with gloves and a face mask when using a chemical cleaner; gardener with eye goggles and ear plugs when using landscaping equipment; senior care worker with medical gloves when injecting medication; or in your case, provide you with medical gloves and a face mask when caring for a child with the flu, measles, chicken pox, and so on. Such universal precautions are standard in any work environment and are an ideal topic for employers to discuss with employees during the development of a work agreement and review of the employee handbook.