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Transitions: Firing the Nanny

The reasons vary. The children grow up and your beloved family nanny is no longer needed. Perhaps the nanny has horrible work habits - always late or a frequent 'no show.' Your family and the nanny simply may not 'click.' The nanny who was a wonderful nurturer of your infant does not have the energy to deal with your demanding toddler. Whatever the reason, firing a nanny can be an uncomfortable experience for both family and nanny.

BE COMPASSIONATE

You may need to fire the nanny for reasons beyond her control. One of the parents may have lost their job. Perhaps your family is relocating. Your baby may be starting full time kindergarten and your needs have changed. Recognize that this will come as a blow to the nanny. Take the time to show your appreciation by writing a nice letter of recommendation. Provide ample notice to the nanny - if you know your nanny won't be needed in September when school starts, let her know a few months in advance. Provide severance pay. When the separation is planned in advance, offer a retention bonus to the nanny of two to four weeks pay to encourage her to stay with you until the end. Unplanned dismissals for reasons other than the nanny's performance should include at least a week or two of severance pay. Consider providing a small going away gift - framed pictures of the children, a spa treatment, or other expression of appreciation for good and loyal service. Hopefully you have been paying on the books - make sure the nanny knows she can file for unemployment insurance if necessary to tide her over between jobs. Be flexible with the live in nanny as to her 'move out' date if possible.

BE FIRM

The nanny is a disaster. She doesn't show up on time, parks the children in front of the TV all day, and the only food she prepares is PB and J. You have met with her to go over your expectations and nothing improves. Generally speaking, families are most comfortable delivering the bad news, effective immediately, with a week's severance in lieu of notice. Families don't want to leave their children with a nanny who is disgruntled.

The nanny is worse than a disaster - she is endangering your children. You catch her failing to use the car seat or seatbelts. You find drug paraphernalia in the house. She is asleep on the couch when you come home and the children are playing in the front yard. You need to act immediately. Severance is not required under these circumstances. The nanny should return your house keys and be gone immediately. This may disrupt your schedule at work for the next few days, but it has to be done.

What about the live in nanny? Family options here vary. For even the most egregious offenses, the nanny needs to sleep some place tonight. Consider getting her a room at a nearby Motel-6 and driving her there with her possessions. If the nanny didn't meet your expectations, consider giving her a bus ticket or plane fare back to family.

FINALIZE THE PAPERWORK

Your nanny is your employee. Whatever the reason for the termination, make sure you settle up with any wages due immediately. Review your work agreement and make sure you pay her for any accrued vacation time. The final check should be given to her as she leaves the home.

Update your children's schools so they know the nanny is no longer in your employ. You may need to change the school's emergency phone numbers and the names of individuals authorized to pick up your children from school.

The nanny may file an unemployment insurance claim. You will typically receive a very time sensitive questionnaire from your state Department of Labor collecting information about the termination. Open and deal with this immediately - if you do not respond on time you will loose any rights to appeal benefits charges.

Have you been paying cash off the books? Be very careful. The nanny may still file an unemployment claim and be entitled to benefits. You then will be subject to penalties, interest and back unemployment taxes - and it doesn't end there. The state Department of Labor shares all employment and wage data with the IRS automatically. You will also owe any back Social Security and Medicare taxes and be again subject to penalties and interest. Unfortunately, this is a common, unpleasant consequence of avoiding the 'Nanny Taxes.'

MORE INFORMATION ON NANNY TAXES


PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN

Don't deliver the bad news in front of your children. The nanny will be upset no matter what the reason for the dismissal. Your children don't need to hear Mom and Nanny shouting at each other. Worse yet, they don't need to see their beloved nanny burst into tears. These are all natural reactions, but you need to shield your children from the emotional fall-out.

You will need to explain to your child that the nanny is leaving separately. If the separation is amicable, you will want to allow the nanny and the child to say their good-byes and share their last moments. Be careful that it doesn't turn into a melodrama. Consider planning a future visit if possible - perhaps you can arrange for nanny to baby-sit one evening a few weeks down the road.

The nanny who was fired for unacceptable job performance should not be left alone with your child, and probably should not engage in good-byes. Take a deep breath and try to calm yourself before you talk to your child. Let your child know why the nanny was fired if possible and if the child is old enough to comprehend. Keep it positive to the extent possible. "Suzie was a lot of fun but she knows you need to be strapped in your car seat to keep you safe and she broke the rules. Daddy and I need to keep you safe and we cannot let Suzie stay with you any more." is far better than "I just fired Suzie and she won't be watching you any more. I cannot believe she put you in the car without your car seat. That was a terrible thing to do! She is a horrible nanny!" Your child may have become attached to the nanny who let her sit in the front seat of your car without a seatbelt. Be prepared for your child to be angry with you for a while too. Reinforce to your child (and the fired nanny) that your number one job as a parent is to keep your children safe.

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