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Thinking of letting our nanny go - UPDATE in initial post

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 


Hi – We have a nanny for our 2 ½ year old daughter. She has worked with us for over 2 years, part time for a while and then full time from about September 2009.  We have always been happy with the way she deals with our daughter, but reliability has always been something of an issue.  She has had a very trying year so far – she is going through a divorce that seems to get messier by the day, and she has also had significant health problems. She had a cancerous tumour removed in 2008, I believe.


The problem we have is that her personal circumstances are impacted her ability to do her job. For the last few months, it seems that barely a week passes without her either arriving late or leaving early for a variety of reasons: her kids are sick, her kids have a parent-teacher conference that she didn’t know about (she gave me an hour’s notice that she had to leave – evidently calling the teacher to reschedule the meeting didn’t occur to her), lawyer’s meetings, divorce hearings, dance recitals, medical appointments.  If I see my phone flashing when I wake – I know exactly who it is and why.


In September of this year I started working part-time after graduating from law school. It’s project based, and – unfortunately – my work load is much less than expected (around 15-20 hours a week). We continued to keep the nanny on full-time because, quite honestly, it was worth paying her full-time to forego the hassle of trying to find a new nanny. (My husband is self-employed and works 80 hours a week; I was undergoing IVF treatment and then sick as a dog in the first trimester and simply couldn’t face the task.) So essentially she has been paid for 40 hours (at $18.50 an hour) while working around 25, since September.  We also pay her 10 days sick per year and also public holidays. Honestly, I think we’re pretty generous. And yet, despite her having 15 hours a week free, she still manages to find reasons why she has to leave early or come in late. I actually remember her telling me that her previous boss was upset with her for making her (the nanny’s) problems, the employer’s problems. And I know exactly what she means. Every bump in our nanny’s  road becomes a boulder in mine.


Now, it turns out that my workload probably won’t increase by much more. And honestly, I am starting to feel as though we are being taken advantage of.  Now the kicker – she went for a checkup last week and it looks likely that her cancer may have returned. I can’t imagine how she is feeling, but already this week she asked to go home 4 hours early (“I’m just not in a good place right now”) and this morning said that she was still upset, and didn’t know if I wanted her to come in today because she’s “not sure she’ll be much use today anyway.” I told her that she needed to come in.  I have 2 deadlines looming – and no backup childcare. I am at the start of my legal career and simply cannot afford to miss deadlines. My family is in England and I cannot just call someone to stop by so I can work.


I feel like a monster! I am deeply troubled by the idea that she may lose her job around the time that she finds out the cancer has returned, but frankly, I don’t know what we’re paying her for. I just can’t rely on her.  Her attitude irritates me every day. So, in my position, would you let her go? Our provisional plan is to speak with her in early January, and give her a month’s pay in lieu of notice.  January is a very quiet month in my job, so if it takes a few weeks to get a replacement, we can manage.  Any advice or BTDT would be much appreciated.


UPDATE: So we had a talk - or rather I let rip, in all honesty - in December, and things improved for a while. There were still unscheduled absences, but usually with enough notice that it wasn't a big deal. Good news is that her lump was benign, so no concerns there.


But now things have started to slide again. Last week my parents were in town from overseas so the nanny worked a few hours, but only around 10. She agreed to work 7-10pm on my parents' last night, so we could go for dinner - and then a few hours before she was due to show, asked if she could work from 6-9pm instead because of a girls' night out. I told her no, because the reservations were made. She arrived at 7 but was clearly put out. Then today, I awoke to the sound of the bleeping phone. So I know that my 3-hour appointment scheduled for this morning needs to be rescheduled.. True enough, she sent me a text to ask if my daughter and I had been vaccinated against chickenpox, because she had been exposed to it. (We have, but I had to call the Dr.'s office to confirm before.) And by the time I had confirmed that my daughter wasn't at any risk from exposure, it didn't matter anyway. Because nanny informed me that because of a snowstorm (which, incidentally, had been forecast two days ago) and the traffic, it "wasn't looking good" that she would get here on time anyway.  We had a brief, ill-tempered conversation about her general attitude, including my asking "why on earth are you not vaccinated when you're a nanny?" and after she said she was still only 5 miles from her house (she lives about 20 miles away) I told her not to bother coming in.


I am done. We are looking for a new nanny and I think we will let her go on Friday. Thanks for all the advice, I do appreciate it.



Edited by slylives - 3/23/11 at 8:52am
post #2 of 26

Could you talk to her and give her a verbal warning?

post #3 of 26

Perhaps a written warning and overly clear list of expectations is in order immediately.  (e.g. Inside the house by 8am, leave no earlier than 4pm.  Written notice 3 days in advance.)


You can explain that you completely feel for her situation, but you are in need of reliable childcare because of your career.  And that is what you are paying for! 


You might need to remind her of the thing her prior employer said, and state that it is very difficult for you when she puts her problems on you.  Specifically tell her that example of the school meeting.  Unless it is an emergency, her job needs to be first priority.  Anything else means (to you) that you'll have to find another provider. 


That is a TON of pay, and you can definitely find somebody more reliable for that wage.  Start looking now, though.

post #4 of 26

If it's not working, it's not working. With everything going on in her life, and with her health, it sounds as though she is not able to provide the work you need. 


You aren't a monster, but letting an employee go can make you feel like you are.  I think that a month's pay in lieu of notice is very generous, and that you're acting generally reasonably.  You might look around and see if there are any disability benefits that your nanny might qualify for, and let her know if there are.  Other than that, I think you just have to do what you have to do.

post #5 of 26

You can also start by reducing her hours - and thus her pay. Which also (in addition to verbal warning) puts her on notice. It's not your fault or anything but some people react wrong to a loose atmosphere - you pay her full time but are ok with part time, so she just takes that as far as she can.

post #6 of 26

I really feel for you, having gone through the nanny search recently & then some initial bumps in the road with our new nanny, I can relate to the pain & fear of having to confront someone who is so intimately intertwined in your family's life! It eats you up & makes it hard to concentrate on anything else! But you're not a monster--these are real & valid concerns on your part!


My initial response is exactly PPs -- cut back her hours & use it as a way to talk about her performance. You can remind her that you need a minimum of X hours of notice if she will be late, ill, or will leave early. You can also tell her that you're sorry that this cutback comes at a time when she is having some hardships but that your family can't financially sustain paying for unworked hours. Maybe even add that if she needs full-time you'd be happy to keep her on part-time until she finds a new full-time gig. That way you show empathy but express your needs as well. If you have a contract that you can point too, all the better. This type of discussion would give you an opportunity to work out a plan with her that will meet BOTH of your needs.


It's just the nature of the relationship, but I also remember after about a year feeling that the relationship with our former nanny was just too close & too comfortable and every little thing looked to me like she was taking advantage. What helped me was to sit down & talk with DH about exactly what was bothering me. In our case, it turned out to be just a couple of little things that I was able to ask her to change without making waves (just as an fyi, she left shortly after when her boyfriend asked her to move in with him in another city but she gave us 1 1/2 months notice which leads me to think that my requests really didn't bug her that much... but you never know!). Anyway, once I got those things out & communicated them to her, the little stuff didn't bug me as much.


Now, I'm not trying to say your nanny isn't taking advantage of you (it sounds like she might be, but not in an intentionally mean-spirited way, imo), but if you can pinpoint exactly the 2 or 3 things that need to change to make it work, it may not seem so daunting. I say this because I personally think it might be a bit harsh to simply let her go at this time in her life based on the information you've given in your post. If it's calling in or calling in late that is the root problem, or the fact that you feel she's taking advantage of your generosity--these things can be addressed gently by cutting hours and/or a discussion. BUT if you sit down to really lay out the problems with your DH & you pinpoint problems that are deeper (e.g. inadequate care of your daughter) then you'll know it's time to let her go, and giving her a month's pay (plus any unused sick/vacation time?) sounds very generous. (Also, if you do let her go (and you're paying over the table) you might look into what it would take to make her eligible for UI... like characterizing the termination as a layoff due to changed circumstances on your part instead of firing for cause.)


Also, as someone reminded me when I was seeking advice about my nanny, back-up plans are essential and a fact of life for this childcare arrangement. In my neighborhood there is a SAHM who has offered herself as back-up care for some families in the neighborhood. Maybe you can connect with someone like that looking for some extra cash. In any case, when you get a back-up system together, you'll feel a lot less stressed (at least most of the time!).


Apologies if this doesn't make sense, but I'm trying to be quick & my brain is mush right now!


Best of luck!

post #7 of 26
I would switch her from salery to hourly. Then you pay here only for hours worked. So if she comes late or leaves early she will lose pay for those times. You can still do paid sick, if you want, just do x hours instead of whole days. I think that would make you feel less taken advantage of, but still be fair. If she doesn't want to take reduced pay, she can either step up her hours to full time or find another position. Remember, you are an employer and deserve fair service for the wage you pay.
post #8 of 26

I think it's sometimes difficult to keep in mind, and lots of people will probably think I'm heartless, but she's not your friend, she's not your family, she is your paid employee and she needs to act like it.


There always have to be boundaries in these situations. If you get too close, it's likely that you re going to find yourself being too empathetic. 


It is your nanny's job to take good care of your child during the hours you are paying her.  It is your job to let her know when she is not meeting your expectations.  It *is not* your job to take care of her.  Sure, she is a caretaker in your home, and both you and your child are going to care about her, it is inevitable.  However, you still need to maintain boundaries.  She needs to create professional boundaries with you as well.  There is *no reason* you need to know every little problem in her life.  That is why she has friends and family.  Sorry, but work is work, and dragging your employer into all of your issues is not professional.


She is taking advantage of your very friendly relationship with her.  Maybe it isn't purposely, but she has to know that kind of thing would never fly at another job. 

post #9 of 26

Former nanny here...


I would switch her to hourly immediately.  Maybe even reduce her hours each week as well.  And do what my former employers did to me...scope out a replacement, JIC you decide to can her.  LOL 


(I was only 20 when I worked as a nanny.  I APed the baby which was so not the parents' style, so they fired me and put their 8mo dd in daycare.)

post #10 of 26

Personally, I would reduce her hours to the amount that you actually need, switch her pay to hourly, and give her a verbal warning about showing up late/ needing to leave early. You arent a monster, it isnt working. I would give her a chance to remedy some of the problems,  but if you dont need her, you dont need  to pay her....

post #11 of 26

I would let her go. Sorry.

post #12 of 26

If nothing else, you do need to deduct her pay for when she leaves early or shows late. Even if you do not feel right after firing her or switching her to hourly, then at least deduct her pay. I would also make her work the full 40 hrs you pay her for, if you continue to do that, even if you are around. There must be something for her to do. When I was a nanny, I cleaned and even did and folded laundry.

post #13 of 26

We have had nannies, great ones and not so great ones, but nothing like this. Let her go.

post #14 of 26

If the situation is causing unnecessary stress in your life, let her go.  If you think you can work out arrangements with her by have a discussion with her, do that.  If you are going to keep her, switch her to hourly and reduce her number of hours.  Tell her that if she is scheduled to work from 8-5 that she needs to be there from 8-5 unless it is arranged with you in advanced.  If she needs to get her kids to appointments, maybe start having her work from 8-3.  I would be completely honest with her and tell her that you expect her to leave her home life at home and when she is working she needs to be committed to her job.  As far as paying her for 40 hours when she is not working 40 hours, that needs to end, if you keep her.  I don't know of any job where a person gets paid for more than they actually work.  She is taking advantage of the situation and you need to lay it on the line.  She is your employee and you have been more than generous. 

post #15 of 26
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

You can also start by reducing her hours - and thus her pay. Which also (in addition to verbal warning) puts her on notice. It's not your fault or anything but some people react wrong to a loose atmosphere - you pay her full time but are ok with part time, so she just takes that as far as she can.

Yes. We had a part-time nanny for 3 years, and that's what I learned. Right now we're a combo of kindergarten & daycare, and I'm available after school. In the future, that won't be the case, and we'll be hiring an after-care nanny. I will be MUCH stricter about what we require then. Our nanny had the same issue. Her life's problems became our problems. Her family and schooling interfered too much with her job. While those were her priorities and that's fine (though this was parents & siblings, not her own children), MY priority has to be my family, and if you can't come to work, then I can't work. So, in your case, I'd probably fire her. I may talk to her, but with our nanny, we let it go too long so that by the time we realized we were really taking too much from her, I felt the relationship was too far gone to salvage. She'd have been resentful that she suddenly had to show up on time and stay the entire time, and I'd be angry that I felt backed into a corner to be the bad guy because she wasn't responsible.


I also get what you're saying about the cancer and not wanting to fire her now. What we realized was that our nanny's problems always would seem like that - an emergency room visit for a younger sibling, a funeral for a (distant) friend, a fall her grandmother had, etc., etc. It was never a good time because there was always a "good reason" for why she couldn't come. In the end, though, some people's lives are too unstable to hold down a job at certain times, and that's not something that you & your family should have to pay for. 

post #16 of 26

I sometimes feel guilty as well. My job has flexibility, but, I can't afford to extend the same flexibility to my nanny. It's jsut the nature of the job. If it's not working, try and find someone else.

post #17 of 26

Agreed with everyone.  It's one thing to show compassion to a fellow human being and quite another to let yourself be totally taken advantage of (not trying to be mean and totally recognizing that it's really really difficult to find a nanny and to navigate that relationship - I've been there).  She may not even be trying to take advantage of you on purpose and it sounds like she is having a really really tough time.  It sounds like she is doing the best she can given her circumstances, but really (and I live in an expensive area!), $18.50 * 15 non-working hours plus she's asking for extra time off with no notice?  That's a really really sweet deal.  Around here you could get one of the top nannies for that price easily.

post #18 of 26



It might seem harsh, but she isn't keeping up her end of the deal. It is hard enough being a parent and going to school and getting your career of the ground without having someone to suck away at your energy and your peace on top of it. (NOT TO MENTION YOUR MONEY!) We had a nanny that had some of these issues and it really was awful. Fortunately, she kind of went away and we didn't have to fire her.


But, I agree with whatever PP said that she isn't your friend or family, she is your employee. Treat her with respect and dignity, as you would any individual, but let her go. She isn't working out for your family.

post #19 of 26

i say give her a verbal warning and only pay her for hours worked. if that doesn't work , let her go. if she really is sick and having issues, maybe it will be better for her. heck, she may want to lose her job .  if you need to let her go, talk with her gently and honestly. in a way i understand where she's coming from. i have kids (obviously) and work full time, and they are always sick or something is going on that causes me to miss some work- however i always make an honest effort to find a way to work around the problem. my employers know how grateful i am when they are able to be flexible with me.  it sounds like she is not making much of an effort.

post #20 of 26

As a former nanny, I agree with everything everyone has said. Cut back her hours, switch to hourly pay, talk, talk, talk about what's bothering you. It's likely that you won't end up finding a workable solution, but at least you will have tried. The only thing that I would advise is that you don't do pay in lieu of notice. It sucks to have someone around that you know is leaving, and you wonder what their mood will be if they know that they've been let go... but for your daughter's sake I would advise that you have some time for transition. Take at least a little bit of time for her to slow down her hours and leave slowly rather than just disappearing one day. This doesn't need to be an entire month, but for her just to be fired and not show up the next day.. IDK, that seems too harsh for your situation. My guess would be that she really loves your daughter and enjoys their time but is probably just letting life get in the way of her job right now.  If you feel that you wouldn't trust her around your daughter alone after you tell her that you'd like to cut her hours/fire her... then that's a whole other issue of lack of trust!

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