Hiring a Nanny: New Parent FAQ

Thinking about hiring a nanny? Feeling overwhelmed by the whole process? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. Thousands of parents are searching each month for tips and information about hiring a nanny. We’ve assembled information in this article that should hopefully answer a lot of the questions you are asking as you move into this process.

What is the difference between a babysitter and a nanny?

While both babysitter and nannies work with your children and within your house, there are some key differences in services provided. While both play a role in supervising and caring for children when parents are away, a nanny tends to be more of a daily fixture. Babysitters are short-term caretakers who are typically hired to watch the children for a set period of time. Babysitters often stay with children while their parents go on a date, or meet the children after-school if the parent has an appointment. A nanny’s duties go well beyond cooking and play dates with your child.

Nannies duties vary depending on the families specific needs.  Many nannies stay with the family for many years through the growth and changes of child and family. Nannies responsibilities can include planning of educational activities to providing discipline when necessary. Nannies may also provide housework and be very involved in the children’s lives. Nannies are responsible for the emotional, physical and intellectual growth of the child. A good nanny should be attentive to what’s happening in a child’s growth and development, making adjustments based on the child’s changing needs.

To make things more complicated, some nannies call themselves an “au pair” (pronounced Oh-pear). In many cases, an au pair is a nanny who does not live in the country you do. In most cases, these are young women who come to the United States from other countries to take care of children, in exchange for room, board, money, and the chance to live in the United States for a while. But an au pair does not have to be foreign.

However, many people use the terms “nanny” and “babysitter” interchangeably. Some think of a babysitter as a short term care provider. While others think of a nanny as a babysitter that also cooks and cleans. Generally, it is best to focus less on what you call them, and more about the duties you want them to perform. Spell out your wants and needs carefully during the hiring process. If you do that, it won’t matter if you hire someone who considers themselves to be a nanny or a babysitter.

How do you find a nanny to hire?

Finding the right nanny for your child will be a vigorous search until you find the candidate that best fits your family. Do not compromise. Be patient and resourceful.  Ask your friends and family if they have suggestions of nanny agencies in your area. Nanny agencies can help you find possible candidates in your state. You can also post advertisements in the local newspaper, on social media, on craigslist, and on websites such as care.com.

Here are some key steps to aid in your search.

First-Identify your family’s priorities

Discuss with your partner and family exactly what your needs are and how the ideal candidate would support those needs. Take time and be clear when determining your family’s priorities. Make a checklist to refer to when you interview applicants and talk to agencies. Take notes with each candidate to compare later.

Some questions to consider to help you define your priorities:

•  What factor does maturity, gender and experience play in your decision?

•  Is an early childhood education degree important to you?

•  Should the nanny be responsible only for feeding, bathing, and providing transportation?

•  Do you want a nanny who will be a parenting partner?

• What other tasks do you want a nanny to complete during his/her time in your home? (Do you want the nanny to cook, clean, shop, organize, decorate, etc)

Do your research

Check your local community centers for nanny training programs. Ask friends and neighbors if they have had success with any local care givers who may be a source of referral. A private nanny placement agency is a great option as well. Agencies screen candidates before agreeing to represent them. This may streamline the process of finding candidates that match your criteria.

An agency’s role is to verify a candidate’s work experience, driving violations and criminal record. Before choosing an agency, ask them for their screening criteria. Agencies charge fees ranging from $600 to $6,000. Where you live and the services you want will determine the cost.

Websites such as babycenter.com and nwnannies.com are sources of research online.  Online nanny services post listings for parents and prospective nannies. Websites are more affordable than placement agencies. Fees start around $100 and go up from there. Some agencies will ask you pay a finder’s fee. Online services often offer free trial periods and promotions, so check and compare multiple sites.

Some websites operate as a clearinghouse for multiple online agencies. They can offer helpful guidelines, information on taxes, and special offers for its members. The International Nanny Association (INA) has resources for clients seeking professional nanny services. If you are interested in hiring an au pair, keep in mind that au pairs need adult supervision when caring for infants.  These two websites, newaupair.com or aupaircare.com. are helpful if you are interested in the option of an au pair.

Training and Qualifications Matter

Special skills and training are necessary to become a childcare professional. Many nannies are highly educated childcare workers with specialized knowledge. The INA has identified five educational competencies for nannies. These include skills related to the child’s developmental and physical needs.

Some skills and certifications parents should look for in a nanny include:

• Professional nanny certification

• Early childhood education or other teaching degree/experience

• CPR and first-aid certification

• Child nutrition training

• Sign language

• Water-safety certification

• Foreign language skills (to immerse your children)

Interview your candidates

When it comes to the interview process, talk to as many applicants as possible. This is a very important decision. Ask questions on a wide variety of topics from their work experience to childrearing philosophies. Also ask about their personal interests and after-work activities to get a more well rounded picture of who they are as an individual.

Include your child in the interview process as well. This allows you to see how they interact and if there is chemistry. Most importantly, listen to your child and listen to your gut. Below is a list of questions that will help you conduct a proper interview of your candidate.

On being a nanny:

• Why are you a nanny?

• How long have you been a nanny?

• What do you like best about the job?

• What do you find the most challenging about being a nanny?

• Why are you looking for a new position?

• Describe your ideal family/employer.

On special skills:

• Do you have any formal training in early childhood development?

• Do you have emergency training in CPR and first aid?

• Would you be willing to take classes to further your education in childcare?

• Would you be willing to work with a disabled child?

On dealing with children:

• What is your childrearing philosophy?

• How old were the other children you cared for?

• How do you discipline children? Can you give me an example of a previous discipline problem and how you handled it.

• How do you comfort children?

On specifics of the job:

• Are you looking for a live-in arrangement?

• Would you bring your own food or expect meals to be provided?

• Are you willing to do light chores while our child is sleeping (or take a more significant role in caring for the house)?

• When would you be able to start?

• Are you available to work evenings, weekends or vacations?

• Would you prefer to work with just one child or several?

• What age range do you have most experience with or do you prefer?

On financial matters, payments, contracts:

• What are your expectations of pay, wage, salary?

• Will you sign a contract?

On personal matters:

• Where do you live and how would you get to work?

• Do you have a car with room for car seats?

• Is your car insurance current?

• Do you have any personal responsibilities that could interfere with a regular work schedule?

• When do you expect to take a vacation of your own?

• Do you smoke?

• What was your last job and why did you leave it?

Once you have completed your list of interview questions, end the interview by giving the applicant the chance to address any concerns they may have by asking, “Do you have any questions or anything you’d like to bring up with me?”

Watch the candidate’s body language and get a bead on her confidence and personality.

On interviewing: prescreen the pool of applicants over the phone, then meeting the most promising applicants in person. Use the list of nanny interview questions in this article to narrow the field. Some of these questions to ask a nanny can be done over the phone. Then, use the answers to help you decide which applicants are worthy of a face-to-face sit-down.

You can save some of the personal or open-ended questions for the first meeting so you can gauge your first impression.

Just remember, when it comes to making choices in childcare, there’s no such thing as too many questions: So start with these, then add (and add) your own.

Check all their references

When you have narrowed your choices down, call their references. Ask the candidates former employers about their strengths and weaknesses. Ask why they split ways of employment. Hearing from other families how the nanny worked with them is some of the most important information you can receive.

Trial Run

When you have you final few candidates that meet your requirements, ask each to come to your home for a trial run. Observe how they interact with your child.  Watching them for yourself in your home is the best way to see how a nanny is on the job.

If you nanny lives locally, it’s a good idea to have some sort of paid “tryout,” so you can both see if there’s a good fit. Even if you’re considering hiring someone from another state, it’s usually worthwhile to cover the cost of having them travel in for a long weekend.

How do I pay a nanny?

When paying a nanny that provides you with services, they must report earnings as taxable income. The government mandates nannies working more than 40 hours in a 7-day week get paid overtime, 1.5 times your nanny’s hourly wage. If your nanny is a salaried employee, then overtime can be built into their overall compensation. You must also pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for your nanny. Failure to do so can leave you subject to penalties and fines.

The national average hourly rate for babysitting or short-term assignments is $16 an hour. The national average gross weekly salary for full time live-out nannies is $700. For full-time live-in nannies it’s $650. There is not a huge difference in pay between live-in or live-out nannies, however their job responsibilities tend to be more expansive and include household work. Either way, check the local regulations in your state and locality, as these numbers can vary greatly depending upon location. For example, a nanny might command $25/hour in San Francisco but may only be able to get $14/hour in a small town outside of the major metropolitan area (or less). In general, you will start by offering a salary or per hour pay that you can afford, and see what sort of quality of applicants you get. If you can’t find someone at the price you want to pay, you may have to consider increasing that salary amount until you do receive applicants that match your desired qualifications.

Employment Status is Key

Parents need to be able to go into a relationship with a nanny with full knowledge and transparency of how this relationship works. It is not a casual matter. Be upfront with your nanny. Get on the same page during the interview process. Let them know that the income will be reported to the IRS. You as the employer are subject to withholding and reporting requirements for your nannies services. Willful failure to pay employment taxes by not having proper paperwork in place can be punishable by law. It is imperative that the appropriate paperwork be filed before they start working for you.

You will need to send your nanny a W-2 with earnings, tax withholding details and then a W-3 to the Social Security Administration. You’ll also need to register with your state as an employer and file your forms. Here’s what you need to get right with your employee and the IRS.

Form I-9: This verifies the identity and employment authorization of your nanny.

Form W-4: A withholding allowance certificate that you’ll need from your employee if you withhold federal income taxes.

Schedule H: You’ll turn in this form with your 1040 when you file your taxes. This spells out how much you paid your nanny and the applicable unemployment, Social Security and Medicare taxes paid.

These forms may seem daunting. Your accountant can walk you through it to ensure all bases are covered. There are also home payroll software providers like HomePay and NannyPay. These programs have options that allow taxes to be withheld and allow for payment to your nanny via direct deposit.

Taxpayers must submit Schedule H if they paid at least $2,000 in wages annually to a household employee and withheld payroll taxes, including Social Security and Medicare levies, as well as federal income taxes. You’re also required to turn in this form if you paid wages of at least $1,000 in any quarter to all household employees.

What sort of hours does a nanny work?

It’s a good idea to have an employment contract with your employee so that you can address issues such as sick days, vacation time and other details. Many employers surveyed capped their nanny’s hours at 50 hrs/week. Commuting time should be considered with non-live in nannies.

Live-in nannies stay with your family in the home. The family provides a separate bedroom. Typically a nanny will have their own bathroom as well. Sometimes nannies have separate accommodation such as a studio or flat. A live-in nanny typically works 11-12 hours a day, five days a week. Nannies are often expected to offer an additional 2-3 evenings babysitting or extended hours each week. Live-in nannies are paid less than live-out nannies due to the fact they receive accommodation and food as part of their contract. Nannies with separate accommodations are entitled to the minimum wage of your state.

Information on minimum wage is available from the Pay and Working Rights helpline or website. There  may be positions where the nanny is expected to provide 24-hour cover, five or six days a week. These positions are usually abroad and salaries substantially higher. These details should be worked out and explicit within contracts.

Live-out nannies travel to the family’s house each day. Live-out nannies typically work up to 12 hours a day, five days a week. Nannies may be required to do evening babysitting as well. This may be included in the salary or paid as extra. Live-out nannies sometimes work with more than one family.  the same nanny will care for all children at the same time or work part time in each home.

A night nanny has special knowledge of caring for babies, typically from new born to 1 year. You may hire a night nanny for a few nights to several weeks after your child’s birth. Night nannies typically work 8-12 hours a night so that the new parents can rest. The night nanny takes care of the baby’s needs throughout the night, such as changing, calming and supporting good sleep patterns. Night nannies also keep the feeding schedule by delivering the baby to the mother to breastfeed or bottle feeding using expressed milk or formula. Night nannies tend to have significant baby experience.  Most have qualifications in caring for newborns and new mothers such as the Maternity Nurse Training or specific maternity qualifications such as sleep training, midwifery or nursing. 

What does a nanny do? What does the job involve?

Most nannies consider their job to be looking after every aspect of your child’s day. A day in the life of a nanny can include everything from providing a safe and stimulating environment for the child to planning educational activities and escorting the child to and from school, appointments and activities. Duties may also involve organizing play dates with other children, preparing meals and cleaning children’s areas , such as bedrooms, bathrooms and playrooms.

How much do I pay the nanny for staying with the children overnight?

If overnight child care is not a normal part of your nanny’s duties, you’ll need to come to an understanding with your nanny BEFORE the nanny stays with the children overnight. Your nanny might think she is earning overtime, while you might be thinking, “she’s doing nothing, she’s asleep!

Generally, if your nanny is taking care of the children while you are gone (even if she is sleeping), you’ll want to consider those areas as regular working hours. If your nanny has already worked her shift for the day, those extra hours are going to count as overtime hours. Even if they love their nanny, some families do not relish the thought of paying their day-time nanny overtime to sleep over with the kids. In these cases, some families will hire a baby sitter or someone else who can handle the periodic nighttime duties to avoid the extra cost.

How does it work if the nanny travels with us, for work or vacation?

If you want a nanny to travel with you for a vacation outside of normal schedule, special accommodations and specifics on pay need to be detailed in contracts. Typically the family will pay for travel/flight costs (same class as the family is traveling) and a separate hotel room (same resort or hotel that the family is staying in) in addition to the pay for hours worked at the standard contract rate. Allow for your nanny to have some free time as well.

Insight from a nanny:

“As a care provider I would expect travel and hotel accommodations be paid and a food allowance. Pay would be expected as is at home. If addition hours needed, then addition pay expected as per contract. Kids can be tired and cranky due to travel. It should be a win win for all and everyone should come out content.”

How do I fire my nanny?

Your first job as a parent is to do what is best for your child. It is okay and sometimes necessary, to let a nanny go. As an employer you need to feel confident in making a change when you know that the situation is not good for you family. Employers should communicate with their nannies to ensure that all parties understand the requirements of the job and are satisfied with the arrangement.  It is essential that all parties not only agree up front on the terms of the nanny’s employment, but also that both parties then follow through on their responsibilities.  

Parents need to provide payment, agreed upon schedule, vacation time, reviews, raises and benefits. Nannies need to provide care in the manner agreed upon.  Most important is that both parties communicate honestly when conflicts of any kind arise.

Spell all expectations out in a contract. Employers should expect things to change for the better when clear guidelines of an employee have been expressed. If your expectations are not met, it may be time to move on. Once you reach this point do not hesitate. This is your family and child.  It is time to take decisive action.You fail your children if you do not provide them with safe, reliable care.  

Have the fortitude to have tough conversations with caregivers when problems arise. Communication and correction can make the relationship successful. Having someone in your home caring for your child is a intimate relationship. Boundaries can be difficult to establish and maintain but are certainly important. 

Firing a Nanny needs to be handled with caution.  It can be an emotional and difficult situation for all involved. Below are some guidleines to help you navigate the issues involved iff you need to fire your nanny.

 Reasons for firing a Nanny

 • You are moving

• Your needs and schedules change

 • Lying or Theft

• Breaking the Nanny Agreement

  Reasons Not To Fire Your Nanny

 • You have set unrealistic expectations

• You are micromanaging

• Jealousy. Your child loving your Nanny is a good thing. Do not feel threatened by the child/caretaker relationship. Rather, embrace that your family is being taken care of.

• You haven’t allowed time for the Nanny to settle in to your home. They can’t read your mind.  Explain in detail your expectations and how you “like” specific things in your home.

Firing with a contract

The first thing to do when contemplating letting your Nanny go is to refer to what is outlined in the contract. Go over what is expected and promised from you and the Nanny.  Having this information on hand in the termination process will make firing your Nanny a lot easier.  Use the contract to refer to reasons why you need to terminate the relationship.

Before you take action to terminate your nanny, check your local state laws about employment and termination. For example, according to New York State, if there is no contract to restrict firing, an employer has the right to discharge an employee at any time for any reason.  New York State is an “employment-at-will” state, meaning employment can be terminated with little or no notice.  You cannot however, fire an employee based on race, creed, national origin, age, handicap, gender, sexual orientation or marital status. If you have any specific questions about termination, consider contacting a local attorney to make sure you are doing everything the way you should be.


If your nanny leaves you, there is no need to offer severance pay. If you initiate the release, you should strongly consider giving a couple weeks pay.  According to the PSP Nanny Survey, 2 weeks severance pay is standard. You are not under legal obligation to give your nanny severance pay, unless severance is spelled out in your nanny contract. Oftentimes severance pay is determined on the reason for termination and job performance. It is generally more professional to do so in cases in which the nanny did not violate any expectations or do very unacceptable things while on the job (ie: if it was just a bad fit and wasn’t working out).

Firing FAQs

Below are some experiences compiled from parents relating to the task of firing their child’s caregiver. As with any employer/employee relationship, this situation can cause anxiety. Here are some real life accounts that may prepare you for the uncomfortable situation and still handle it with grace and dignity for all parties.

“As several of you pointed out, there was “just cause” which would negate the contract or eliminate the need to pay severance. Therefore I settled on 2 weeks of severance pay as a reasonable compromise.”

“…a different point, advocating for the nanny. I would expect my nanny to give me adequate feedback if something wasn’t working out from her perspective. I feel it is important to extend the same courtesy to the nanny. As an employer, you should talk to your nanny about what you are uncomfortable with. Ask if she can or is willing to improve on the issues at hand. Like any other employee/employer relationship, there are certain steps that are important to follow.”

“My husband and I used to own a small business. We would agonize over whether or not to fire people. As time went on, the employee usually did something that resulted in firing.  If you feel in your gut that something is not right, Let them go. There is already a lack of trust and this is your child, not a small business.”

“Don’t let good heartedness get in the way of protecting your children. Trust your gut and let your Nanny  go. Sooner rather than later.”

What are your nanny related questions? Let us know in the comments below!