Nanny agency services guide

It’s an unregulated industry and they’re dealing with your children, so it pays to do your research.
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01.Nanny agency services

Carer playing with toddlers

Finding a nanny privately can be time-consuming, stressful and hard work, which is why many people turn to an agency for help. A good nanny agency can make the process faster and easier, as well as provide peace of mind.

These are the types of services it’s reasonable to expect from an agency:

  • Screening. The agency should meet the nanny face-to-face and check their identity. It should also check the nanny’s references and qualifications, as well as ensure that police checks or ‘working with children’ checks are done.
  • Matching a nanny to the family. Once you've told the agency your requirements (such as non-smoker, must like pets, current driver’s licence, prepared to do some housework) it can prescreen and you don’t waste time interviewing nannies who don’t meet your basic selection criteria.
  • Support through the interview process. Some agencies provide guidance for conducting interviews — the types of questions to ask and subjects to cover — so that you get good information to base your decision on.
  • Assistance drawing up an employment contract. It’s useful to negotiate and agree on arrangements like salary, hours and leave entitlements with your nanny, and put these details into an employment contract.
  • Ongoing support. Agencies sometimes check back with both the family and the nanny once employment has begun, to ensure that both parties are happy with the arrangement.

The costs involved

Nanny agencies can be expensive and the costs involved can vary widely, so be clear about the different costs and what they cover.

  • Registration fee. This is essentially a guarantee of pay for the agency in case it spends time trying to find suitable applicants for a family, only to find that they’ve found a nanny through other avenues. It may be charged in addition to a placement fee.
  • Placement fee. You pay this fee once you accept a nanny the agency has supplied. The agency may have an arrangement where you pay it in two instalments — the first when you accept the nanny and the outstanding amount payable once a trial period has passed. The amount payable, the conditions of payment and the length of the trial period can vary from agency to agency.
  • Rate of pay. This will vary, depending on the nanny’s qualifications, experience, whether they’re live-in or out, casual or permanent and whether or not you employ the nanny directly.

Choosing an agency

To determine if an agency's a good one, here's a checklist of questions to ask before you commit yourself

  • How long has the agency been in the business, or (if the agency is new) how much experience in the industry has the agency’s director/operator had?
  • Where does the agency source its nannies?
  • Do its nannies have first aid certificates as standard?
  • What childcare qualifications and/or experience do its nannies have?
  • Does it run training courses for its nannies, and provide opportunities for them to increase their skills?
  • Does it insure the nannies on its books (WorkCover and/or public liability)?
  • How detailed is its screening process? (Does it check references and qualifications, get police checks?)
  • How does it go about matching nannies to families? Does it meet you to discuss your requirements?
  • What support does it give the family during the recruitment process?
  • Does it assist with drawing up the employment contract between family and nanny?
  • What ongoing support does it provide families? Does it check back to see if the arrangement is working? Does it offer back-up support if a nanny gets sick or fails to show up?
  • What advice can it give parents about employment law and their responsibilities and risks as an employer?
  • What costs are involved and what do they cover? (For example, registration fee, placement fee, etc).

Employing direct

If you'd prefer to employ a nanny directly you need to be aware of your obligations as an employer, which include:

  • Salary and tax. You have to provide pay advice records and PAYG payment summaries (formerly group certificates) and submit PAYG tax.
  • Superannuation. Domestic workers who work more than 30 hours a week are entitled to super at the specified rate.
  • Holiday leave and sick leave. There are minimum leave entitlements for full-time and part-time employees, which vary from state to state.
  • Insurance. It’s strongly recommended that you have insurance that covers domestic employees in the event of injury in the workplace (your home) or on their way to and from work. For details of what you need regarding insurance go to the WorkCover website for your state.

Negotiate and document these details in an employment contract or agreement, along with details like roles and responsibilities required, notice period, etc.

If you’ve avoided using an agency altogether, it’ll be up to you to screen the nannies. These are some steps you can take:

  • Ask for a CV and look at the person’s work experience over the last five years. Enquire about any unexplained gaps. Ask for references and speak to the referees directly.
  • Ask in-depth questions, including “Why did they leave your employment?” and “Would you employ them again?”
  • Get a police check. In some states you can request a Working With Children Check, which includes a police check.

Useful resources

  • The Australian Tax Office. From the ‘Individuals’ home page, click on ‘Employment’ under the heading ‘Your situation’, and there you’ll find a link to ‘Employing household staff’.
  • The Australian Institute of Family Services has a guide to police clearances and checks. From the home page, click on the link for the ‘National Child Protection Clearinghouse’ project website, and look under the ‘Safety issues’ heading in its ‘Resources’ section.
  • Workplace Authority gives information about minimum leave entitlements for employees.

Lead image: Courtesy Austral Press



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