Should I Pay My Nanny During COVID-19?
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Do you have a pressing financial question? Email Today’s experts are Eva MacCleery, director of client services for HomePay, and Lynn Perkins, CEO of UrbanSitter.

“We’ve had a full-time nanny for our daughter for the past three years, but ever since COVID-19 and social distancing, we have no idea when she’ll return for work. Aside from the stay-at-home orders, it’s currently not safe for her to even come here, since she commutes by train. Do we continue paying her? Or reduce her rate? We’re worried about our own finances, but we don’t want to remove her full-time source of income either.”

Rest assured that you’re not alone here. From friendly text chains to official parenting message boards, this quandary is everywhere, and there’s no simple solution.

“There are legal, ethical and practical aspects to this question,” says MacCleery. “Many caregivers live paycheck to paycheck and rely on that income to make ends meet. They have bills to pay and mouths to feed, so if you can afford to keep paying them during the pandemic, that would be a tremendous help to them.”

Perkins also weighs in. “We’ve seen some families say: ‘If I’m getting paid, my nanny is getting paid.’ Others have stopped paying immediately. But the most common response seems to be either reduced pay or pay through a determined date, regardless of whether social distancing has been lifted.”

All that said, your decision rests with your own financial situation, plus a few other factors. For example, what’s the agreement you’ve set up with your nanny? Is there a contract in place that guarantees his or her pay no matter what? Also, how long has your nanny been working with your family? Is this a recent hire or has she been with your kids for years? Finally, what are your family’s specific health factors? Based on those, is it safe for you to continue a relationship with this nanny when the stay-at-home orders do lift?

Says Perkins, “Once you’ve come up with a plan, it’s important to clearly communicate it with your nanny and revisit it on a regular basis, especially as social distancing restrictions change.” Alternately, if you’re going to continue paying your nanny, you could always discuss some possible pivots to her typical role. “We’ve seen some families substitute regular nanny duties for other responsibilities if the nanny is willing to take these on,” Perkins adds. “This includes virtual babysitting, remote assistance with homeschooling and running errands for the family.”

It’s also worth noting that nannies who have been paid as employees (over the table) may file for unemployment, but eligibility for these benefits varies by state. In fact, many states have established job protection programs for employees during quarantine periods, which may include wage replacement and/or sick leave benefits, so you’ll want to look into your options based on where you live. On the flip side, “nannies who have been paid under the table may be eligible for both federal and state assistance under various relief programs,” Perkins explains. “Some states have set up programs for workers who lack sufficient work history, including gig workers, and in some cases undocumented workers.”

No matter your decision, it’s best to be up-front about it—and give as much notice as you can. “In all cases, we recommend clearly communicating with your nanny about your family’s plans and any changes to her pay,” says Perkins. “We also encourage offering your nanny as much additional support as possible to help navigate the various relief packages that could be available to her.”

Bottom line: A return to your former “routine” may not be in the cards for a while. “Even if there’s no contractual obligation, families are doing what they can to support their caregiver right now,” says MacCleery. “If you can’t afford to pay them their full amount, you can still pay what you can—every bit helps.”

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