The relationship between you and your nanny? It's personal. It's business too, since you're paying them to work in your home. Here are 7 things to keep in mind as you find and hire a nanny.
1. Reflect on your needs before finding a nanny
"Invest a little bit of time upfront to think about what's most important to you," says Meredith Stoddard, vice president of life events at Fidelity. Jot down your preferences and outline the care you're seeking. How many hours a week do you need help? And what kind of help, exactly? Just pickup from school or full childcare with meal prep, cleanup, and laundry for the kids? Is it important that they have a driver's license, CPR training, or other certifications?
If you only need someone 15 hours or so a week, maybe for after-school pickup and homework help, a babysitter might work. Professional nannies, on the other hand, work about 40 hours a week and care for the child fully, including making meals, planning schedules, and in some cases, housekeeping.1
If you want live-in help, an au pair might fit the bill. That's a foreign national, usually between 18 and 30 years old, who lives temporarily with a host family and receives a cultural benefit (such as learning a language) and a weekly stipend in exchange for childcare for up to 45 hours per week.2 Even with the thousands of dollars in fees you'd pay to an au pair program on top of the stipend, au pairs may cost less than nannies, but you'll need a spare room to host one.
Au pairs might not have as much childcare experience as a professional nanny. Knowing your priorities before you start interviewing will help you pick the right caregiver type and vet candidates.
2. Find a nanny who's the right fit
Start by asking friends and family for recommendations. You can also post in local parents' social media groups or on community email lists. You might choose to search large care websites, which often have background check capabilities and allow you to read reviews of nannies, Stoddard says. No time for research? You could hire a nanny agency to recruit and interview candidates on your behalf. This could cost around $900 to $4,000 depending on where you live.3
When you find someone you like, set up an in-person interview and ask how the applicant would approach situations that may arise, such as tantrums, emergencies, or last-minute schedule changes. See if the candidate measures up against that list of preferences you made earlier. Don't forget to leave time for the potential nanny to ask you questions. "After the interview, ask for references and give candidates your references if you've had other household employees; it's a 2-way street," says Stoddard. You could also do a paid trial day where you can watch how the nanny interacts with your child.
3. Pay a fair wage to hire the best nanny
How much you'll pay depends on the amount of care you need and where you live. Before researching wages, read up on your state's household worker laws, Stoddard says. "In some states, you can't have people work more than 40 hours a week without paying overtime, and in others you can't salary a nanny," she says. Once you know the laws, check major care websites to learn the going rate for nannies in your area. According to Care.com's 2023 Cost of Care survey, the national average for a nanny for one child is $736 per week.4
Account for paying their taxes. Some of the tax burden is on you because nannies aren't considered independent contractors, Stoddard says. And it's important to pay on the books. "You're taking on a lot of risk if you go under the table—you could get audited, and it could affect your own employment. It could affect the nanny's Social Security credits too," Stoddard says. You may need workers' compensation insurance, and, depending on how much you spend on care per year, the IRS might say you need to pay household employment taxes. You can consider using a payroll service to make this easier, though it comes with a cost.
Some good news: By paying legally, you can take advantage of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, says Desiree Leung, head of operations for Care.com HomePay, a nanny and tax payroll services provider. "On top of that, if your employer offers a dependent care flexible savings account, you can leverage it and set aside tax-free money each year for childcare-related expenses." Just keep in mind that if you don't use FSA funds by the yearly deadline, you're generally going to lose the money.
4. Decide on the benefits you'll offer the nanny you hire
Just like pay, benefits are crucial to a fair nanny relationship. Decide how you'll handle vacation time. Stoddard says it's typically 2 paid weeks of the caregiver's choosing per year, and 1 extra paid week when the family is on vacation. What's your policy for sick time? Will you offer health or retirement benefits or a phone plan? Put everything in writing.
5. Create a contract
"It's a great way to spell out details, such as job responsibilities, pay and benefits, house rules, vacation, and work schedule," says Leung. "It also makes it easier to address issues that come up because these details have been clearly articulated." Ask your nanny to collaborate with you on it so both your expectations are included.
Check yourself too. "Are you asking a household employee to do more than you'd be able to do in a given day?" asks Stoddard. "Think through what's fair and equitable to all parties." Many major care websites have templates that you can use to craft your contract. Aim to have one finalized a few weeks before your nanny begins so you can talk it over and be on the same page for Day 1.
6. Be prepared for issues after you hire your nanny
The nanny-parent relationship is more complicated than one in a traditional business setting, says Marcia Hall, a former nanny and executive director of the International Nanny Association. That means tackling issues that arise may need to be different as well. Have regular check-ins and share feedback often to normalize discussing difficult issues, she says.
Make sure these conversations go both ways: "A parent can provide feedback or raise concerns, and caregivers should provide updates, flag issues, or clarify anything they may be unsure of," Leung says. When there's a problem, handle it with an open mind and without accusation. "Part of your responsibility as an employer is to not take advantage of the power dynamic at play," Stoddard says. Reviewing the work agreement every year or after any major family changes may minimize issues.
7. Know when to end the relationship
"Perhaps there's been a change in your schedule, or your child has aged past needing a nanny, or maybe things aren't working out. Whatever the case, the termination process can be done in a professional and respectful manner," says Leung. She recommends having a calm conversation in a private setting away from the children.
One thing to make the discussion easier: Provide details in the work agreement from the get-go, so there are no surprises when it's time to part ways. For instance: "This contract will expire when our youngest child enters kindergarten." Include what you expect of the nanny if she wants to end the contract, such as 2 weeks' notice. "Refer back to your nanny contract to see what was agreed upon," adds Leung.
And double-check state guidelines—some have rules on when employees should be paid or require unused paid time off to be paid out or a specific termination notice to be shared. Lastly, remember that the nanny and the children have a special relationship, and it can be tough to lose a caregiver they love. If your nanny is willing, arranging for an in-person goodbye is a healthy way to end things, says Hall.