Employment Rights for Domestic Workers In New York State
June 3, 2010 7:58 AM   Subscribe

New York State is now poised to pass the nation's first laws mandating that domestic workers receive overtime pay, vacation and sick days and the right to a weekly day of rest. The legislation signed by the state Senate yesterday is based in part on the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which was conceived and lobbied for by Domestic Workers United, who estimate there are over 200,000 nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers in the New York Metropolitan area. Domestic Workers are currently exempt from most US employment laws and as a result remain unprotected by basic workplace guarantees that are given to most employees.

Additional information from the NYTimes:
The State Senate this week passed a bill that would require paid holidays, sick days and vacation days for domestic workers, along with overtime wages. It would require 14 days’ notice, or termination pay, before firing a domestic worker.

The Assembly passed a similar measure last year, and lawmakers expect that the two versions will be reconciled and that Gov. David A. Paterson will sign what they say would be the nation’s first such protections for domestic workers. It would affect an estimated 200,000 workers in the metropolitan area: citizens, legal immigrants and those here illegally as well.

Albany has wrestled with similar legislation for six years. The bill that passed the Senate, 33 to 28, on Tuesday had faced opposition, largely from Republicans, based on additional costs to the employers and the extension of workplace protections to illegal immigrants. Advocates in California and Colorado hope that similar legislation will be introduced in their states next year, said Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
WashPost:
Unlike the Assembly-passed bill last year, the Senate measure that was approved 33-28 on Tuesday also guarantees a half-dozen holidays, seven sick days and five vacation days annually, all paid. Both would establish collective bargaining rights. The Senate bill also would require 14-day termination notice or pay and establish a worker's right to sue.

Text of the Senate Bill

Do Nannies Deserve Labor Rights?
posted by zarq (111 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oops. Forgot a link:

The DWU says 99% of domestic workers are foreign-born, 95% are people of color and 93% are women.
posted by zarq at 8:00 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yay for unions.
posted by oddman at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Its a great idea - but I can't name a single person I know who pays their Nanny on the books -and I know lots of people with Nannies.

Add into the fact that I'm not sure going on the books to get these guarantees would end up putting more money in peoples pockets even with things like overtime and paid holidays. I also can't think of anyone who has their nanny work even 6 days a week.
posted by JPD at 8:09 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's no good. They'll just outsource the jobs now. To HAMBURGERSTAN
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2010


and establish a worker's right to sue.

I wasn't aware that this right wasn't implicit. Can any lawyer-types elaborate?
posted by schmod at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2010


Everything about the employment of "domestics" skeeves me out. We should do everything we can to formalize these arrangements. You know it's fucked up when a whole class of workers are specifically excluded from the National Labor Relations Act and have been for nearly 80 years.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2010 [14 favorites]


it's a great idea, but if someone already is not paying someone on the books, how will this be enforced?

as has been said many times by advocates for low-wage/unprotected workers, many of those workers have to weight the option of having no job at all versus tattling on their employer, who may then treat them badly or fire them in retaliation, thus leaving them with a bad reference and no money.

i know we can't help everyone all the time, but i'm curious how this will be enforced.
posted by sio42 at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2010


i know we can't help everyone all the time, but i'm curious how this will be enforced.

I would think employees would now be able to file unfair labor practice charges before the NYS Employment Relations Board.
posted by enn at 8:16 AM on June 3, 2010


Its a great idea - but I can't name a single person I know who pays their Nanny on the books -and I know lots of people with Nannies.

It's simple: sue employers who hire these (mostly) women illegally. New York state need revenue, there's a a general "eat the rich"zeitgeist, they are not hard to spot.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:17 AM on June 3, 2010


Hell a huge proportion of domestics can't even legally work in NY. Never mind the economic incentive - they can't get tax ID's because they are here legally.

(This is of course totally fucked up - and no guest worker programs are a terrible idea- citizenship citizenship citizenship)
posted by JPD at 8:18 AM on June 3, 2010


The links explain that this is not likely to help domestic workers who are here illegally, as they would be unlikely to report violations to a government agency.

However, if the workers are here legally, the (impending) law may be helpful in establishing baselines by which workers could demand basic employment rights up front, prior to being hired. And if they lose their job over a dispute, they could sue their employers. The law may also make finding an employer who is willing to provide vacation, etc., a little easier. Only time will tell.
posted by zarq at 8:20 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great idea that's useless in NYC.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:20 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is nonsense. There ought to be a national law that ALL people employed be treated with minimum wage, holidays etc etc instead of the exceptions we have allowed...as for illegals: pay them as though legal and get arrested if you do not and are shown to be hiring illegals.
posted by Postroad at 8:22 AM on June 3, 2010


here illegally of course

2bucksplus - lots of people who have nannies are by NY standards middle class. Think about it if a nanny costs about 25k a year on the books and the woman wants to continue here career the income level at which a nanny makes economic sense is not really all that high - maybe 75k or so. (assumes of course that for some reason you don't want to but your child into daycare). Besides - you make the assumption its the employers who want to be off the books - that is not the case - both parties want to be off the books.
posted by JPD at 8:22 AM on June 3, 2010


Besides - you make the assumption its the employers who want to be off the books - that is not the case - both parties want to be off the books.

Sure, as long as being on the books conveyed no particular benefit to the employee and involved paying taxes — why deal with that if you're exempted from all the protections of labor law anyway? With mandated overtime and paid time off I think it's clear the legislature is trying to make it more attractive to employees to be on the books.
posted by enn at 8:28 AM on June 3, 2010


Besides - you make the assumption its the employers who want to be off the books - that is not the case - both parties want to be off the books.

I hear what you are saying but honestly I have no sympathy. If you feel you need to hire a nanny but are unable or unwilling to satisfy the same minimum wage standards, overtime and time-off standards, and employer taxes than would be required for literally any other job, then the problem is yours. If enough people really need nannies and really can't afford them, then it is up to us as a society to find a better solution to the problem and perhaps to be more understanding to parents in general.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:30 AM on June 3, 2010


With mandated overtime and paid time off I think it's clear the legislature is trying to make it more attractive to employees to be on the books.

I agree.
posted by zarq at 8:33 AM on June 3, 2010


Fascinating -- I had no idea domestic workers were excluded from labour laws... the whole idea of that is bizarre.
posted by modernnomad at 8:38 AM on June 3, 2010


Fascinating. I had no idea these were in the works and I'm excited to read up on them. Thanks for posting.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:39 AM on June 3, 2010


Is there a provision to tattoo creep in mirror writing on the forehead of middle aged men who think they are in love with their 21 year old au pairs?
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


So does the family employing the nanny now have to withhold SS, Medicare, Fed and State etc and pay it into the govt?
posted by spicynuts at 8:49 AM on June 3, 2010


The most popular comment on the article makes a very good point:

It's no wonder why nannies are off the books employees. Right now, if you employ a nanny, you are required to pay taxes and do paperwork and carry insurance as if you are a regular employer with one key difference. You DO NOT get to deduct your nanny's salary from your income taxes. Until employers of nannies get the tax benefits of being employers, not just the responsibilities, this economy will continue to be off the books. Why is this essential fact never brought up?
BG
NYC
June 2nd, 2010
11:32 pm


I know some self-employed people with LLC filing status who would put their nanny on the company payroll as an 'office assistant' to get the deduction. Otherwise it just doesn't make sense to keep them on the books. If you need a nanny, that usually means both parents are working and don't have time to act as an employer with all the requisite paperwork. While workplace protections are really very important, cash is just easier all around. The state wants more money, and hiding that motive under the guise of 'worker's rights' is a little shady.

But among domestic workers, there are some doubts that immigrants lacking legal documentation would be willing to report violations of a new wage law to a government agency.

This. While NY is rather lenient with people lacking documentation, things unfolding elsewhere in the country would keep me scared of approaching any government agency. That combined with the onus of extra hours of bookkeeping in an already hectic schedule means that the law may have the opposite effect of driving more nanny/employer relationships underground.

Basically, the nanny industry is a huge underground economy, and the state wants a piece. But they seem to not really care about the reality of the system, which itself is based of a tightly-knit web of recommendations and social cliques (usually based off culture), where abusive employers are for the most part avoidable simply through word of mouth. It works much better than any state-imposed money-grabbing solution. I think I'll stick with cash thank you very much.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 8:53 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you need a nanny, that usually means both parents are working and don't have time to act as an employer with all the requisite paperwork.

If you can afford a nanny you can afford an accountant.
posted by enn at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


So does the family employing the nanny now have to withhold SS, Medicare, Fed and State etc and pay it into the govt?

They always had to do that, just nobody did.
posted by atrazine at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you can afford a nanny you can afford an accountant.

As a nanny, this is not necessarily true. If you have more than one child a nanny is very often cheaper than sending both children to daycare/preschool. Nannies do not necessarily earn huge amounts of money.

Also: I'm a nanny but in terms of rights to worker's comp, Family and Medical Leave, and other such "luxuries" that people employed above-board (I do pay taxes, but my "contract" is highly informal and I get far, far, FAR fewer than the legally mandated concessions w/r/t days off, etc.), I'm at no advantage for being an American citizen. I jokingly* refer to my employment status as "Honorary Mexican." If anything happened to me on the job, I would have exactly zero legal recourse about it.

And while I accept that as a part of the job, it's not something that should be part of the job.

*JOKINGLY. HAMBURGER. JOKE. JOKETY JOKE.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:58 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok so lets look at math. 25k off the books is sort of the going rate IIRC.

Assume that our hypothetical Nanny is single and has one kid. She makes $10/hour and works 60 hours a week for 52 weeks (so assumes she gets paid hols) does that seem reasonable to you? She get 1.5x for the 20 hours above 40 she works. This person's take home including the EIC and everything is a bit more then she would make if she was off the books. No kid? off the books is better. Don't get the overtime? off the books is better. Not to mention that if you bring your nanny on the books there is no way you are paying her on a w-2 so now you've got to double the FICA and even our original hypothetical nanny is worse off. Add into that there are a lot few people who can afford to spend 35k then 25k -bear in mind after tax money, not pre-tax (and that barrier for work vs not work for the parents goes up) and things change even more.

Now it is insane that these people essentially have no rights to sue or to vacations but a few things I've learned - the nannies all know one another. If you are an asshole - good luck finding another nanny. They all know what everyone makes - in fact lots of nannies in the city are from the same islands or Guyana. They've already got sort of an informal union that works for them. I mean there are lots of exploited workers in NY and there are some truly nightmarish stories out there but this is not going to be any sort of panacea nor is it going to convince lots of people being on the books is the way to go.
posted by JPD at 9:00 AM on June 3, 2010


So does the family employing the nanny now have to withhold SS, Medicare, Fed and State etc and pay it into the govt?

They always had to do that, just nobody did.


Yes, this. See for example the number of people who have run for office and gotten busted because they were employing their nannies illegally.

(Again, I am employed above-board. My work family employs me through a payroll service which withholds the necessary funds and pays them to the govt. I have a W2 and all of that. I have done this at all of my full-time positions. But yes, it's much MORE expensive to the family to do this.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:01 AM on June 3, 2010


So does the family employing the nanny now have to withhold SS, Medicare, Fed and State etc and pay it into the govt?

They always had to do that, just nobody did.
posted by atrazine at 11:55 AM


not if you pay them on a 1099 you don't - and I assure you that's what'll happen
posted by JPD at 9:01 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nanny is single and has one kid. She makes $10/hour and works 60 hours a week for 52 weeks (so assumes she gets paid hols) does that seem reasonable to you?

I work 50hrs a week and yes, this is the bare minimum for nannies. No overtime. Ever. Even though sometimes, I do WORK overtime. When you average out my salary, I make slightly more than I made serving coffee.

Childcare is not a high paying profession and anyone who gets into nannying looking for money is deluded.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:02 AM on June 3, 2010


(Done commenting now that lunchtime is over and my job requires more supervision! Sorry for flooding the thread!)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:03 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't know anyone who employs a nanny legally either. And I've never met a nanny who wanted to be paid on the books, usually for tax or welfare reasons.

Nannies are a bit different from other domestic workers (e.g. housekeepers). I've never met a parent who screws around with their nanny, either on pay or hours. This is a person who has access to your children for several hours a day -- the last thing you want to do is give her a reason to be pissed at you, or work her so hard that she's tired and distracted all the time.

I'm generally sympathetic to the labor rights issues at stake. But (in Boston at least) putting a nanny on the books means you need to pay employer taxes, social security taxes, and (worst of all) health insurance, which puts a full-time nanny completely out of reach of the middle class. Going off-books means that you can save ~40% on your nanny's rate, she saves %15 on her taxes, and she can pay into the state health insurance program for the "unemployed" (which is much much cheaper than employer-provided health insurance) or go on her spouse's health insurance (many blue collar and service industry jobs disallow partner coverage if the partner is employed).

Any serious attempt to clean up the domestic worker labor market is going to have to address the tremendous economic incentives for both employer and employee to go off-books. If all you do is increase the penalties and enforcement, that's just going to make it harder for these workers to find a job.
posted by xthlc at 9:03 AM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


They all know what everyone makes - in fact lots of nannies in the city are from the same islands or Guyana.

This is a stupid stereotype. Every nanny I've ever personally known is a US citizen.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:04 AM on June 3, 2010


2bucksplus - Nannies in NYC make more then minimum wage once you adjust it for taxes. Much more then minimum wage.
posted by JPD at 9:05 AM on June 3, 2010


And I've never met a nanny who wanted to be paid on the books, usually for tax or welfare reasons.

I do. I require health insurance and the only way to buy a plan based on my income is to have legal documentation of said income.

(REALLY DONE NOW. PROMISE.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:05 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a nanny, this is not necessarily true. If you have more than one child a nanny is very often cheaper than sending both children to daycare/preschool. Nannies do not necessarily earn huge amounts of money.

Sure. But accountants are not ridiculously expensive either. If you're paying a nanny even for, say, 20 hours a week, the money it will cost to get the right paperwork filed and deductions withheld will be a drop in the bucket next to what you're paying the nanny yearly. (Of course, having to pay the employer portion of the payroll taxes will be a bit more expensive.)

not if you pay them on a 1099 you don't - and I assure you that's what'll happen

Well, the Department of Labor has been cracking down on 1099 abuse (which classifying a nanny as a contractor surely is), so that may not be so easy either. Plus, a 1099 nanny will have to pay double the payroll tax of an employee (on top of the income tax proper), so you'll probably have to pay more anyway.
posted by enn at 9:05 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every nanny I've ever personally known is a US citizen.


Maybe we both have weird sample bias then because every nanny one of my friends employs fills that stereotype.
posted by JPD at 9:06 AM on June 3, 2010


Adventures in Babysitters Unionization?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:06 AM on June 3, 2010


Many people who are informally employed today will find it impossible to find similar work under this law. Many people who hire domestic workers today will find it impossible to do so under this law.

Dollars will shift away from nannies and "cleaning ladies" who work independently and manage their own books of business. Agencies that can economize on all the new paperwork overhead will claim a much larger share of the market. Profits will shift from small businesses and independent workers to large, formal arrangements. Organized labor will play a larger role as well, because it makes economic sense to bargain collectively with large employers (agencies), not small employers (families).

In other words, the domestic services economy will become more inflexible, formalized, and dominated by large enterprise, just like the rest of the economy.

Yay?

Personally, I can't wait till they do this for dogwalkers. Cut those fuckers down to size. They are NYC's true overclass.
posted by grobstein at 9:14 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, the Department of Labor has been cracking down on 1099 abuse (which classifying a nanny as a contractor surely is), so that may not be so easy either. Plus, a 1099 nanny will have to pay double the payroll tax of an employee (on top of the income tax proper), so you'll probably have to pay more anyway.

Yeah, it's totally illegal to pay a nanny as a 1099 employee. As an employer, you would get fined for it by the IRS, and have to pay back taxes.

4NannyTaxes is a great service. A comment on their site about the NYS legislation was pretty eye-opening for me: (emphasis mine)
It is not a done deal yet - it still needs to go through the reconciliation process, but for all those families paying off the books (if there are 200K NYC area domestics and only 225K families NATIONWIDE paying nanny taxes we know there are MANY off the books) you will now be in more jeopardy of being caught if the employee files a grievance. The NYS legislature probably doesn't realize it but this will be a revenue raising scheme!

posted by zarq at 9:16 AM on June 3, 2010


(REALLY DONE NOW. PROMISE.)

FWIW, I'm really glad you're commenting. I'm learning a lot. So, thank you! :)
posted by zarq at 9:17 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fascinating. I had no idea these were in the works and I'm excited to read up on them. Thanks for posting.

You're very welcome!
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on June 3, 2010


-lots of people who have nannies are by NY standards middle class.

I was going to make a snarky comment about
If you can afford a nanny you're not middle class, and labeling oneself as such is part of the old American dodge of "We don't have upper-class elites, just one big middle class with a couple of Bill Gates' up top some poor immigrants and the homeless on the bottom."Americans don't like to cop to actually being "wealthy" to the general public.
But we don't really have a functional definition of "middle class", except that it built the country after WWII and it's disappearing. Hell, I grew up in a large home with physician/office manager parents at the beach in New York and we were raised to think of ourselves as "middle class".

-A weekly day of rest. Sounds like not much has changed other than dinner fashion since the days of Gosford Park. Those domestics got something like one Thursday a month off.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:21 AM on June 3, 2010


I've thought for a while now that one of the big social changes we made in our society was when we sort of disentangled the extended upper-middle-class family which consisted of the family and their cook and nanny and maybe butler all living under the same roof, sharing housing and food. And that this change wasn't necessarily for the better. Granted, it was a classist structure which afforded little mobility for those in the servant class, but it did offer the benefits of consolidation of expenses for larger numbers of people living together.

What were the terms of employment for those kinds of households "back in the day"? I know that the servants usually received a night off per week, and had a stipend paid to them above and beyond the room and board. And that they often had a lot of power in the household, doing things like keeping the household budget, doing the provisioning, etc.

What are the duties of a modern nanny? Is it really just glorified babysitting (not meaning that to be a snarky term -- trying to put it into context for myself), or is there more going on?
posted by hippybear at 9:26 AM on June 3, 2010


Well, the Department of Labor has been cracking down on 1099 abuse (which classifying a nanny as a contractor surely is), so that may not be so easy either.

My work family looked into this and it's not possible to do it legally.

Nannies in NYC make more then minimum wage once you adjust it for taxes. Much more then minimum wage.

I'd like to meet this nannies and/or move to NYC. I mean, I make a decent salary, but I wouldn't classify it as "MUCH" more than minimum wage.

Sure. But accountants are not ridiculously expensive either.

Right, so any family paying for childcare at all should be able to afford an accountant (by that logic), making the "paying the nanny means you can afford an accountant" kind of a moot point. And also, yes, emphasizing that families who employ nannies should consult with one.

-lots of people who have nannies are by NY standards middle class.

I think a lot more people could afford nannies than they think. People have the misconception of nannies as earning super amounts of money, which isn't true. As I say, it's actually cheaper in many, MANY cases to employ a nanny for two or more children than to send them both to daycare.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned: nannies who work in their own homes are a different matter entirely and can file as self-employed thus sparing their work-families the headache of getting a W2. But this ONLY true if the nanny cares for the work-children in HER own home. (I would be gender neutral for PC reasons, except that I have yet to meet a male nanny and honestly, all "seeking nanny" ads I've met specifically use female pronouns.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:28 AM on June 3, 2010


What are the duties of a modern nanny? Is it really just glorified babysitting (not meaning that to be a snarky term -- trying to put it into context for myself), or is there more going on?

I will answer your wellmeaning snark with my own well-meaning snark. Yes, it's glorified babysitting. For the love of Dog, I am taking care of your children FIFTY HOURS A WEEK while you work. I feed them breakfast. I take them on field trips. I change their diapers. I potty train them. I feed them lunch. I teach them songs. I read them stories. I - HEAVEN FORBID - watch the occasional movie with them. I am who they come to with booboos and fears about monsters when you're not around. I care for them when they're ill. I am who they puke on when you're not home. I maintain a safe home environment and follow consistent forms of discipline with those your provide so you never, ever have to worry about your children during your work day. I consult with you when problems arise so that we're all on the same page with how to manage difficult behavioral issues.

Right now, I'm in and out of the house while I play "tennis" with a two year old and make sure that he and his five year old brother are sharing properly. Earlier today, I took the two year old out on a "field trip," supervised outside play, made breakfast for one child, and made lunch for two children. I made sure that the five year old took care of his toileting needs appropriately and dressed the two year old. Later, I will change at least one poopy diaper, put the children down for nap/quiet time, supervise more outside play, prepare snack, and undoubtedly settle at least six territorial disputes about "That's mine, this is yours." I will also clean the children's playroom (with their "help") so the home is cleaner than it was when you left for work. I will manage every single dish dirtied during the day and any laundry that's created.

When you get home, your children will be happy, healthy, and well fed. Your home will be clean. And you will have the peace of mind that this happens day in, day out.

Fuck yes I'm a GLORIFIED babysitter.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:33 AM on June 3, 2010 [26 favorites]


I just moved to the New York area (LI) and this entire domestic servant business really creeps me out, never saw this back in Seattle. We were hanging out with some friends at a mini-barbecue the other day and a woman showed up with her two kids, and a young Central American woman who no one introduced to us. We had to ask, who is this person carrying your baby around? If we tried to chat with her, other people would just walk up to us and talk right over her, as though she wasn't there. No one spoke to her or acknowledged her presence. It was kind of horrifying.

Any step towards more rights and respect for people in her situation strikes me as a step in the right direction.
posted by Shutter at 9:36 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon: maybe you should move to New York. The going rate here for nannies who do what you do for more than one kid on a non-live-in basis is about $20 an hour, not $10.
posted by The Bellman at 9:42 AM on June 3, 2010


Anthem for the principled middle-class resistance to this leftist tyranny can be found HERE.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:43 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can we all just admit that the real problem is that the 'upper class' life we all bought for ourselves by having both parents work full time careers means we don't get to raise our own kids? Great, you've got the McMansion, the beach house, the BMW and the Porsche SUV, etc but neither of you ever get to see the kids. Welcome to being rich, except instead of the nanny being hired so that wifey can lounge and attend to society, now s/he's hired so that both parents can be VPs or something.
posted by spicynuts at 9:47 AM on June 3, 2010


grapefruitmoon: maybe you should move to New York. The going rate here for nannies who do what you do for more than one kid on a non-live-in basis is about $20 an hour, not $10.

Not in Queens.

Either that or I'm seriously underpaying mine. And so is everyone else I know.
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on June 3, 2010


The Bellman: Man, I would love $20/hr. I don't know if I would love living in NY and also paying NY rents though. :P

(Also: pre-emptively before I get any flack for posting to MeFi during the work day - I'm a super fast reader and typist and have been reloading the thread/checking in while also playing outside, fixing snacks, and reassuring a 5 year old that flushing the toilet will not break the floor. It's now "quiet time," so I have time "to myself" that you normal people get as a lunch break - remember, I can't take a break. Ever. I can't walk out for even five minutes. I can never leave early. I can never arrive late. I can't take time off - even for doctor's appointments - without catastrophic scheduling cascades. No one can come in and "sub" for me if I'm sick. This notion that nannies don't earn their money galls me to no end. Sorry to get so "GRAR" but glorified babysitter comments hit me in my angry place.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:56 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anthem for the principled middle-class resistance to this leftist tyranny can be found HERE.

This is your revolution? This legislation is your scary Malcolm-X shit?

Or do you just like to roll this bullshit out when someone opposes something you're in favor of?
posted by grobstein at 9:57 AM on June 3, 2010


zarq: I was referring to New York CITY. What is this Queens place? (Kidding. Yes. To be clear, I was referring to Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. I don't know what the going rate is in the other boroughs.)
posted by The Bellman at 10:00 AM on June 3, 2010


Can we all just admit that the real problem is that the 'upper class' life we all bought for ourselves by having both parents work full time careers means we don't get to raise our own kids? Great, you've got the McMansion, the beach house, the BMW and the Porsche SUV, etc but neither of you ever get to see the kids. Welcome to being rich, except instead of the nanny being hired so that wifey can lounge and attend to society, now s/he's hired so that both parents can be VPs or something.

I hired a nanny because to survive, my wife and I both have to work. We have no choice. We cannot afford to live here on one salary. And both of us make more individually than our nanny does. When my kids were born, there was only one day care in our area that took children under 18 months and for two children it was extremely expensive. Now there are more options for parents with infants. Our nanny is only slightly more affordable than day care, but my kids get personal, individual attention for 42 hours a week, while my wife and I are at work, and I like the fact that they're safe at home when they're sick and also when the weather is miserable. I like that I know who they're coming in contact with, and when one of them needs medical care they're being taken care of and soothed by someone we all know as a part of our family.

My wife and I raise our own kids. We are home with them in the mornings and evenings and on the weekends. We take a lot of time off -- as much as possible, to spend time with them. I'm not living an upper class life. We don't neglect our children, and I don't own a McMansion, beach house, BMW or SUV. I drive a minivan that's 10 years old, and try my best to provide for my family. We teach our kids, and our nanny helps.

Please don't presume you know what sort of life those of us who hire nannies are living. Whether you realize it or not, your comment is rather offensive and inaccurate.
posted by zarq at 10:03 AM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Bellman, Heh. Yeah, if I could afford to live in NYC, I'd probably be paying a LOT more. :)
posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on June 3, 2010


I like that I know who they're coming in contact with, and when one of them needs medical care they're being taken care of and soothed by someone we all know as a part of our family.

Yes, bears mentioning that I take your children to the doctor and get them to pee in a cup when they have urinary tract infections and hold them still while getting flu shots. And they completely trust me to do so and are soothed by my presence.

You only have to rush home from work in the most dire of medical emergencies and don't have to worry about incidental colds and flus keeping you home when your child isn't allowed to attend school. Also, your children get sick less often from not being in germ tanks.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:09 AM on June 3, 2010


PS: While I know that I do a lot for the families I work with, I in NO WAY view myself as a "replacement" for the parents or view the parents as "slacking off" for hiring me. I'm a part of a team, but I'm not a third parent and every moment the parents spend with their children is valuable - I'm here so the parents can spend time at work in order to support said children and also so that they can pursue their own careers. I'm not here so parents can slack off and go sailing on their yachts.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:10 AM on June 3, 2010


Can we all just admit that the real problem is that the 'upper class' life we all bought for ourselves by having both parents work full time careers means we don't get to raise our own kids? Great, you've got the McMansion, the beach house, the BMW and the Porsche SUV, etc but neither of you ever get to see the kids. Welcome to being rich, except instead of the nanny being hired so that wifey can lounge and attend to society, now s/he's hired so that both parents can be VPs or something.

Seconding what zarq said. Overgeneralizing what is ALWAYS a specific and individual situation into some kind of ridiculous statement about 'class' is offensive and uninformed.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2010


grapefruitmoon: thanks for answering my question. I really didn't mean it as mean as it sounded, and I hope your answer was written with the humor I read into the words.

It looks like you do an awful lot during the day. Not just babysitting, but cooking, planning trips, socialization education. Do you also do laundry for the children? That's yet another task above and beyond babysitting. Housecleaning? Yet another task.

You're not just a nanny. You're a full-on domestic staff contained in a single person.

I don't have kids, and wasn't raised by a nanny. (My mother stayed home with us until we were both in school, and then resumed her career as a teacher.) I think any family who can employ someone like you is incredibly blessed not only to afford such help which lets them pursue their own adult lives, but also that the children sound like they are well cared for with consistency of action and person during the time their parents are away. That's something which a lot of kids grow up without, even if they do have a parent at home during the day.

I could only hope that if I were to ever have children to raise and didn't have the time to do it myself, that I could find someone like you. I would hope that I could treat them fairly and and fully above-board with all the privileges deserving of someone who has that much impact and works that hard to keep my family on an even keel.
posted by hippybear at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2010


And they completely trust me to do so and are soothed by my presence.

After our last trip to see my wife's family, my daughter spent two weeks calling our nanny "Gamma" (grandma). The first time she did it, I'm getting ready for work and I hear "I'M NOT YOUR GRANDMA! DO I LOOK LIKE SOMEONE OLD ENOUGH TO BE A GRANDMA TO YOU!" from the kitchen. The response: "Yes! Gamma! Gamma! Gamma old!"

I figure they're either completely fearless, totally comfortable with her, or have a death wish. :D :D
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do not understand the people who are arguing here that nannies shouldn't have the same legal protections that they do. I'm reminded of the factory I used to work in that paid 50 cents an hour over minimum wage and told me there would never be a union there because they treated us so well (including things like instructing us to keep working 6' from where a 50 gallon drum of benzine burst).
posted by QIbHom at 10:24 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope your answer was written with the humor I read into the words.

Yes, yes it was :)

No, I don't do laundry. No, I don't do "housecleaning" beyond just cleaning up after the kids. But still. I do dishes. I CLEAN UP AFTER THE KIDS. (Have you seen kids?! They're like little human tornadoes!)

I could only hope that if I were to ever have children to raise and didn't have the time to do it myself, that I could find someone like you.

Thanks! :) That means a lot.

FWIW, my parents couldn't afford a "nanny" as such for me. I went to part-time preschool and the rest of the time was cared for by stay at home moms with a similarly aged child of their own. My parents very much felt at ease leaving me with another parent in a safe environment rather than dumping me in day care when I wasn't "in school."

(Also: I've worked in preschools. Nannies work just as hard as teachers and are able to provide one-on-one attention to the children all day long [or one-on-two...] which teachers don't have the luxury of doing. Not to slag on preschool teachers, who are awesome, but it's one of the many advantages to hiring a nanny versus taking a child to a non-education-based day care center.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:25 AM on June 3, 2010


I do not understand the people who are arguing here that nannies shouldn't have the same legal protections that they do.

That's because nobody is arguing that. They are just saying this effort is a combination of window dressing and revenue grab by the state and that the poistives of going on the book probably are outweighed by the negatives.
posted by JPD at 10:28 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I've seen kids. I worked in an elementary school as a Title I reading lab assistant for 4 years. I know how much of a hurricane they can be. I'm always amazed at how quickly even one or two children under the age of 8 can utterly clutter up someplace in under an hour.

Thanks for your input in this thread, grapefruitmoon. It's been of more value than a lot of the opinions stated, because you're on the front lines in this. I'm glad you have an honorable work situation -- apparently many doing exactly what you do are not as fortunate. Perhaps this new law in NY will change that.
posted by hippybear at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2010


This is your revolution? This legislation is your scary Malcolm-X shit?

That is kind of my point that you are missing there. That defensive of a reaction is pretty telling, though.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2010


Park Slope Parents does an annual nanny compensation survey [PDF]. For 2010, the average pay was $12-$15/hr, and almost 80% of parents paid nannies off the books.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 10:33 AM on June 3, 2010


If anything plays into stereotype its that fact that Park Slopers put together a PPT on nanny compensation. Interesting though.
posted by JPD at 10:35 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad you have an honorable work situation -- apparently many doing exactly what you do are not as fortunate.

Right. Lots of families choose to pay under the table because it's easier. Really, what needs to change isn't laws like this, but the fact that parents are penalized for hiring nannies legally. Remove the penalties for the parents and more would put their nannies on the books. I can't see how this would be a losing proposition for the gov't as MORE tax money would be flowing in, but I don't understand much about tax law. (Understatement: I don't understand ANYTHING about tax law.)

Also: I'm very lucky in that I can afford to be fussy about who I work for and how I'm paid. A lot of people in a LOT of jobs have to take whatever they're offered and can't afford to assert themselves and/or bargain over pay/taxes/etc.

As a college-educated white naturalized American citizen, I'm not who you think of when you think of a "nanny" which... really... says a lot about the preconceptions lots of people have about who nannies are and what we do.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:43 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


For an additional perspective:

Our nanny does not do laundry. She will do a rare handwash, only if something might stain permanently if left untreated for a few hours. She also gives our kids baths. Takes them to the park and for classes at the library. She cooks for them, but not for us. (I got home at 11:00pm last night. Ate some leftover chicken and vegetables that was sitting in the fridge for a late dinner and then went to bed. Got a text this morning: "[Kids names] would like to know why you ate their lunch. :)" I try not to do that.)

We cook food, and she eats whatever she wants to that we make. We buy groceries for her, so she can cook whatever she wants. She also brings in her own food. She gets a lot of time off (probably not as much as she'd like!) Right now we're at about 3.5 weeks of days off taken for the year, because of Jewish holidays and 2 weeks of vacation that we took where she was paid, but not working.

She works her ass off. She really, really does. Earns every penny she makes. When I watch the kids solo all day I'm often exhausted come nightfall. To second something grapefruitmoon said, when you have young children, the only time you get a break is when they're asleep or completely engrossed in something. Every single minute, you have to keep an eye or an ear on them. And with my two, they'll beat each other to pieces or figure out how to throw themselves off a bookcase if you leave them alone too long. My son was climbing in the park the other day and decided it would be a good idea to stand up at the top of a six foot slide, then jump over the edge to the ground. I grabbed him before he managed to throw himself into the air.

She has gone with us to the doctor, but never taken them solo. In an emergency, I suppose she could but we'd prefer to be present at those appointments. When my son was sick a few weeks ago, I took him to the pediatrician solo and she stayed with my daughter. It's helpful to have a second person who can do that. If I'd had to take my daughter, she'd have been exposed to sick kids in the waiting room.
posted by zarq at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I'M NOT YOUR GRANDMA! DO I LOOK LIKE SOMEONE OLD ENOUGH TO BE A GRANDMA TO YOU!" from the kitchen. The response: "Yes! Gamma! Gamma! Gamma old!"

I once had a conversation with a work-kiddo [5 yrs old at the time] who asked me how old I am. I asked her in return how old she THOUGHT I was. Her answer? 90. I was 27. Yes, she lived through the day. Somehow.

posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I asked her in return how old she THOUGHT I was. Her answer? 90. I was 27.

That's hilarious. :D

*makes mental note to never, ever, ever ask my kids this question*
posted by zarq at 10:51 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who takes care of the nanny's children?: "The Nanny Chain":
In her forthcoming book Servants of Globalization, Parrenas... tells an important and disquieting story of what she calls the "globalization of mothering." The Beverly Hills family pays "Vicky" (which is the pseudonym Parrenas gave her) $400 a week, and Vicky, in turn, pays her own family's live-in domestic worker back in the Philippines $40 a week. Living like this is not easy on Vicky and her family...

Vicky is part of what we could call a
global care chain: a series of personal links between people across the globe based on the paid or unpaid work of caring. A typical global care chain might work something like this: An older daughter from a poor family in a third world country cares for her siblings (the first link in the chain) while her mother works as a nanny caring for the children of a nanny migrating to a first world country (the second link) who, in turn, cares for the child of a family in a rich country (the final link). Each kind of chain expresses an invisible human ecology of care, one care worker depending on another and so on.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:55 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


We go au-pair route, which is system where both the family and au-pair are scammed by the agencies. We pay high fees to these State Department accredited "non-profits" and little pocket money for the au-pair, but this is the only legal and practical way to have nanny who speaks Finnish and have some hope that the kids will be bilingual. At least au-pairs are tax exempt -- i.e. we don't need to pay employer taxes, etc.

We do this because we can't afford quality child care otherwise. So it's pretty much opposite of being rich to have a nanny.
posted by zeikka at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a college-educated white naturalized American citizen, I'm not who you think of when you think of a "nanny" which... really... says a lot about the preconceptions lots of people have about who nannies are and what we do.

The DWU says 99% of domestic workers are foreign-born, 95% are people of color and 93% are women.

Isn't the preconception basically correct?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 11:56 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps in NYC the preconception is correct, but every nanny I've known personally (and perhaps this is confirmation bias) is either white, natural born US citizen, or both.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:17 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really happy for nannies to be getting rights and all...

but really, the germ-factories of day-cares are good for your kids - it hardens up their immune systems and teaches them that the world is a cold, unfeeling place where you will always have to line up and pay attention to authorities.

/joking off -- I really think that it is a good idea for people with only 1-2 children to send them to a daycare or at least to have a nanny share with other families, because it teaches them how to deal with larger groups of children, to share, to learn different rules, etc. My mother was a nanny/aka babysitter (or so we call them in Canada, even full-time) and did everything grapefruitmoon does out of her own home. Instead of having just one older brother, I had a slew of "siblings" older and younger, and it was great for me -- and great for them (especially the only children). And the other kids learned how things could be different than the rules in their families -- as I did at the times when I was out in daycare. Having one nanny for one family, and in one family home with one set of rules, seems so isolating for me. And if the balance is set up right -- you can learn about different cultures. My mom babysat kids from Trinidad, Barbados, PEI...
posted by jb at 12:25 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nannies I Have Known Personally (by grapefruitmoon):

* Note: all are female.

- White, US born citizen, college educated. Boston, MA.
- White, US born citizen, college educated. Asheville, NC.
- White, US born citizen, college educated. Seattle, WA.
- African/American, US born citizen, (education unknown). Boston, MA.
- White, US born citizen (education unknown). Boston, MA.
- White, Irish born/naturalized US citizen, (education unknown). Boston, MA.
- Hispanic, US citizen, (education unknown). Boston, MA.
- Asian/American, US citizen, college educated. Boston, MA.
- White, US born citizen, college educated. Boston, MA
- Hispanic, US citizen, (education unknown). Rhode Island.

Sorry to burst your statistical bubble.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:30 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having one nanny for one family, and in one family home with one set of rules, seems so isolating for me.

Depends on the kids. Kids with special needs and/or learning disabilities often thrive with one consistent environment.

Also: if your nanny's doing her job, the kids are spending time with other children at museums, on playdates, at playgroups, etc. A lot of families also do half day preschool and the other half day with nanny. If your nanny is keeping the kid isolated when there is absolutely no reason for it, she's... well, got a definite area for improvement.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:32 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon - my niece is developmentally delayed, and has done very well in her babysitter's home with other kids. Better than she would have been on her own (she's an only child), since she's made friends. My cousin also has special needs, in his case physical; his mother also babysat out of her home and he thrived off of the extra kids being around and having kids to play with other than his sister (with whom he fought a lot).

I totally understand why typical 30-60 kid daycares often aren't the best places for kids with disabilities. But nanny shares can be better than private nannies, especially if they are only children -- disabled children need help making friends even more than children without disabilities.
posted by jb at 12:45 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing that's most surprising to me is that day care can be *more* expensive than a nanny once you're talking about 2 kids. That's totally counter-intuitive to me, because I know daycare workers aren't making that much more than nannies (somewhere on the order of $25K a year, I think), but the labor costs are theoretically spread out over 7 or 8 kids. I expect there's some overhead there, in terms of business licenses and insurance requirements and accountants and all that other good stuff you have to do to run a business... but I can't imagine that 80% of total revenue goes to overhead. But the places can't be that profitable, right, because otherwise you'd see a whole lot more of them around.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:48 PM on June 3, 2010


Can we all just admit that the real problem is that the 'upper class' life we all bought for ourselves by having both parents work full time careers means we don't get to raise our own kids?

As if every second of raising a child is inarguably rewarding. Yeah right. In the old days one parent (i.e. the mother) stayed home and raised the kids because they had no choice. Some people given the choice prefer to enjoy the time they do spend with their kids rather resent it cos they have NO time to do anything else.
posted by jcruelty at 1:05 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some people given the choice prefer to enjoy the time they do spend with their kids rather resent it cos they have NO time to do anything else.

Except that, anecdotally, in the families I know where both parents work, this isn't usually how they describe things. Instead, they talk about coming home from work to an over-tired kid and barely having time to get the homework done and dinner and a bath before it's bedtime. I have had more than one working parent say that they end up feeling like they don't get to see their kids at their best.

One thing I see in the stay home/work debate is that people invoke idealized or whatever the opposite of that is versions in their arguments. So, for instance, when people argue against women staying home, they often talk as if all paid work is satisfying and fulfilling and that's what women give up to stay home, or suggest, as you do, that being home full-time inevitably leads to resentment, as if those are your two options: go to work, or resent your children. I think in reality both situations are a lot more complex than that for most people.
posted by not that girl at 1:11 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing that's most surprising to me is that day care can be *more* expensive than a nanny once you're talking about 2 kids.

Surprised me too.

The place near us that I was talking about charged $1400 per month for the first child, $1260 for the second. ($1400 + a 10% discount.) So, $2660 for two children in daycare, 8a-6p monthly. +$10 for every 10 minutes you're late in picking them up. There are additional costs. Meal plans. Supplied food, diapers, formula may be a little higher because you're keeping a stash in two locations -- home and in day care. If your kid is sick, they stay home and obviously you'll have to make your own home care arrangements while they're there. The place is at least 5 miles away, I think. So that's a little extra gas every day. Etc., etc. The costs add up. And they'd be higher now, because that was the infant price and my kids are now toddlers.

That isn't to say that an at-home nanny doesn't come with their own unique costs. Electricity and gas bills go up, because someone is at home every day. In the summer, it's air conditioning. In the winter, it's the heating bill, and of course now your oven is being used far more frequently, too.

When I added it all up two years ago, it was simply more cost effective to go with a nanny. It probably wouldn't have been with just one kid, though.
posted by zarq at 1:13 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


ut nanny shares can be better than private nannies, especially if they are only children -- disabled children need help making friends even more than children without disabilities.

We're going to have to agree to disagree. It depends on the nanny and on the child. And as I say, if the nanny isn't taking the child to spaces where s/he interacts with other children - that's a problem.

I know daycare workers aren't making that much more than nannies

I've done both. Daycare workers earn LESS than nannies. FAR, FAR LESS.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:36 PM on June 3, 2010


I'm going to expand a bit more on why I feel defensive about private nannies - and not only because it's my job.

Each child is different. Each family is different. I have worked with children half my life - that is, from the time I was 14 and started coaching younger kids on my swim team - to now. I have coached, babysat, taught preschool, and nannied. The reason that I stick to nannying is that it's the best fit for me, personally.

Nannies can be a tremendous asset to the family and the children. Building a one on one relationship with a trusted adult can help a child bloom developmentally. Each child has different needs, of course, but many - MANY - children are "socialized" for well-meaning reasons far, far, FAR younger that they're ready. When I was teaching preschool, I found out that it's not recommended to put children into an ALL-DAY program with other kids before age 3 as they're simply not ready for it. Yes, children should by all means have contact with other kids, but for MANY children, it's totally overwhelming for them to be surrounded by other kids ALL DAY LONG. Nannies should do their best to make sure that the children are having social interactions, but for kids who get overstimulated by TOO MUCH social interaction, it can be a benefit to be able to retreat back to the home.

I'm not arguing against socializing children. What I'm saying is that it's possible to do so with a private nanny and a private nanny can uniquely provide one-on-one time with a child that isn't possible with shared childcare arrangements.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:43 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank you, grapefruitmoon, for humanizing this debate.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:27 PM on June 3, 2010


You're welcome :) Also, for the first time ever, the five year old I work with spontaneously told me that he loves me (specifically, he loves me very much). As if I needed any more validation that I'm in the right line of work. It's been a good day.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:53 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Instead, they talk about coming home from work to an over-tired kid and barely having time to get the homework done and dinner and a bath before it's bedtime. I have had more than one working parent say that they end up feeling like they don't get to see their kids at their best.

Yes hi, as if I wasn't hogging this thread enough as is.

This was the situation my current employers were in with both kids in daycare. They came home to over-stimulated, over-tired kids and it was a mess. I was told that the kids just literally SCREAMED for at least an hour.

Within a week. One week. of hiring me, the family commented that they now saw their kids at their best and got to eat dinner in peace. One week is all it took for the kids to adjust to being in a stable, nurturing environment where they were more in control of their surroundings and able to better transition to spending actual quality time with their parents.

As I said, for a lot of kids, daycare is over-stimulating and over-tiring. My work-family has definitely benefited from having kids who are more chill in the evenings because they feel more comfortable during the day.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:56 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


We paid our nanny, who was a U.S. citizen, on the books because she wanted the work credits to benefit for social security retirement benefits. Helping her achieve that seemed like the right thing to do.

On the decision to employ a nanny generally: my wife and I hired a nanny when we lived in New York and both worked full time. For any man who argues that kids are better off with a parent who stays at home with the children instead of chasing a career, I invite him to quit his job and to do just that.
posted by hhc5 at 3:02 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nannies are mistreated and exploited all the time. This:

"Now it is insane that these people essentially have no rights to sue or to vacations but a few things I've learned - the nannies all know one another. If you are an asshole - good luck finding another nanny."

Is very untrue.

I know this because I know several nannies from various backgrounds; we do not all know each other. While do "refer" each other to employers but when someone needs a job, they need a job, whether or not they know the person they're working for. Add that to someone who lives-in and needs a place to live, the ability for abuse is there and very real.


"Childcare is not a high paying profession and anyone who gets into nannying looking for money is deluded."

Depends. For the difficulty of the work involved and the qualifications necessary it can be relatively high-paying. There is also the benefit of having a decent amount of paid time to do your own thing (depending on the family). You don't "have" to take a lunch break, you get paid for the entire time you're physically there, and they want you there a lot--which means more hours than a 9-5-with-lunch-break. You don't have to pay for office clothes. You often have food provided for you--usually one or two, maybe even three meals a day. Get paid cash, so no payroll taxes. All in all, money-wise it's a hell of a lot better than retail and better than the vast majority of entry-level office jobs.


"Nannies are a bit different from other domestic workers (e.g. housekeepers). I've never met a parent who screws around with their nanny, either on pay or hours. This is a person who has access to your children for several hours a day -- the last thing you want to do is give her a reason to be pissed at you, or work her so hard that she's tired and distracted all the time."

Bullshit. I know you are saying this in good faith, so don't take this as an attack, but this is absolute bullshit. Parents will and do run their nannies ragged, exploit them, etc. They take the chance that their nanny won't abuse their children to get back at them because nannies are mostly good people who don't abuse children. The flip side to this is that nannies have a lot of affection for the children in their care and I have seen parents leverage that to push for more and more from their nannies. They take the chance that their nanny will treat the children kindly anyway. They may also suspect that their nannies don't want to leave the children they have grown to love. And yeah, we often do grow to love the children in our care. (Not going to write about this on a personal level because it will make me cry but yeah, it happens a lot.)


"What are the duties of a modern nanny? Is it really just glorified babysitting (not meaning that to be a snarky term -- trying to put it into context for myself), or is there more going on?"

Depends on the class and race of the nanny. There is a great academic book about this that found that one can easily divide nannies into two categories. Category one, the white, middle class, college-ish educated nanny: mothers treat us as peers and class-compatriots and our duties are strictly limited to only those things that directly relate to the children. No waxing the floors, no laundry or cooking for the entire household. Category two, poor immigrants: they are expected to do heavy housekeeping, laundry for everyone, cooking for everyone; this is the domestic-staff-rolled-into one that hippybear is talking about.

There is a very stark divide in terms of pay and expectations between the two categories. We are hearing here from grapefruitmoon who is providing a good perspective, but note that she has experience and knowledge of only one kind of nanny.


"I'd like to meet this nannies and/or move to NYC. I mean, I make a decent salary, but I wouldn't classify it as "MUCH" more than minimum wage."

$10 an hour is much less than going rate here in NYC...if you're white and went to college.


Perhaps in NYC the preconception is correct, but every nanny I've known personally (and perhaps this is confirmation bias) is either white, natural born US citizen, or both."

Statistics are right, your personal experience is very skewed, I imagine because nannies form their own communities through which they set up playdates, socialize, network. They are often formed around common languages/cultures. An individual neighborhood often has a dominant nanny culture. I have yet to study this in depth, but I suspect it is because nannies are hired via word of mouth and move from family to family in the same neighborhood, or recommend their friends to the friends of their employers; and because parents want their children to get playdates and hire nannies who speak the language. If you look at craigslist nyc, note the number of ads that ask for nannies who speak, say, Tagalog. That is the legal way for a parent to ask for a nanny who will fit in with the other nannies in the neighborhood, who are all from the Philippines.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:33 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


My niece is a nanny in NYC for a rich couple who find every excuse imaginable not to pay their help better, and they are indeed filthy, stinking rich. At least she treats this as a sideline and is not planning on making it a career, but maybe for now at least she can get some basic amenities. Not sure if her pay is under the table ...
posted by krinklyfig at 3:39 PM on June 3, 2010


Right, in NYC I would expect a more diverse nanny population. I've never lived in NYC. I've lived/worked in Boston and Rhode Island and wouldn't bank on finding a huge selection of Tagalog speaking nannies. (Though if you wanted Spanish/Portuguese... yeah. Tons.)

All in all, money-wise it's a hell of a lot better than retail and better than the vast majority of entry-level office jobs.

IF you're getting paid under the table, which you are if you're paid in cash. Once you actually get taxes taken out, it's only slightly better than retail. (Which I've also done.) Waiting tables would earn you more, bartending even MORE than that. As for office jobs? I got paid more temping than I do nannying. I maintain that if you want to make serious money - childcare isn't the industry to get into. Again, there's a huge NYC/Rest of World divide here. $10/hr is standard in New England, up to $15 in Boston, $20 if you go through an agency and speak at least three languages.

Also: while I do get to "do my own thing" and check MeFi at work, I do so while also corralling two very young children. I wouldn't really say that I have the freedom to "do my own thing" any more than my friends who work in offices and spend much, much, MUCH more time online than I do. I don't deny that I have a certain amount of freedom, but I wouldn't ever classify nannying as a job where you can do your own stuff on the side. (Temping, however...)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:42 PM on June 3, 2010


IF you're getting paid under the table, which you are if you're paid in cash. Once you actually get taxes taken out, it's only slightly better than retail. (Which I've also done.)

Yes, but ... with cash, there is no unemployment insurance, SS, workers compensation, labor law enforcement or recourse against an abusive employer, whereas with above board pay you get all that just by working in the US, and now in NY you may get pretty decent protections. Although you may seem to get more when you get paid in cash (and believe me, I've done my share of work for cash), you are missing a pretty big safety net. It may be a choice worth making at certain points, especially if the pay is good enough, but the worst case scenario is you get audited by the IRS end up in a very bad situation, with fines, seized property, potential jail time, etc.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:54 PM on June 3, 2010


$10/hr is standard in New England

Wow, really? That's standard wage for a dishwasher almost anywhere these days.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:58 PM on June 3, 2010


Then again, I'm a network tech working in a small town making 1/2 to 1/3 of what I'd make in a bigger metro area, so we all make trade offs, I guess.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:01 PM on June 3, 2010


$10/hr is standard in New England

Wow, really? That's standard wage for a dishwasher almost anywhere these days.


Like I've been saying, there's an NYC/rest of world gap. I've been offered as low as $8. In all seriousness, this is pretty damn common. If you speak Japanese, you might get $15. Bottom end of the spectrum - currently there's a position offering $6.

(Craigslist links. I've found all of my recent families through CL - you can get more $ if you go through an agency, but outside of *big* cities [as in, bigger than Providence] there really aren't agencies to go through. Sittercity has more positions that offer slightly more pay, but this is pretty damn reflective of what the nanny market around here ACTUALLY looks like.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:21 PM on June 3, 2010


Depends on the class and race of the nanny. There is a great academic book about this that found that one can easily divide nannies into two categories. Category one, the white, middle class, college-ish educated nanny: mothers treat us as peers and class-compatriots and our duties are strictly limited to only those things that directly relate to the children. No waxing the floors, no laundry or cooking for the entire household. Category two, poor immigrants: they are expected to do heavy housekeeping, laundry for everyone, cooking for everyone; this is the domestic-staff-rolled-into one that hippybear is talking about.

Definitely.

Although I would say there's a further subdivide: illegal immigrants and legal immigrants. My nanny is an immigrant (and poor) but has been here legally for a number of years. I know from speaking with her that her status makes a difference in the way she's been treated on jobs compared to friends and acquaintances of hers who are not. I'm not sure if it is less likely that a legal immigrant will be taken advantage of compared to an illegal, but that premise seems logical to me. She also comes from a country where English is the official language. I suspect her facility with English probably makes a difference towards quality of life, too.

As for seeing her as a peer... I don't disagree with you, but I also think that perhaps the nature of the hiring family matters, too. Our nanny's education level had no effect on how she was treated by us. When she was hired, we were inexperienced parents hiring someone who already raised children of her own and had extensive experience being a nanny to twins. She has taught and continues to teach us a hell of a lot, and we're grateful for it.

Perhaps I'm being naive, but I'd like to think there are many families who hire poor immigrants but realize they're not employing a serf to be mistreated. Am I wrong?
posted by zarq at 4:34 PM on June 3, 2010


this is stupid.

we paid our nanny as a contractor and gave her a 1099. she wasnt working full-time but what we paid her was rather handsome for a P/T nanny. she was earning, at one point, more money an hour than i did as a freelancer. but we paid her because, as someone said above, she was taking care of our children and you dont fuck with the woman who takes care of your children.

"the market/society will take care of it" is bullshit when it comes to childcare in NYC. middle class people get royally screwed out of a lot of child welfare programs that are only meant to the indigent ---not even working poor. and daycare runs at about 20-30k A CHILD.

i knew working mothers whose salaries went whole to the nanny because they couldnt leave work on account of the medical insurance that the husband didnt have. i also knew of women with kids with severe medical conditions that required help. there's kids with autism or kids with anaphilactic allergies or in the case of a neighbor, the unplanned quadruplets that made their toddler the "quingle".

every woman who hires a nanny has a different story but in NYC they're almost never about glitz and glamour and ennui while eating chocolate bonbons. most people who hire nannies are not rich at all. i am certainly not nor none of the my friends who have and/or have had nannies.

and honestly, after meeting parents who's child died in daycare under mysterious circumstance and had a neighbor tell me of how her kid was severely neglected due to his learning challenges, i'd never ever recommend leaving their kids daycare to anybody. in NYC they're not just crowded, they know that for every customer they loose, there's 20 waiting to drop their child.

and before anybody hamburgers my comment, am not white either. lots of middle class working women of color end up hiring nannies, some of them white US residents.

so, yeah. i dont see how this really helping.
posted by liza at 5:37 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


we paid our nanny as a contractor and gave her a 1099. she wasnt working full-time but what we paid her was rather handsome for a P/T nanny.

Take good care you don't get audited. Seriously. A 1099 for ANY nanny is strictly verboten since a lot of people see this as a loophole to get out of creating a W2. My work-fam looked into this with their accountant and were seriously, SERIOUSLY advised against it.


so, yeah. i dont see how this really helping.


I don't know what "this" is, but if it's advocating for nannies to be paid/given rights like other employees - then I kind of see it as helping. In an ideal world it should, of course, also be easier on the families than it is now to do so. I honestly HATE knowing that I've caused my employers extra expense to put me on the books, but I sleep better at night knowing that I'm not in danger of being screwed by the IRS (and neither are they).
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:44 PM on June 3, 2010


where in the goddamn NYC do nannies only get paid $10/hr?!?!

ARE YOU FRIGGIN NUTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

my gawd, you know they're lying on those surveys, right? that's what they declare. nannies in NYC make upwards of $20/hr FOR ONE CHILD ALONE.

yes, that's right, one kid.

you need to negotiate PAID vacation and sick days and train/metrocard and BONUS. yes, bonus. that doesnt include petty cash used during work.

again, you don't mess around with the woman who's taking care of your children.

the majority of the nannies i know are from the Caribbean, the rest are from Latin America or Asia. these are not poor illiterate women. they have at least the equivalence to a vocational school education (HS with maybe 1-2 yrs comm college). their networks are tight. word of mouth is sacred. many own homes and property back at home. many send their kids to college on what they make. good nannies are honest to god hard working women with the skills necessary for taking care of not only YOUR brood but theirs.

what bothers me about this law is that it assumes that the working relationship is exploitative and that people who hire nannies are doing it as a luxury and not a necessity. and it's a kick in the teeth to the already squeezed out NYC middle class if we can't deduct any of the money nor get any tax exemptions like regular employers do.

and btw: where they ought to be paying attention is the ELDER CARE INDUSTRY. that's a can of worms right there and these workers ARE mostly unionized. why go after a couple of parents? oh, right, they're not medical industry corporations or unions that line their pockets come election time.

*smh*
posted by liza at 6:13 PM on June 3, 2010


sorry to hog the thread, but to answer to grapefruitmoon, we had actually a lawyer deal with this. she wasnt full time. anybody we've had to contract that has asked for a 1099 we send them to our accountant and lawyer. and btw, in nyc, we 1/s class dont keep people on retainer like regular rich people do. we're just the per-diem work of a lot of these professionals.

you know, i sound like an anti-union teabagging libertard. lord knows am not. what angers me is the assumption that the middle class in NYC is doing banging. we're a disappearing group in the city and it's getting worse and worser.

you know were have a problem when we're buying toilet paper for our kids NYC PUBLIC SCHOOL all the while the governor is bailing out friggin' AIG.

i want to see this work, but how is it going to help the families who hiring these workers in the first place?
posted by liza at 6:21 PM on June 3, 2010


Liza, this is a bit of a derail of whether this NYC ordinance is a good idea or not, but are you saying your lawyer and accountant told you that you could treat your nanny like a 1099 independent contractor? Have you looked at the IRS's handy "Household Employer's Tax Guide?" Check out page 2, column 2. This is not legal advice, but professionals in this field seem to think nannies clearly fall within the category of "household employee" and not independent contractor.
posted by hhc5 at 7:22 PM on June 3, 2010


To further the 1099 derail a bit more: "Nanny: Employee or Contractor?"
posted by hhc5 at 7:25 PM on June 3, 2010


that's 2010 IRS information. havent had babysitters/nannies in ages.

anyway am really amazed that if you have a teenager who comes once or twice a month but regularly would still fall in that category if they wanted to screw you. amazing.
posted by liza at 9:07 PM on June 3, 2010


grapefruitmoon -- that $6/hour caregiver you found sounds like she's running an in-home daycare. So she'll have other kids.

And I just realized with lisa's comment (that childcare costs $20-30k per year -- not if you make 20-30k, it doesn't) --there is somewhat of a class divide around these issues. My mom (who has custody of my niece) is a single parent who makes about $15 per hour; she pays $5/hour for childcare, in a shared situation, and she really can't afford more. In home day-cares are themselves very working class, I think, because it relieves parents from having to provide the space and food and toys -- those women (and they all have been women) who I have known to run them generally have kids themselves with toys, etc.
posted by jb at 10:28 PM on June 3, 2010


jb: I'm just putting out information that really, it's only in a few places in the world (like NYC) that one can work in childcare in any form and expect to earn more than $10/hr. There just isn't the market for it everywhere. Certainly that's the low end of the spectrum, but the demand for childcare around here is primarily for working class families. There just isn't the same upper-class or even middle-class population that's going to shell out for private nannies and be able to pay them a NYC salary. It sticks in my craw to encounter the idea that nannies are making money hand over fist. Honestly, if someone I knew came to me and said "I need to make a little bit of cash and I don't know what I should do" my first suggestion would be bartending and my second would be temping. I earned at least (including tips in bartending) $13/hr doing both of those and I've only ever had one childcare gig that paid that much.

I don't know what difference it makes that parents would have to provide "space and food and toys." Really, the food expense is the only one that parents wouldn't pay for in daycare. What kind of parent doesn't have toys for their children?

Also: liza, your attorney gave you bad advice. Believe me, as a nanny, I've had this checked out. Twice. In two states. With two families. A 1099 for a childcare provider is completely illegal.

you need to negotiate PAID vacation and sick days and train/metrocard and BONUS. yes, bonus. that doesnt include petty cash used during work.

This sounds like a NYC only deal. I don't get sick days. Never have. I pay for my own gas and paid for my own Charlie Card (MetroCard equivalent) in Boston. I get petty cash for art supplies and picking up groceries. All other expenses are my own and that's been standard. It sounds like there's a certain standard for nannies in NYC that just, frankly, doesn't translate to smaller cities. I would imagine that in other large cities (Chicago, LA) the same expectations might exist but even in Boston, nannies were generally expected to take care of their own expenses aside from food and things like playgroup tuition and museum fees.

Honestly, for me to take time off work or a sick day is a HUGE DEAL and not one that can be taken lightly and I certainly never get paid for it. My employers are good to me and we work this out, but it does boggle my mind that there are places in the world where a nanny can take a day off without having it be an ORDEAL. That's vastly different from my experience.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:16 AM on June 4, 2010


Nannies4Hire Blog has a quick and dirty breakdown on nanny taxes.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:23 AM on June 4, 2010


grapefruitmoon -- Thanks for your contribution to the thread. I just commented about the $6/hour caregiver to note that she's in a slightly better situation (because I was worried).

I know that caregivers can make very little -- I may have the numbers wrong, but I think that my mom was paid $17/day -- or $1.70/hour to look after preschool kids in the late 80s. (This was subsidized -- the parents paid less). Even with 1-2 preschoolers and 2-3 school-age, she made less per year than welfare.

Maybe this knowledge is what makes me try to direct people away from childcare as a profession, unless they have a true calling.
posted by jb at 6:55 AM on June 4, 2010


Maybe this knowledge is what makes me try to direct people away from childcare as a profession, unless they have a true calling.

Yes, I do the same thing. For me, I do childcare because every other job I've tried makes me miserable. I guess it's like religious life or academia - you must be called in order to serve.

I could rant on and on and on about how I made more money making lattes than teaching preschool but I think that statement really just speaks for itself.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:30 AM on June 4, 2010


No kids here -- we only pay our dogwalker and a house/petsitter when we go on vacation -- though the talented in home care for our dog and cats makes a huge difference to the happiness and peace level in our household too. But this has just been one of the most interesting Mefi threads I've seen in quite awhile. Lots of fascinating information here. Special thanks to grapefruitmoon.
posted by bearwife at 10:07 AM on June 4, 2010


Mona Simpson has an op-ed about the bill. She apparently means it to be a hopeful call for more families to pay their nannies "on the books," but most of it could have come out of a rather direct criticism of nanny formalization.

I think the reason for the gap between labor regulation for domestic help and in the rest of the economy, is that most people generally don't imagine that they will be major employers, so they don't think about the inconveniences of the law. But domestic help is an exception -- many people want to be able to hire babysitters, and they don't see themselves as big business managers.
posted by grobstein at 1:07 PM on July 2, 2010


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