As we navigate a scary time in the United States at the height of the coronavirus crisis, many cities and states are being issued “Shelter in Place” or “Stay at Home” orders by executives like governors and mayors. What does that mean for domestic workers like nannies and home care attendants and what are the implications for house cleaners and gardeners?

It is crucial in this moment to do all that we can to help “flatten the curve” so that we can get back to the lives we knew before this pandemic. (Though perhaps our new lives will be a little more visionary and inclusive on a grand scale!) Our guidelines below are meant to support moving through this moment, and we know that everyone has different situations, and one size never fits all—especially not right now.

Be sure that you’re in regular communication with the person or people you employ about the risks and consequences of our guidelines and that you’re taking safety precautions appropriately. This page will be updated regularly as new information becomes available.


Hand in Hand aims to support domestic employers and domestic workers to have more clarity on what to do when “Shelter in Place” or “Stay at Home” orders are issued. It’s a challenging moment for everyone and these mandates raise some confusion about the responsibilities of domestic employers and domestic workers. Hand in Hand and NDWA developed these recommendations to ensure that the response to these Executive Orders specifically, and this crisis in general, does not exacerbate the vulnerable low-wage, immigrant women of color workforce in the wake of this pandemic.

Therefore, we encourage domestic employers to follow these recommendations and be vocal about them to make this the norm and not the exception under the current crisis. 

What do “Shelter in Place” or “Stay at Home” executive orders mandate?

Executive orders like these restrict operations of businesses considered non-essential and very small gatherings (2-10, depending on the location) people. Employers who force non-essential employees to work may be subjected to civil penalties. Domestic workers, including nannies and housecleaners who are not providing essential care or services are not considered essential workers and must stay home.

We consider that:

  • Domestic workers who provide elder care and home health care are considered “essential workers.”
  • Domestic workers may be designated as “essential workers” if they provide child care services to employers who are considered “essential workers.”
  • Childcare services refer to services at home-based spaces or private businesses where essential workers drop children off.
  • Nannies are employees and not a business.

If you are a nanny employer who is an “essential worker” 

  1. Please check out Hand in Hand’s toolkits on How to be a Fair Care employer in New York, California, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
  2. Provide a letter to your nanny including your nanny’s full name, your full name, your place(s) of employment, and explanation of how you are an essential worker. This is a precaution in the event your domestic worker is stopped by law enforcement and may need to provide documentation of essential childcare services.

If you are a nanny employer who is a “non-essential worker”

Each employer-worker relationship is unique, and this is a moment in which we all need to protect each other.

  1. Offer paid time off to your employees, so that they can stay home safe along with their families and continue to take care of their essential needs.
  2. Talk to your own employer about and how this executive order is impacting your work hours. Ask for flexibility so you can take more breaks to take care of your children.

If you cannot continue paying your employee because you are losing income during this crisis:

  1. Have the conversation as soon as possible so your employee is aware that they may lose their income in a couple of weeks (for example two, four weeks or more weeks). You can find more advice for having hard conversations here
  2. Pay the full amount as long as you can. Communicate the specific time period with the employee and give a set  date to revisit the conversation within 1 or 2 weeks as conditions change.
  3. Considering that many domestic workers are unable to collect unemployment, be clear about the agreed time period when you are unable to make full payments to the employee. Consider paying at least half of their wages until a specific time period to ensure the employee does not go unpaid.

Can you do more?

  1. Pay your employee’s membership to the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) where they will find a community and support. Direct them to NDWA resources around coronavirus here. Ask your domestic worker to text RELIEF to 97779 to get updates from NDWA and learn more about the NDWA Coronavirus Care Fund. 
  2. Join Hand in Hand as a member to continue to stay up to date with resources and updates as the landscape shifts around us.

What you should NOT do?

We recommend NOT to ask your nanny to become a live-in employee. As parents, we seek to ensure everyone is safe around us. Be mindful that your employee has their own safety concerns and needs as well. Have an open and direct conversation with your domestic worker to find out what is also best for them.

States with Stay Home Orders

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia (Atlanta only), Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania (partial), Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin

States close nonessential businesses or issue quarantines—Not Full Stay Home Order

Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, Kentucky

If you have updates or resources that belong on this page, please share them with us at Please take good care and stay safe during this crisis.