While many nannies may seem superhuman, they are in fact mere mortals and will get sick from time to time and miss work like the rest of us. So it is best to be prepared for that day (or days) when you may be without your regular caregiver.
Before we get to what you should do, let’s go over what you should not do when your nanny calls in sick.
Do not make your nanny feel guilty for taking a sick day. Illness happens – especially during the time of year when pneumonia, bronchitis, the flu, and colds can run rampant.
Do not make demands that your nanny needs to come to work even if they are sick. That does not help anyone. Your nanny can not rest and recover. And now your children and family are exposed to a sick person. It is much better to have your nanny stay home and get better before returning to work and caring for your children.
Do not let go or threaten to fire your nanny for calling in sick. That is a bad employment practice and could expose you to legal action not to mention you will be hiring and firing nannies all winter.
If you hired a caregiver you can trust, then you should believe them when they say they are sick and cannot work. Professional nannies take their jobs seriously and understand it is an inconvenience to your family if they call in sick.
On the other hand, if your nanny is consistently missing work, then that may be a cause for concern and worth a discussion with your caregiver.
Now what should you do if your nanny can not work because of an illness?
Let’s start with steps to take before your nanny even starts work for you.
Including a sick day policy with your work agreement
Sick days should be part of a benefits package when you make an offer of employment to your nanny and then incorporated into your work agreement or nanny contract. That way everyone is on the same page when it comes to taking time off because of illness.
In several states – like New York and New Jersey – you are required by law to offer a certain amount of sick days to a household employee. Check for any Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and sick leave laws in your state or city to make sure you meet the minimum requirement.
Finding backup care
You do not want to start figuring out childcare on the fly when your nanny calls in sick. Have a plan in place whether it is relying on a family member to step in or taking time off work yourself to watch your children for the day.
A nanny is not expected to find a replacement caregiver when they are sick so it is up to you to find a backup care solution. However, your nanny may know other caregivers who could be available to help in a pinch. If they do, make sure to get names and contact info ahead of time so you can quickly make calls and find someone to step in.
Other sources of back up care include family members, friends, and neighbors. Discuss with them the possibility of watching your children in advance so the day you may need them is not the first time they are asked.
Your company may offer family care benefits where they have teamed with a local nanny agency to provide backup caregivers to their employees. Check with your human resources department to see if a program like this is available to you.
If you hired your nanny through an agency, they may have an emergency back-up caregiver program for their clients.
There may be “drop-in” childcare centers – perhaps the YMCA – in your town. Of course, you should check ahead of time that they take drop-ins.
Post on your local nanny/parent Facebook group that you need backup care for the day. Even if you can get someone to work part of the day – like a college student – that could still be helpful.
Maybe your “date night” babysitter could be available. They may not be as skilled or experienced as your nanny but for a day it could help you out in a jam.
Another option is finding another family close by who also has a nanny. You could agree that if one of your caregivers is sick, then the other nanny would care for both family’s children. You will want to get buy-in from both nannies and make sure this arrangement is in their contracts. The nanny on duty for both families should get paid extra on those days.
You could stay home and take time off from work to be with your children. This may not always be an option due to the demands of your job. If you and your spouse have flexibility or can work from home, perhaps you can create shifts for work and childcare.
Planning for a fill-in caregiver
Inform your substitute caregiver as much as possible about your children’s routines, school schedules, and activities. Provide emergency contact information, house rules, and any medical or dietary needs. Put this together ahead of time so it is readily available for you to review with your caregiver. It is not something you want to scramble to do that morning.
Preparing your children
Explain to your children that their nanny is not feeling well and will not be with them today. But their day should be just as fun as usual. It is better to let them know what to expect rather than leave them wondering what is happening. If you know your nanny will be out for a couple of days, your children can make them a get-well card that you can drop in the mail.
Checking in during the day
It is a good idea to check in with your caregiver a couple of times during the day just to make sure everything is going ok and answer any questions that may arise.
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