Transitions can be a challenge for children and adults but with some planning and focus, there are ways to make it smoother for everyone. When welcoming a new nanny, show enthusiasm and positivity. As a nanny transitions out of the home, be respectful and compassionate. With support and communication, children can learn to manage change and develop resiliency.
Preparing for a New Nanny
In addition to all the employment documents, preparing a nanny welcome letter with important information can help a nanny transition into her new role. A cheat sheet that contains emergency contact information, an example daily schedule, lists with ideas for meals and snacks as well as the children’s favorite books can help the nanny better connect with the children. A checklist can help you orient the nanny, so you remember to share where the pediatric medicine is kept and where to find the spare wipes. A map of nearby parks and directions to swim class is also helpful for a new nanny. If you want a daily log completed, have a few printed out to help the nanny learn to track the information needed to complete the entries.
When the nanny has accepted the position, share with the children that there will be a new nanny who will spend more time with the family. If they met the nanny during the interview process, remind the children of the activities they did with the nanny, so they can remember the positive experience. During the first few days, be available to support the transition as the nanny and children get comfortable with each other. Until settled into a new routine, do not over-schedule the children or have play dates where other children may disrupt the newly forming relationships between your children and the new nanny. Try not to schedule any overnight trips during the early transition period.
How to Fire a Nanny
Firing a nanny is not easy as they have been working in your home and have a relationship with your children. There are both personal and professional elements to the relationship which can be difficult to manage during a termination. You should check your state’s employment laws and you may want to work with a lawyer if you are terminating an employee. As an employer, it is your responsibility to know and follow federal, state and local employment laws.
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. Your nanny can also quit the job at any time for any reason or no reason at all. Check your state laws as most employment is presumed to be at will. Potential exceptions to at-will employment include a signed contract for a fixed period.
Why Do You Want to Fire the Nanny?
There are reasons to fire a nanny immediately and these include illegal actions, reckless behavior or putting the child in danger. The family’s safety is the primary concern and any of the following may require immediate termination: misconduct, theft, neglecting the job duties, misuse of family property, substance abuse on the job, dishonesty and/or a safety concern.
Other reasons to terminate a nanny include repeated instances of absenteeism, tardiness, poor quality work, failure to perform job duties, lack of attention and/or failure to enforce the house rules. Before firing a nanny, make sure you have set realistic expectations for the job, you have stuck to the original job description, and you have made every effort to communicate and mediate any issues.
Process of Firing a Nanny
The first step is a job performance review so you can document your concerns and have a conversation with the nanny on how to improve. A performance review may allow an open conversation on what is working and how a nanny can improve their performance. Evaluating a nanny’s work, providing feedback and establishing guidelines on exactly what, when and how to improve may remedy the issue. Some nannies will be uncomfortable with a negative performance review. Instead of improving, the nanny may quit without notice. Have a backup plan (see Chapter 18).
If you are having problems with your employee, it is important to identify these issues and 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. 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.
Ideally, you have a work agreement in place with the nanny that contains a section on how terminations and resignations will be managed. This section of the work agreement should have an at-will statement such as, “employment is for an indefinite period of time and it is subject to termination by the employer or employee, with or without cause, with or without notice, and at any time”. This section should include the amount of time to give notice, severance and list the reasons for an immediate firing. You do not necessarily need to give a warning before a termination provided it is indicated in your work agreement. The work agreement should be signed by you and your employee, which serves as an acknowledgment that the nanny has read and understands the document.
When terminating the nanny, you should provide them with a termination letter. This letter should include the time and date of termination, what is included in the final paycheck, when the final check will be issued and any other relevant information. The nanny is owed pay for all work performed up to their termination even If they are immediately fired. You may also have to pay for unused paid time off based on your work agreement. On the date of termination, guaranteed hours, if included in your work agreement no longer apply as the nanny is no longer an employee. Never withhold pay for hours worked as you can get into legal trouble. If you have included severance in your work agreement, you may need to follow that agreement. You may or may not have to provide severance if the nanny was immediately fired for severe misconduct, safety concerns or illegal actions. You are better off finding backup care than having a fired employee care for your children.
You have developed a professional and personal relationship so firing a nanny by voicemail, email or text is inappropriate. Plan a professional and honest conversation at the end of the workday to minimize the time between termination and the nanny leaving for the day. Have another person attend the meeting if possible and hold the meeting in a private location. Children should not attend or be around during the meeting.
Be honest with the nanny. Share that you have documented the issues, attempted a remediation plan and are still unsatisfied with their job performance. Be brief and state only the facts. Let the nanny know about their pay and any severance. If you have a confidentiality agreement, remind them that it covers termination and remains in effect after their employment has ended. Have a list ready of the items that you need returned by the nanny (house key, car seats, credit cards, garage door openers, insurance cards, et al).
This is a conversation, and you should allow the nanny the opportunity to respond. While genuinely listening to the nanny, do not be swayed into letting the nanny keep their job. You have provided feedback and an opportunity to improve. The improvement has not happened, and it is time to part ways. Do not give the nanny false hope that you will hire them back at some point or use them for sitting.
After the termination conversation, take a few additional steps. Write down what happened so you have a record of what was discussed and keep it with the employee’s records. Change your home security codes and remove the nanny from school, daycare and doctor office lists. If your nanny files for unemployment, your state will ask about the terms of dismissal and you will need to communicate if it was for cause or not. If you do not respond, the state will rule on the nanny’s behalf and if they are awarded benefits, your unemployment tax rate will increase. Also, be prepared if you were paying your nanny illegally. A nanny filing for unemployment is one way for a household employer to be reported to the IRS.
Managing a Nanny Departure
If you are letting a nanny go through no fault of theirs, you should honor the notification timeline and severance in the work agreement. If you do not have a work agreement, provide at least two weeks’ notice. If you feel comfortable, provide additional notice.
Providing notice puts the family and nanny in a vulnerable position. If families need child care coverage during the notice period, they should have a backup plan as most nannies will need to immediately look for another job. Nannies will rightfully prioritize a new job over a job that is ending. If the nanny is upset by the position ending and/or the nanny finds a new position, the family may be without child care. If the nanny was a good employee, provide a letter of recommendation and/or agree to be a reference to aid them in their job search.
Nannies may work for a family for a few weeks and depart abruptly or stay with a family for years and know a departure is coming months in advance. Either way, it may be difficult for the children to understand why someone who has cared for them is leaving.
Young children do not realize the nanny is being paid to care for them. They view the nanny as an extended family member, a playmate, and someone who can tuck them into bed at night. The first transition is often the most difficult as younger children may still be learning object permanence. Younger children may also fear a parent may be next to leave as they are still learning who is family, who is a nanny, and who are friends.
As children get older, it is easier to explain that many nannies and teachers will be a part of their lives for different periods of time. Comparing nannies to teachers can be helpful as children are able to understand that they will have a new teacher and new classmates when they move from kindergarten into first grade.
When possible and age appropriate, tell the children in advance that the nanny will be departing. Align with the nanny and give consistent answers about when and why the nanny is leaving. Allow children to ask questions and help them through their emotions and feelings. Share the positive things the nanny did for the children and how those things will still get done, either by a new nanny or by other members of the family. Let children know it is okay to miss the nanny. Importantly, make sure the children know the nanny’s departure is not their fault.
If appropriate, help the children create a special way to say goodbye to the nanny or give a special gift. To help children process a nanny’s departure, they can create a memory or photo book with pictures of the nanny and places they went together. Children could also create a piece of art or do a craft activity to gift the nanny. For older children, writing a special note or story may be a great way to say goodbye. If a nanny is departing on good terms and the nanny is comfortable with staying in touch, comfort the child by letting them know they may contact the nanny or perhaps visit a park together in the future.
After the first experience, children may better adapt to nanny transitions as they understand that a new person will arrive and help care for their needs. As children process the transition, they may have changes in behavior for up to 6 months. Some children may be anxious and have more temper tantrums while others may not seem affected but regress in toilet training.
Departing nannies and the parents may also have strong emotions about a departure. As children will be watching the parents and nanny for cues on how to behave, it is vital that all the adults set aside their feelings and behave respectfully. Even if the experience was not positive, the children and nanny likely had a connection that may make a transition difficult.
If a nanny leaves abruptly without a farewell to the children, the parents need to make sure the children understand the nanny departing is not their fault. The children may experience feelings of abandonment or hurt and anger. Parents should focus on reassuring the children and refrain from negative references about the nanny’s departure. If children are struggling with a nanny departure, have the children write the nanny a letter or draw a picture for them, even if you never plan to mail it to the nanny.
If children experience too many nanny transitions or if they struggle with a recent nanny departure, they may become jaded and may not engage with new nannies for fear the new nanny will depart soon. Realize that new nannies may have a difficult entrance into the family if the children are still processing their feelings about a departed nanny. The children may not as readily engage with the new nanny. The lack of engagement with a new nanny may not be about the nanny herself, but the process the children are experiencing to adapt to a new caregiver.
Like most aspects of parenting, it is important to stay tuned to both your family as a whole and your child’s individual needs. If you have a child or children who are more sensitive to transitions, you should consider this factor in your hiring decision and aim to hire long-term nannies over those who have a high turnover rate.