This is a very common problem with nannies and can cause friction. So why does the issue arise?
If you work in an office, you probably get to choose all your holiday entitlement when it suits you, albeit with restrictions for busy times. When you work as a nanny, your employer wants you to take your holidays at the same time as them.
Surprisingly enough, in law, an employer can dictate ALL of a nanny’s holidays if they want to. What tends to happen in practice is that it is split 50:50.
Great, all sorted then. Well, not quite. What happens if the family want to go away for 3 weeks or more? Do they have to pay the nanny even though they won’t be needed? The short answer is yes, unless they have reached an alternative agreement beforehand. The family cannot make deductions for unpaid leave unless the nanny has given permission, and that’s unlikely to happen.
However, a nanny that thinks it’s okay to sit back and take the extra holiday without giving anything in return could be making a big mistake. The employer might not be happy paying for time they don’t use, and might look for another nanny who can give them the flexibility they need. So, whenever possible, allow for some give and take.
Here are various examples showing how an agreement that suits everybody can be reached, if both parties approach the discussion with goodwill and an open mind:
Working back the extra time off. This won’t normally work if the nanny will be weeks over her annual allowance, but might be possible if it is just a matter of days. A bit of ‘free’ babysitting could prove very helpful.
Living-In for a weekend. The parents may like a weekend away to themselves, and a lot of hours can be made up if the nanny is willing to sleepover and be in charge for a whole weekend. This won’t suit every nanny of course, but in some cases it works very well for everyone.
Lots of extra paid holiday, but all at the employer’s choice. Some parents are away for 6 or more weeks a year, in which case they might agree to pay them all, but insist upon dictating the timing. Provided they give the nanny plenty of notice of when the holidays will fall, this might suit just fine.
Build some unpaid leave into the salary. If you know at the outset that there will be insufficient leave, extra leave can be built into the employment contract, by reducing the annual salary. The nanny loses pay in order to get extra time off, but the impact is spread over 12 months, which is much less financially painful that having unpaid leave deducted all in one go.
Giving time off in lieu of extra hours worked. If the nanny regularly works late and isn’t paid for it, then some extra paid time off would be entirely appropriate.
The key is to give and take wherever possible, but employers should understand that a nanny may have other commitments that limit the flexibility they can offer. For example, their partner may have little choice over the holiday they can take. If you do find a nanny who is happy to fit in with the family’s needs, then make sure you look after her. The next one might not be so helpful.