Please note: this blogpost covers domestic employees in New York State. It is intended to educate nannies and housekeepers on the benefits of accepting legally paid salaries; it is not to replace the advice of a lawyer, as the laws that are constantly changing. Please consult a reputable payroll company such as HomeWork Solutions for more information on your specific state's domestic employment laws and procedures.
We here at KITH & KIN often hear candidates state that they only want to be paid in cash, despite being able to accept legal pay, for many understandable reasons. While admittedly, it is the norm for many domestic workers to be paid illegally in cash (an estimated 75%!), there are a myriad of benefits and protections household employees lose out on by being paid in cash, and when accepting cash only for a nanny job, you are also assuming all risks for you and your family's future financial and health situation, especially should you find yourself out of work for a period of time -- a heavy and costly burden to bear!
With the advent of laws like Lulu and Leo's Law and many advocacy groups like the NDWA calling for better protections for both families and workers, the trend will be for more and more domestic workers to be paid in a legal manner. For this reason, we have compiled the benefits of legal pay. Here are our top 10 reasons why nannies and housekeepers should insist on being paid "on the books" right now.
1. "Professional pay" translates to "professional treatment", and further legitimizes your work as a professional career.
When you insist on being paid legally, this demonstrates to a family that you take your job seriously as a professional who needs to be compensated fairly and legally for your work. It shows that you are committed to your work supporting them, and that you are also relying on them to support you as you make a long-term living, just as you would in any other field.
When your employer agrees to pay legally, they are demonstrating their belief that you deserve legal protections and benefits, just as they receive in their work, too! Even though they may be offering a lot of great benefits like guaranteed minimum hours and paid time-off, they also believe that ethically, you deserve an extra level of protection as individual and professional.
2. You have secure income available, even if laid off.
Let’s say that on Sunday night, you get a text from your boss that tomorrow, you are no longer needed because a spot opened at daycare, and their child starts the next morning. Now, most parents would not leave you high and dry without notice, (especially if you have a solid work agreement in place before the job commences!), however you may never know your employer's private financial situation or debts. They may appear to have it all, and then the economy crashes overnight, or they find out they have lost every penny to a Ponzi scheme, and now they find themselves unable to pay you the $2500 buffer you were relying on. Stranger things have happened; you need to be protected from situations that are outside of your control.
While domestic employees in New York are hired “at-will”, meaning you may be terminated without notice or reason at any time, unemployment is there to provide you with a financial buffer while you search for a new job. If you’re laid off due to no fault of your own, and you are able to work in some industry, you are eligible - even in some instances of justifiable firing, you may still be eligible. This is only available to people who are paid legally in their most recent long-term position.
3. Medical costs or loss of income covered via Workmans Compensation if you’re injured on the job (State-by-State).
Even if you are outside of NYS, should you have an injury that leads to a long leave from work, you may be eligible to receive Disability coverage from the government as well. This would cover part of your income, and make sure that you are not in an even larger financial bind. If you are out of work because of an injury, but don't have traceable or substantial income reported, the income coverage would be significantly lowered, if available at all.
4. You are eligible for Paid Family-Leave.
The details and benefits will upgrade year to year, but beginning in 2019, you would be eligible for 10 weeks paid leave per year, up to 55% of your weekly salary, with a maximum of roughly $746/week; By 2021, 67% of your salary may be covered for up to 12 weeks. This is separate from FMLA, and is specific to New York State. For more information, click here.
5. Protection in the event you, or your bosses, get audited by the government.
Any employer who chooses to pay their employee 'under the table' runs the risk of being audited, particularly if all parents are working full-time, and they can't prove payments made for childcare. An audit will have their finances called into question by the government, and if your employer is audited, you too may be at risk for your portion of employment taxes. If your employer doesn't remit taxes on your behalf, you may be asked to account for those taxes by the government. While it is not the law that the employers withhold your portion of taxes in New York for you (you must request that they do this, and the majority do when using a payroll service), it is the law that you pay your portion. If it is not withheld, we recommend setting aside a conservative percentage based on your state in a separate savings account so you have enough to pay at the end of the year.
If you or your employers were to be audited, the government makes a habit of looking back several years, meaning you could be set up on a hefty payment plan to hand over whatever amount you would have owed in taxes from previous years.
6. Provides verifiable, traceable income to rent or buy a home, car or other big-ticket purchases.
Should the day come when you want to make a big "life-investment", be it purchasing a new home or car, or even renting a new apartment, you will often be required to provide proof of income; not just for present time, but also from the past two years! Lenders want to make sure you are a consistent earner and responsible spender, and you will need a paper trail to prove your track-record of financial credibility. Cash-employees will often have a difficult (likely impossible) time providing legitimate proof of income that would hold up to scrutiny. This can be a real hold-up, and potential block, if you are in the throes of purchasing a home.
Not buying a car, home, or renting an apartment now? Think two or three years ahead. Even if your credit is terrible, First Time Homebuyer Loans make this dream possible for more people, so as home prices continue to rise, now is a great time to get on the books and start accepting legal pay!
7. Easier mental leap to start your career with legal pay now, rather than years in.
Take it from us, the people who interview many qualified, career candidates who have been paid cash for years: it is very challenging for nannies and housekeeper to leap from a high dollar cash take-home salary per week to a far lower net wage. When you are not used to this, it will require a large lifestyle adjustment for yourself and family, when that time comes.
Talking to your employer about transitioning from a cash-salary, to an "on the books" salary is going to take a big shift. Essentially your employer will have to make a drastic increase in your pre-taxed (gross) pay-rate in order for you to be taking home the same amount as you were before, and it's possible that financially, they simply cannot swing it, as they will be paying 12-25% more than they are used to, depending on where you live.
If your employer isn't able to increase your rate enough for you to be taking home a net-salary that is comparable to your cash salary, meet in the middle! Start by taking a lower take-home wage, knowing that they are giving you a gross-wage raise. That being said, employees who are paid on the books, will also be eligible for a tax-return at the end of the fiscal year where you would get a portion of that back, so don't be too demanding of your employers if you really love your job in all other aspects.
8. You’re building your Social Security fund, and making sure you’re eligible for disability benefits, too.
The amount of taxable income which you report to the government each year makes up your 'covered income' and directly affects the amount of money you may receive each month when you retire. In other words, if you pay in for 45 years instead of 10, you will have far more to retire on. Therefore, for your future, it's better to start paying income taxes sooner rather than later!
9. Helps better protect you from “bad-apple” bosses.
Finding a boss who is willing to pay you on-the-books, means that your boss is more likely to view you as an employee with certain inalienable rights. A working agreement that is based on a clear contract and a taxed salary can protect you from various instances of employee discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment in the workplace, withholding of overtime, and various other workplace injustices.
Many employers who pay cash may hesitate to put anything in writing to avoid a paper trail of employment in the event they were to be audited -- this translates to no work agreement for you or contract for you to fall back on or reference.
10. Plainly, it’s the right thing to do!
Last of all, paying your taxes is the right thing to do! The money you pay in taxes goes to many places. In addition to paying the salaries of government workers, your tax dollars also help to support common resources that we all utilize, such as safe and well-maintained roads, police and fire departments, post-offices, public libraries and parks, as well as caring for your fellow neighbors and children who presently may not be able to care for themselves.
In conclusion, starting a job with mutual professional respect is the best foot to start on. By you and your employer insisting to operate according to the law affirms that this is a true, professional career, with the commitment to integrity and respect toward both parties.
But aren't nannies 1099 workers? On the family/employer side of things, there is sometimes confusion about the classification of domestic employees and who is responsible for their taxes. However, make no mistake: by law, nannies and housekeepers are classified as household employees of the family, unless they are hired through a company who is paying them as an employee; nannies and housekeepers are not contractors. Families must provide you a W-2 at the end of the year.
Have a question about being paid or hiring "on-the-books" versus in cash? Send us an email and we will do our best to direct you to where you may find your answer.
What would you say are the top 3-5 values you hope to instill in a child so that they may carry them into adulthood?
Here are three simple rules to live by to help instill values into children in your care.
1. Toss out the old adage, "Do As I Say, Not As I Do".
Be aware that your child sees everything you do (scary!), the good and the not-so-good. You may tell them to be patient, kind, and understanding, but if they don't see this, they won't practice it. For example...
2. Extend your values to them as well.
A lot of parents and nannies would say that they want to teach a child to respect others, forgetting that the child is also someone who needs to be shown patience, kindness, understanding, and forgiveness and respect, too! The best way to instill values into children is simply by letting them experience what it feels like to receive these things.
3. Admit your mistakes.
Don't be afraid to own up to a misstep. No one is perfect, and to not admit when you've done wrong may lead to your child feeling that they have to hide their mistakes from you for fear that you may reject their error.
Values look different to each family and caregiver.
Of course we all want our children to be high achievers, and have fun in life. We of course want them to be forgiving and kind, and we want them to also be assertive and stand their ground when it's time. We all want them to be respectful, and we want them to also recognize their right to being respected.
The trick for us to successfully instill values into children is finding where the balance lies within in each family.
You want to make sure your caregiver is aligned with these values, and give them wiggle room to do things a little differently than you would. This is where great communication comes in handy!
So what can done in these two scenarios? How can both parties stay happy with the arrangement, while simultaneously meeting their personal needs? We have some suggestions and pointers for both the employers (families) and employees (nannies).
For families who are able to keep offering full-time hours, but whose duties will change
For as many nannies in New York as there are, so are there numerous opinions and stances on being asked to do household tasks. Therefore, for both parties, it is extremely important to have a sit down chat about the duties, expectations, and any raises that come with the new responsibilities, if applicable. Voice any desires and concerns you may have in this meeting -- now is the time! In doing so, there is no bitterness when things have changed, and the employment won't end prematurely. Above all, stress an open door policy to discuss things as they come up.
For families who must reduce hours to part-time
This transition is wonderful because it may keep the care as consistent as possible for the child. As long as all of the duties and expectations are laid out, as well as benefits like vacation and holiday pay are defined, it can work very well for each party! But approach the conversation with some awareness.
Whatever you are able to offer and choose, remember that there are many factors in the decision to carry on or terminate a professional relationship. One thing is for sure: the impact on a child's life is an honor, is forever, and is irreplaceable!
Last week, a large storm was forecasted to hit our city on Thursday early morning, long before any of us (without young children lurking in the night!) were to be awake. The DOE cancelled schools the night before, and many business followed suit. That morning, we woke up to high winds, unplowed streets and sidewalks, and widespread subway schedule changes, which lead to massive delays. Many parents were asking each other if they should tell their employee to stay home. And after the decision was made, several nannies and housekeepers were asking each other if it was normal for their pay to be docked for that day.
What a tricky situation! I myself was in a similar situation as a nanny during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Here are my thoughts for employers and for employees on how to approach this extraordinary instance. Misunderstandings like this can often lead to bitterness and so it's important to address them head on.
For Employers (families)
First, a snow day school cancellation really throws a wrench into your daily plans as a parent, and likely into your employee's day too. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself and comments I have heard, and then my personal suggestions about how to approach them.
1. Did your place of employment cancel work for the day, or will your employee's absence force you to take a vacation or sick day?
If the answer is no, I have to still go into work, consider what your day will look like. Is there a backup babysitter or family member you can call? Are you able to go into work later and come home earlier to allow your employee additional commute time? Is there any possibility that you could work from home? If there are no real solutions, you're really left with the choice to ask the nanny to come in or take a personal day for yourself. If it is a housekeeper, consider letting the work pile up, and perhaps ask your employee to work a couple addition hours to catch up, if the need arises.
2. "Well, my friend's nanny came in just fine, and mine could have too. . ."
Hindsight is 20/20. At 7:00am when you or your employee made the decision to cancel, the weather was much different than it was at 3pm.
Also bear in mind that Manhattan's busy sidewalks and streets are cleared much faster than the outer boroughs. For instance, from where I live in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a moderately busy area, many of my neighbors did not clear their sidewalks for 36 hours after the storm, and we did not see a plow until 11am the next day, well after the snow stopped falling. Simply because a friend's nanny came in from Brooklyn does not mean that your housekeeper would have been able to do the same, unless they lived on the same block.
If your employee has to take a bus to a train, this could have easily doubled or even tripled the commute. As frustrating as it may be for you to have to take over for the full day, your employee could have been facing an even more frustrating situation getting to and from work. If your employee made the decision to stay home, respect it. First of all, it is done. Second, remember that he or she may have their own children to attend to. Perhaps they aren't from New York and were fearful of getting injured from a slippery fall.
If this is really making you question your employee's integrity, it is a sign of a bigger issue of mistrust in your own mind. Look a bit deeper as to why you feel angry at her or him for not coming into work. Do you feel like they are just not making an effort anymore? Do you think they are a lazy person? It's crucial to discuss these feelings with a friend first, and look at the things they do that will prove you wrong. If you can think of loads of reasons to support your feeling, discuss this with them. Cite the specific ways they must improve their job performance.
3. . . . and so I'm going to dock her pay.
I understand the mentality here. Domestic employees are not salaried -- they are hourly employees and are paid an hourly rate plus overtime, so why would this work both ways in their favor? For a couple of reasons...
First, if you instructed your employee to not come in and did not inform him or her that they would not be paid for the day, there is no reason for them to believe you would be changing their weekly rate, and you should pay them. They did not request the day off, but it was instead offered without a known string attached.
Second, please remember that your employee relies on this income and does not have a back up for other work. It's similar to when you choose to take a vacation for a week: the caregiver is still depending on money and did not ask for an unpaid vacation herself. This employee will also feel blindsided. While it was likely just an oversight on your end, address your expectations going forward after you pay them for the day.
4. What if I don't want to pay my nanny for the day off because I had to pay for back up care so I could get myself to work (or because I just don't think it's right)?
In this situation, seek "Win,Win." If the additional $150 or so is monumental to you, suggest for the nanny to make up the hours. That way, your employee can still make the money he or she needs, you can get a night out, and the relationship isn't embittered over something small in the grand scheme of things. Everyone wins! If the day of pay isn't a big sacrifice to you financially, pay your nanny and take it as a lesson to be clearer with your expectations going forward in these rare instances before you make an insistence or offer.
The bottom line is that for the sake of your children, home, and sanity, a relationship that is respectful, healthy, open, and communicative is best. The number one reason I personally see employee-employer relationships fall completely apart, leading to resignation or termination, is that the expectations are either one-sided, mismatched, or not discussed, and bitterness sets in and poisons the partnership. We want to avoid that altogether! Little issues like this really are important to address.
For Employees (nannies and housekeepers)
If you're like any of my friends, it doesn't matter what your career is, the thought of a snow day on Thursday excited you! Here are few scenarios and how to best approach them if you're still conflicted about how the day was handled.
1. My boss was home all day. Why did I even come in?
2. I was told not to come in, but now I see the my paycheck is less than it is every week. My boss didn't tell me I wouldn't be paid and now I'm out a lot of money!
If this happened to you, you either need to let it go without resentment, or speak up immediately. Chances are, your boss wasn't being malicious. Since nannies are legally hourly employees (meaning, for every hour you work, you are paid) instead of salaried (meaning a flat rate paid for unlimited hours), your boss has every right not to pay you. However, you must bring this up with your boss if you rely on a set number every week to meet your bills.
Some nannies call these set hours a, "steady or guaranteed salary," meaning regardless if your boss goes on vacation or tells you not to come in, this is the minimum you are assured to make. Being a household employee, you reserve your time each week for them and do not leave your options open to other work; it's only fair that you can rely on them as well. No need to state anything personal or financial; no need to give your reasons. Simply explain that since you did not request the day off, and you were not told that your pay would be docked, you were not expected to be short on what was normal. Often just by communicating this, a parent will realize the miscommunication and pay you. It may not be. Simply ask, "How can we come up with a solution together?" This is respectful to your relationship with your employer because you're communicating a small issue without allowing it to bubble up, and doing so in a manner that shows you desire to work together.
If your employer does not offer to pay you for the day and you really need the money, offer to work a date night, if your schedule allows, so that you can make up the gap in pay. Also state the importance of clear communication before something is offered. This is a great time to discuss being paid a guaranteed/steady salary 52 weeks out of the year. Chances are if this is the first time your employer has told you not to come in and has not paid you, it won't be the last, so it is crucial to clarify your expectations, as they may be unaware of what yours are.
3. I had to come in but it was a total mess outside. I don't understand why my boss didn't just tell me to stay home like all the other nannies.
If it still wasn't clear to you why they had you come in, you may be feeling undervalued in your position, which is a sure sign that things are wrong in your professional relationship. It is best to gather your thoughts and maturely discuss your concerns with them. If you had your own child's care to arrange because of their school's snow day, express that to them. Remind them that you have your own obligations and home to take care of in the middle of a storm, and that while you are willing to bend over backward for them, you'd also appreciate some grace and understanding shown to you as well.
The bottom line is that for the sake of your job satisfaction, personal life, and sanity, a relationship that is respectful, healthy, open, and communicative is best. The number one reason I see employee-employer relationships fall completely apart, leading to resignation or termination, is that the expectations are either one-sided, mismatched, or not discussed, and bitterness sets in and poisons the partnership. We want to avoid that altogether! Little issues like this really are important to address.
Have a question or topic you'd like covered on our blog? Send it on over to Christa at Hello@KithAndKinNYC.com
It’s incredible to observe how our parenting and discipline methods have changed over each generation. “Children should be seen and not heard,” doesn’t seem to the be the mantra of many families I work with these days. With good reason too: this type of mindset grows children into adults who recoil from expressing their emotions, and instead harbor and process them alone, if at all.
It seems that, broadly speaking, we have come a long way and now encourage children to respectfully share their emotions without fear of repercussions. Though sometimes this can lead to children going too far the other direction, shouting their desires and having major tantrums when they don’t get what they want.
So where is the balance between silent inner turmoil, and an all-out meltdown? Finding it can be the difference between inner chaos and outward peace in your family. Here are a few phrases I personally incorporate into my lexicon, and in which scenarios I use them.
1. “Tell me more about that.”
I use this phrase mostly when children are beginning to open up but have hit a wall. Perhaps they feel that they’ve said enough, or they don’t know if they’re allowed to, or should, say more. This phrase shows them that I am interested and attentive, and encourages them to speak their minds.
2. “It sounds like you worked really hard/really enjoyed that, right?”
Affirmation! When I reflect back my impressions of their feelings, they tend to either clarify or expand. It’s wonderful to hear, “Yeah, I did!! And I even tried to…” This only strengthens our bond, and their trust in me as a caregiver.
3. “I noticed/heard/believe…”
This may be taken two ways: when noticing their actions, or when noticing something in the environment that you want to share with them. Once, with a 6 year old girl I was taking care of, I said, “I noticed that you’ve been drawing a lot lately. Would you like it if we went somewhere new together and drew what we will see?” This elated her. The thought that I saw something she was doing and was interested in drawing too clearly meant a lot to her -- our little outing was all she talked about for the next week.
4. “I hear you.”
This one is a killer! It’s extremely handy to keep in your back pocket for when you experience the Broken Record Syndrome (I’m positive it’s got to be a clinical condition by now). When children repeat themselves over and over, they are typically wanting attention rather than solutions. This frees you up, because if you were able to provide the solution, they likely would get what they need and wouldn’t need to keep carrying on. This phrase comes in handy for, “Yeah, but I just want to,” or for when you’re out and about, on your way home, and the snack has already been eaten and, “I’m hungry,” keeps persisting. Of course, you wouldn’t scold your child for having hunger; scolding them for expressing it is counter productive. “I hear you,” acknowledges and accepts, and isn’t shaming, angry, frustrated, irritated, or mocking.
5. “Do you remember when I said/what I said about…”
This one is a slightly more respectful way of asking for recall, rather than exploding, “Did you hear what I said?!” Remember, if we want children to be respectful, we must model it first. I like to use this when I’ve already given an answer and I don’t want to lecture or nag. In my experience, I haven’t had much luck with getting children to follow along with what I need them to do if I’m just saying it over and over with annoyance in my voice.
Here’s a sample of a typical conversation I may have, incorporating some of these phrases to help diffuse a situation before it becomes major.
Child: “Can I go over to Aiden’s for a playdate?
Me: “Today isn’t a good day because we have to run these errands and make dinner.” (Answer is clear, not lecturing nor overloaded with information.)
Child: “Ughhh... but I want to go to Aiden’s for a playdate.”
Me: “I hear you on that, but do you remember why I said we can’t… what I said we were doing this evening?” (Affirming, and understanding. Asking for child to recall what was stated, instead of repeating yourself again.)
Child: “Oh… We have to run errands.”
Me: “That’s right. What about another day for a playdate? Would you like it if I talked to his parents about setting up a playdate?” (Affirming, and empowering -- you’re giving your child the option to either pick another day, or just be upset about today not working out. Today is still not an option.)
I find that when I practice and model respectful, accepting language with children, I rarely have power struggles and have a nice balance of peace and calm throughout the day. Try them out (multiple times) and notice their effects!
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Copyright, Kith and Kin NYC LLC, 2019. Licensed and bonded by the NY State Department of Consumer Affairs, License #2038511-DCA. Kith & Kin Household Staffing Agency seeks to pair exceptional caregivers with vibrant families. Candidates who are legally authorized to work in the United States, and meet our requirements are encouraged to send us your résumé if you are seeking a position as a Nanny, Manny, Housekeeper, Governess, Mother's Helper, or a Baby Nurse / Newborn Care Specialist in New York City, New York State, New Jersey, or Connecticut. Kith & Kin Household Staffing Agency does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, height, weight, physical disabilities, veteran status, and marital status. We are a nanny agency in NYC that services the metro area.
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