Parents Advice
REGISTERING YOUR JOB WITH COUNTY NANNIES
The simplest way to register your job with us is by completing and submitting our On-Line Client Families Registration Form.

You can also contact us by telephone or email to brief us on your job. We will also want to speak to you directly however in order to get a full picture of the person for whom you are looking. We will not ask you to pay any registration fee.

Following your specific brief, we will then talk to selected childcarers about your job; forward their personal details to you, qualifying why we feel they may be suitable for your job. If you are interested in meeting/talking with them, we set up all interviews and provide feedback to both parties following each meeting.

In the case of Au Pairs, the interviews are usually conducted over the phone as these candidates are based in their home country.

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INTERVIEWING NANNIES

The best way to get a spontaneous and honest answer in most interview situations is to ask open questions e.g. "Why did you decide to become a nanny?" "What is it about nannying that you enjoy the most?" "What do you do in a typical day?" "What activities do you consider to be most important with x age group?"

Later on in the interview you may wish to put a couple of different scenarios to the Nanny asking her to comment with her view e.g. "What would you do if a child began to choke on some food?" "What would you do if the child's grandparents turned up unexpectedly to take the child out for the day?" (an arrangement of which you had no knowledge)

It is often helpful to keep the interview loosely structured but nevertheless in a relaxed conversational format rather than shooting questions to be ticked off a sheet.

Nannies are childcare professionals, used to working within a domestic home environment, rather than the cut and thrust of an office.

Key things to ask yourself are whether you instinctively feel that the Nanny is a capable and confident childcarer, and equally importantly, is this someone with whom you are going to be able to get on, and treat with the respect they deserve in assuming responsibility for your children's welfare?

It is useful to remember that you are choosing the Nanny for the child; not as a potential "friend" for yourself.

It is always helpful to do two interviews: the first to ascertain fundamental background to the CV; personal chemistry; outlining the job etc; and the second one to focus on interaction between the Nanny and your children.

Does the Nanny instinctively focus on your children and seem at ease with them? Don't be embarrassed if your children throw a tantrum in front of her. How does she react? Does she look put off or unsure of the situation? Does she talk directly to your children even though they may be infants?

At second interview stage, it may be helpful to have another party, say a relative or close friend casually observing the Nanny interacting with yourself and your children. However this should not come across as a trial for the nanny but more of a typical domestic scene with "Granny" or a friend dropping in.

County Nannies always advises parents to speak to their chosen Nanny's referees directly, (even though we will have already done so.)

It can be enormously reassuring to talk to another parent who has entrusted the care of their children to the same person you are now looking to employ.

When it comes to the final negotiations over terms and conditions of the job offer, County Nannies will act on your behalf to negotiate mutually acceptable terms.

Whilst you may prefer to do this directly yourselves, it can be very helpful to have a third party mediating, and advising you discreetly without compromising either party.

INTERVIEWING MATERNITY NURSES

In many cases, these specialist childcarers will have worked in the industry for years.

With first time parents it can be difficult to assess exactly what you are looking for particularly when faced with a nurse who will be far more baby literate than your selves.

At interview, one of the key things to look for is a natural empathy between yourself and the Maternity Nurse. They will be living with you in your home and joining you at a time when you may be at your most happy, vulnerable, in a sea of hormones, and very tired!

Ask questions about routines. What does the nurse usually aim to achieve with a newborn? Does this differ if they are born premature?

Whether first, or second time parents, if you have firm views on a certain type of routine, let the nurse know.

Other questions you could ask - Will the nurse support you with breast feeding? Does she agree with a combination of formula and breast feeding? If you prefer to bottle feed exclusively does your nurse recommend a certain type of bottle or teat?

How long a booking does your nurse recommend? What are the benefits of say an 8 week booking as opposed to a 4 week booking?

As with Nannies, we will follow up with both parties post interview and can manage all negotiations on your behalf and finalise the terms of agreement for the maternity booking.

INTERVIEWING AU PAIRS

Most interviews with Au Pairs take place over the telephone or skype. In many cases their English will be halting or fractured as this is not their mother tongue.

The key thing is to speak slowly, clearly and to be patient! Some agencies arrange Au Pair placements with no interview but we feel that it is important for the Host Family and the Au Pair to have this initial personal contact with each other.

Even with a limited exchange of conversation, each party can still get a feel for each other's personality and personal empathy.

Keep your questions basic and simple e.g. Why do they want to come over to the UK for an Au Pair placement? Are they taking a break from university? What plans do they have following the end of their stay in the UK?

Do they have brothers and sisters? What interests do they have? Have they visited the UK previously?

Should you wish to invite the Au pair to take up a placement with your family, we will do this for you either directly with the Au Pair or via our partner agency.

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EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT (NANNIES)

As with all employees working in other commercial fields, as a professional childcarer working in your home, a Nanny is entitled to, and should be issued with, an employment contract.

This will effectively be the formal reiteration of the details you will have discussed with us and the Nanny directly during the interview process, and is the framework for terms of reference and a mutual understanding of your expectations as an employer.

The Nanny is working for you in the intimate setting of your home, and you are entrusting them with the care of your children. This cannot and should not appear to be a casual business relationship.

The employment contract must have all the key legal requirements but equally it is an opportunity to detail the job description and to highlight key responsibilities.

We advise clients who do not currently have a nanny and contract in place, to sign up to our payroll service who alongside payroll services, can provide a draft Nanny contract and legal advice in relation to the employment of a nanny.

Employment law is complex and is often reviewed and updated. There are also statutory entitlements for employees which much be adhered to.

If you have a signed contract setting out your agreement, you are less likely to experience niggling "misunderstandings" pertaining to differences of opinion as to what was agreed - whether over minor or more significant detail.

You are also sending out a positive message that you are a fair and responsible employer.

CONTRACT FOR SERVICES (MATERNITY)

As Maternity Nurses are self-employed, many Nurses have their own contract which they ask you to sign as confirmation of your booking.

This will set out the financial terms agreed and remit of the booking. Some will ask for a week's (or more) deposit, depending on length of booking.

The contract will also usually cover cancellation terms, and circumstances where there is a late/early arrival of the newborn etc

FAMILY LETTER OF INTRODUCTION (AU PAIRS)

It is important to highlight that an Au Pair placement is in no way an employment agreement in the way for example, that a Nanny is employed. Therefore they do not have formal contracts.

Au Pairs are coming over to the UK as part of as cultural arrangement by which they learn English living as part of a family, in exchange for which they will help out with childcare and generally help in the home.

When confirming an offer to an Au Pair, we ask the Client Family to set out a profile of their family in a letter and also set out your expectations of the Au Pair e.g. work timetable; pocket money; opportunity to do English classes; arrival date and finish etc.

We can email you a basic draft template for this letter if required.

Whilst we will have provided our partner agency (and therefore the Au Pair) with your Family Application Form prior to your invitation to them, we find that many Au Pairs appreciate this detail confirmed in writing by the Client Family. This also helps to avoid any niggles/minor misunderstandings at the outset.

Equally this information is effectively mirroring what the Au Pair will have provided to you in introducing his/herself.

When an Au Pair is coming from a non- EU country requiring a visa or other permits, he/she will may also have a formal requirement for this letter to support his/her application.

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PAYING YOUR NANNY

This is a subject that can be shrouded in confusion with typical areas of dispute centering around whether nannies can be paid cash; whether a salary has been agreed net or gross; and whether they can be self-employed.

The facts are:

As a Nanny employer you are required by law to pay your Nanny's tax and national insurance. They should not be paid cash in hand.

Many nannies think of their salaries in net terms. In employment discussions they often quote a weekly net figure of take home pay however it is best to agree a gross figure when it comes to signing contracts.

Nannies are rarely self-employed (with some exceptions such as those working as maternity nurses).

For those parents who don't run their own businesses or are not already exposed to the vagaries of the tax system, and current employment law, it is usually simplest to turn over the management of your Nanny's payroll to a specialist payroll service.

This is not particularly expensive and effectively takes away the administrative hassle whilst leaving you reassured that you are remunerating your employee correctly. (We can provide details of the specialist payroll service we recommend).

Alternatively, if you would prefer to do it yourself, the first step would be to contact your local Inland Revenue tax office. There will be various forms to fill out and you will need to be meticulous in adhering to all the administrative details required when paying your Nanny.

Most Nannies are paid weekly or monthly either into their bank account or by cheque.

PAYING YOUR MATERNITY NURSE

Maternity Nurses are self-employed and therefore sort out their own tax. They will agree a daily (24 hr); weekly or nights only rate with you and would usually expect to be paid at the end of the first week worked.

PAYING YOUR AU PAIR

Au Pairs are paid an allowance (pocket money). This is usually paid weekly in cash. There are no tax or national insurance issues as they are not in formal employment and equally do not earn enough to qualify.

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INSURANCE

As the employer of a childcarer you should ensure that you have employer's liability insurance in case, for example, your Nanny injures herself whilst working on your premises. Most home content policies include cover for domestic staff, but you should check the small print and if in doubt refer to your insurance broker.

If the childcarer will be driving your car, please ensure that she is included as a named driver on your motor insurance policy.

If your Nanny will be using her own car to drive your children about, you should check that her motor insurance covers business use in addition to social, domestic and pleasure. If it doesn't, this can be added for a small additional premium - some employers offer to pay this.

If your Au Pair has a full clean driving licence from an EU or EEA country he/she can drive in the UK with their home country licence. Au pairs from other countries should be able to drive for up to a year in the UK after which they must obtain a British licence and pass a driving test. (if this applies, please check as regulations can change.

You should register your Au Pair with your family doctor. (Most NHS doctors will treat EU and EEA Au Pairs free of charge but some may charge a fee.) Dental treatment is usually chargeable.

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WORKING TOGETHER

All working relationships take a little time to settle into an area of tacit understanding, and never more so than when someone is working for you in your own home.

It is perfectly natural for both parties to feel occasional insecurity - working mothers employing a nanny for the first time may feel slightly nervous that the nanny will establish a stronger bond with their children.

The Nanny will also be aware and sensitive to the fact that it takes time for trust to be built up when you are handing over your child to another carer for the first time.

Equally a young Au Pair, over in the UK for the first time needs to find his/her feet in every sense - from immersion into the British way of life; initial difficulties with the language; to living within an established family unit.

It is best to be totally open regarding your expectations and basic ground-rules for managing the relationship e.g. If you have firm ideas on your children's diet, sleep routines, playtime, no TV etc - make sure you are clear about this at the outset rather than criticizing after the event.

Is the nanny allowed to take the children out with other nannies/friends who have children of their own? If you want her to be in telephone contact at all times - give her a mobile phone to use.

It is important to show an interest in your childcarer's day. How have the children been? Does she want to tell you about anything specific?

It can be helpful to remember that some days the childcarer may not have seen another adult to interact with all day.

However this does not mean that a cosy debriefing chat after working hours, is what a daily nanny is looking for when she is finishing up for the day.

With Au Pairs, it is important to remember that you do have a commitment to make them feel welcome and part of the family.

Unlike the salaried Daily Nanny who clocks off at the end of the day - the Au Pair is in a 24 hour relationship with you and your family.

It is important to include him/her in your family life, whilst also encouraging them to go out and make other relationships whether with other Au Pairs and English friends; attending English classes etc

Equally whether you have an Au Pair or live-in Nanny, it is important to respect their own space, both mentally, (don't give them long details about how terrible your day has been! ) and physically (their accommodation/bedroom is their own private area to tune out of the working day.)

Equally don't allow the children to plague them to play with them on their day off. By respecting your Nanny or Au Pair's privacy you are equally expecting, and entitled to, total confidentiality with regard to your private life.

In your absence, a fully comprehensive list of telephone contacts for you; close relatives and friends; the doctor and local hospital should be clearly in view at all times.

A kitty with cash available in it for weekly outings to playgroups; swimming; ballet etc. means that the childcarer will not be out of pocket nor will she need to continually ask you for small amounts of money.

Most Nanny employers will require a nanny who can drive. Arrange an initial outing with the nanny driving you and the children so you can reassure yourself that she is a careful driver. If the nanny is using her own car to drive your children around on a regular basis - you should pay for mileage to include the petrol and contribute towards wear and tear.

If you are providing the nanny with a car, you should make it clear whether the usage is confined to working days only or whether it is available to her for private use.

If you are entrusting your Au Pair to drive your children in your car, it is critical to check their driving skills. Many young Au Pairs will only have been driving for a year or so, usually on the right hand side of the road depending on which country they come from.

Road signs may also be quite different to those they are used to.

We advise parents to go out with their Au Pair in the car; teach them the key journeys you want them to do regularly; possibly even pay for a few refresher lessons with the local driving school.

The key with all childcarers is to encourage good communication all round.

Don't change the goal posts - e.g. coming home habitually late; not paying them on a set day a week; swapping holiday plans at the last minute and expecting her to fit in.

In short, treat them with the respect you would wish to be accorded to yourself. On such terms long and lasting relationships and friendships can be formed from your children's childhoods through to their adult life.

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