Are Nannies Entitled to Paid Time Off & Benefits?

I recently discovered a caregiver blog that I am totally in love with. MaryP is a Canadian caregiver, like me, except that she runs a daycare and has done so for over 14 years. She’s got a fresh, funny style that I really love, and she’s really informative. Not only is she a culinary genius who cooks all the kids’ meals from scratch, she also has many wry, funny stories that I find myself nodding and laughing along to. So nice to find a blog from another Canadian who really knows her stuff. Her stories are funny and sometimes bittersweet. It’s made good reading for me this weekend.

MaryP blogged way back in July of 2008 about whether or not caregivers are entitled to paid time off. For our purposes, this means that they’d get sick days and vacation days. You could even extend that to benefits, like health care. She wrote a really interesting article, found here, in support of this practice. And I agree with her.

Now, that’s probably not weird. Of course I agree with getting benefits and PTO in my job. I worked for years in an office, doing writing-related jobs, and I had benefits every time. As I feel my teeth crumbling into decay and disrepair and as I look at my medicines that mount up every month monetarily, I really wish I had benefits. I also wish that I didn’t have to wring my hands every evening (because my policy is to call in sick by 8 pm the night before – if I can – to give my families enough time to find alternate care) that I’m sick because I know I’m missing out on a day or more’s worth of pay. I wish that I could take vacation without suffering a hit to the bank account. I think we all wish that.

And I think we should all get that. But the thing is, when you’re a nanny, you’re most often stepping in temporarily. All of my nanny jobs have been transition – I’m providing care while the parents wait for that coveted daycare spot to open. In Toronto, finding good daycare is like panning for gold. People need to get on the waiting list for their daycare of choice the moment the stick turns blue, pretty much. Lots of families don’t have a daycare spot lined up for the end of their mat leave, as a result, and are on the dreaded wait lists, on which they can languish for years. I knew one family who finally got a spot in their first-choice daycare . . . three years later.

So, I’m a transitional care while they wait. And it’s not that I’m not awesome. I am (and I say that without being egocentric – I’m a great nanny). It’s just that parents hope that I’m only going to be there for a few months while they wait for that phone call. Ergo, I don’t get benefits – because it’s less cost-effective to pay for them for me.

Now, I get that doesn’t help me. And I know I could insist that in my contract, I get paid time off if not benefits. I’ve considered it. I’ve gone into interviews, ready to state that’s what I want. And every time . . . I stop. Because I hear about how expensive it is to have to pay daycare providers when your kid is too sick to come in, or the provider goes on vacation. Now, do I think that the provider deserves the time paid for? Absolutely. They have to make money, too. But in my case, I’m not really running a business. I’m providing a service. It’s a bit different, because people who provide services don’t get paid when the service isn’t rendered. Cleaning businesses experience this. Dentists experience this. And millions of others experience this.

So, I feel like I can’t in good conscience ask for PTO when I’m providing a service in a home. If I ran a business, had overhead to meet, food to buy and toys to constantly replenish, not to mention that I’m getting paid a lot less than a nanny typically gets paid per child, I’d ask. And maybe the next nanny job I have, I’ll ask. Because I know I deserve it. All caregivers do.

But the article brought up some strange feelings for me. And I’d like to hear your thoughts, too. Do you believe nannies and caregivers deserve PTO and benefits? Why or why not?

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