There are many compelling reasons why a family might want to hire a nanny. Long waiting lists at local daycare centres, lack of after-school care and the expense of more than one child in care are just a few of them. A nanny can also provide a personalised relationship with your child in your own home, which can make a big difference to your child's emotional stability and development.
If you've already decided that a nanny's the right choice for your family, there's still one big decision to make: should you take matters into your own hands and employ a nanny through private channels, or should you hire an agency and let them do all the hard work for you? Both options have their benefits; it's just a matter of which one you're more comfortable with, and which will yield the best results for you and your family.
Employing a nanny privately
If you'd prefer to employ a nanny directly, you need to be aware of your obligations as an employer.
Salary and tax
You have to provide pay advice records and PAYG payment summaries (formerly group certificates) and submit PAYG tax on behalf of your employee.
Domestic workers who work more than 30 hours a week are entitled to superannuation at the specified rate, currently 9.25%.
Holiday leave and sick leave
There are minimum leave entitlements for full-time and part-time employees, which vary from state to state.
It's strongly recommended that you have insurance that covers domestic employees in the event of an 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.
How to screen a nanny
- Ask for a CV and look at the person's work experience over the past five years. Enquire about any unexplained gaps.
- Ask for references and speak to the referees directly.
- Ask in-depth questions when you speak to the referees, 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.
Using an agency to hire a nanny
Finding a nanny privately can be a time-consuming, stressful and difficult process, which is why many people turn to an agency for help instead. A good nanny placement service can make the process faster and smoother, and provide peace of mind that whoever you choose will be thoroughly vetted before they come into your home.
The agency should meet the nanny face-to-face and check their identity. It should also check the nanny's references and qualifications, and carry out police checks or Working With Children checks.
Matching a nanny to the family
Once you've told the agency your requirements (e.g. non-smoker, must like pets, current drivers' licence, prepared to do some housework) it can pre-screen 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 – letting you know 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. A good agency will help you with this.
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.
What are the costs for a nanny agency?
Nanny agencies can be expensive and the costs involved can vary widely, so be clear about the different costs and what they cover.
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.
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.
How to choose a nanny agency
To determine if a placement service is 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 their candidates?
- Do their nannies have first aid certificates as standard?
- What childcare qualifications and/or experience do their nannies have?
- Do they run training courses for their nannies, and provide opportunities for them to increase their skills?
- Do they insure the nannies on their books (WorkCover and/or public liability)?
- How detailed is the screening process? (Do they check references and qualifications, and get police checks?)
- How do they go about matching nannies to families? Do they meet you to discuss your requirements?
- What support do they give the family during the recruitment process?
- Do they assist with drawing up the employment contract between the family and the chosen nanny?
- What ongoing support do they provide families? Do they check back to see if the arrangement is working? Do they offer back-up support if a nanny gets sick or fails to show up?
- What advice can they give parents about employment law, and their responsibilities and risks as an employer?
- What costs are involved, and what do they cover?
Whichever way you decide to go when hiring a nanny for your children, there are services around to help you become aware of your rights and responsibilities.