Finding childcare is a rite of passage for new parents in the U.S., where we don’t have a national childcare system for working parents to plug into. Many of us choose to hire a nanny to care for our child when we return to work. And the stakes can feel very high. After all, finding a nanny for your baby means trusting someone with your newest, cutest family member.
At Hand in Hand, we support new parents in this crucial moment, which we know can be overwhelming! Below is an outline of the process that can help you think through the necessary steps and what you need to prepare and expect. We even have templates you can use for a nanny work agreement. And our community of other parents who have hired nannies is always here to support you.
An Overview of the Nanny Hiring Process:
- Decide on your timeline for hiring a nanny
- Determine a fair wage
- Write and post your nanny job description
- Interview potential nannies
- Check references
- Offer your favorite nanny candidate a written agreement and benefits
- Set your family up for success with the new nanny!
1. Decide on your timeline for hiring a nanny
One thing many new parents learn right away is: everything takes longer than you think it will with a baby. The same goes for hiring a nanny. If you can, give yourself a few months for the entire hiring process, which includes creating a job description, reviewing nannies’ profiles or applications, interviewing, and discussing the terms of your agreement. Most people find posting the job 6 weeks before the desired start date and conducting interviews around 4 weeks in advance of the start date works well. Though in some parts of the country, the process can move more quickly. The less rushed you feel, the better the chances of finding a nanny who’s a great fit for your family.
2. Determine a fair wage: How much does it cost to hire a nanny?
When considering an hourly rate, keep in mind the cost of living in your area as you determine a fair and family-supporting wage. After all, many nannies are mothers and family caregivers themselves.
In 2023 in cities with low costs of living, like Phoenix, paying a nanny $18 an hour for one child is a fair wage. However in higher cost of living locations, like Seattle, New York City and San Francisco, a fair rate for an experienced (and in-demand!) nanny caring for one child is $25-30 an hour. Of course, wages change based on time and location, so the best thing to do is to consult the MIT cost of living calculator before setting a pay range.
Other factors to consider in your family’s childcare budget: Overtime pay if you expect to need a nanny more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours per week, a yearly cost of living raise, and end-of-year bonus. And don’t forget, all nannies, no matter what their work or immigration status, are protected by minimum wage, overtime and other labor laws.
Note: nanny-shares, where multiple families hire a nanny together, are a wonderful way to reduce costs and build your community. See this guide for more info.
Paying on the books vs under the table
Whether to pay on the books or off is a question to discuss with your new hire. Paying “on the books”–aka paying payroll taxes–costs about 10% more, according to Nest Payroll, a trusted Hand in Hand partner. For example, if you offer the nanny $20 per hour, your total expense will be more like $22 an hour. And it’s required by law if you’re going to pay more than a couple thousand dollars in one year … though some states have even lower thresholds.
But there are some big reasons to pay a nanny on the books, Nest Payroll says: “Your employee receives unemployment benefits, Social Security, Medicare, verifiable income for an apartment lease or car loan.” Check out their resources and information on nanny taxes and payroll.
For various reasons some nannies may prefer to be paid off the books so ask the nanny you employ what their preference is.
3. Write and post your nanny job description
Do you prefer a nanny who is a non-smoker, or CPR certified? Do they need to be comfortable preparing bottles, or with baby-led weaning? Will you leave food for them to serve your child, or should they make lunch? Would you like them to take your child to storytime at the library, and if so, does that mean the nanny needs to have a car? How do your child’s days look right now — or how would you like them to look with your ideal nanny?
The clearer your description, the more likely you are to connect with the right candidates. You may want to indicate which parts of the nanny job description are things you’d prefer, and which are absolute “musts.” Maybe for you, being vaccinated against COVID is essential, but CPR certification is just nice-to-have.
4. Interview potential nannies
Start by reaching out or responding to promising candidates to confirm that the broad brushstrokes of the job work for them. Ask a few pre-interview questions—is the commute to your home a comfortable distance for the nanny? Are they going to be allergic to your four fluffy dogs?–before moving on to a full interview.
Pay attention to your rapport and ease of communication as you get to know each other (check out our guide to interviews). You want to learn about the nanny’s experience working with kids and families similar to yours and see if their skills and availability are compatible with your needs.
You also want to be able to answer their questions. This part is helpful to you! You may be able to tell which childcare providers are most experienced and passionate about kids by the questions they ask about your child or children.
5. Check references
If the phone call goes well, take it to the next step! Contact your prospective nanny’s references. Ask their previous employers how long their family employed the nanny, what that job entailed, and how they felt about their caregiving.
You or the nanny may want a trial day (paid, of course), so they can see how your household works. It provides a way for you to see how you all– the nanny and the child, the nanny and you–connect.
6. Offer your favorite nanny candidate a contract and benefits
Your nanny candidate seems amazing and their references think so too? Do a celebratory dance … and offer them a written agreement! Having a written agreement is essential. The beauty of writing out the details of the job is that it helps you think through all the aspects of caregiving that are important to your family. (It also shows that you respect their work!)
It can be simple or in-depth. Just make sure you’ve covered the basics of fair employment in it: Offering fair pay (see above), clearly spell out your expectations (see above), and include paid time off (see here). If nothing else, that sets you up for success.
Have a conversation to see if the nanny has health insurance through another job, partner or spouse, or the Affordable Care Act. You can contribute toward those costs or help them pay for care in many ways—check out our healthcare resource to explore your options.
Set your family up for success with the new nanny!
Protecting yourself and your nanny from needless issues
A few final words of advice: Communication, communication, communication.
Plan to have regular check-ins to discuss what’s going well and what needs work. Many parents find that it’s also important to have some transition time at the start and end of each day to talk caregiver-to-caregiver–about teething, milestones, schedules, or adorable kiddo antics.
Also, be sure the nanny has all the information they need! Write out emergency contacts, food or medication allergies, and house rules (e.g., avoid this finicky toilet). Keep the communication going for a positive relationship.