How to find a nanny

Toddler holding adult handOne childcare option for families where both parents work is to hire a nanny. There are two ways to go about finding a nanny - through an agency or by advertising privately (or you can go for the first young woman who flies in on a talking umbrella).

Agencies can have large fees, but should take the legwork out of finding suitable candidates and providing references and Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. If you're paying them a hefty fee, make sure the agency is actually doing something for the money. But check references yourself, anyway.

Advertising for a nanny | Qualifications, experience and references | Other things to consider | Interviewing prospective nannies | Nanny-sharing | Helping your nanny settle in


Advertising for a nanny

You can place ads in local newspapers, magazines, local noticeboards, or on websites. If there's a local college that trains nannies, you could advertise there. Your ad should include the hours the nanny will work and a brief summary of duties, the number and ages of your children, and where you live.

For privacy and safety, avoid personal details such as your address. Include a telephone number and email address and state what you wish to receive -  a CV and covering letter is standard. This Mumsnetter explains: "I ask for a CV to be emailed to me in my advertisement. If I like them, I send them a questionnaire which is fairly detailed. Then I select five or so that I want to talk to more, and I email them. Then we might chat a bit on the computer. Then, I call them on the phone and speak to their referees." 

The convention seems to be that most advertisements state net wages, but most contracts state gross wages.

It's essential to have a contract and for everything to be 'above board'. Although it might be tempting to pay cash in hand, it's illegal and there are considerable financial and legal ramifications for both of you if you're caught.

Nannies can, very rarely, be self-employed; although there are certain conditions where short-term nannying may be on a self-employed basis, generally a nanny will be considered an employee.

Qualifications, experience and references

What you want, ideally, is someone who can be a partner in caring for your child. How much of a 'friend' she becomes depends on you, her and what you feel comfortable with, given that there may come times when you have to deal with tricky issues such as performance.

It's worth starting your search with an idea of what your irreducible minimum requirements are in terms or experience, qualifications and other qualities.

"Experience and good references are worth more than a bit of paper but a qualification in my opinion shows a certain amount of commitment and means that the nanny does actually know a bit about children at all their different developmental stages." frannikin

It's increasingly easy to check that your nanny candidate is not a convicted felon. Ofsted-registered nannies will have enhanced CRB checks. 

"There are criteria that need to be met - training requirements - which some people may not want to do, but there will be others who already have the necessary training and thus becoming registered is quite easy." nannynick

Always press the references hard. Cross-check dates and details. Would they employ her again? What was the best thing about her? What was the worst thing?

A really good nanny inspires such pitiful excesses of gratitude, it will spill down the phone line. So beware the hesitant or lukewarm or technically OK reference. And if your antennae tell you something doesn't add up, ask a friend to phone to see if they get the same answers.

Ideally, you should start looking at least six weeks before your planned start date, although there's no harm in starting earlier. Some very covetable nannies will know that their jobs are coming to an end months in advance because, for example, the children they're working with are starting school.

"Oh Lordy, please let one of them be THE ONE. This is harder than finding a husband!" Balancingact

Other things to consider

What will your nanny's duties be? (Childcare obviously, but also decide on laundry, tidying, cooking, the school or nursery run.)

  • What hours will they work? Will they be part-time or full-time?
  • Will the nanny be a live-in or live-out
  • Do you mind if your nanny has her own children with her while she works?
  • How will you pay her? What are the terms and conditions of employment?


Should your nanny be: 

  • A non-smoker?
  • Able to cook/prepare meat?
  • Multilingual?
  • An animal lover?
  • Experienced with twins?
  • Experienced with children/families with other special needs?
  • Have a clean, valid driving licence?


Interviewing prospective nannies

Here's a starter-for-ten set of questions. You will have your own particular queries to add.

  • Do you agree on the basics: food, discipline, routine?
  • Do you think you can get on with her and communicate well?
  • What was her favourite job and why?
  • What was her favourite aspect of her most recent job? 
  • What activities does she like to do with baby: how would she plan her day?
  • Is she happy to fill in a daily diary?
     

Make clear what housework you expect. Clearing up after children and their meals, looking after their bedrooms and laundry are par for the course for a full-time nanny.

Talk about overtime and what the deal would be if you get stuck at work, how frequently that might occur and what payment she could expect.

Discuss petty cash. What is she responsible for buying? What would you expect her to spend on outings, snacks etc? Talk to her about the contract you propose. You can get lots of off-the-peg contracts (and your payroll service may be able to help you, if you're using one).

Be very clear about the following:

  • Notice either side
  • Sickness absence and pay
  • Holiday entitlement
  • What happens if there are conduct or performance issues
  • What she should do if she has concerns / grievances

When interviewing nannies, it's important to find out where they stand on matters such as discipline, nutrition and anything else that's important to you. An interested nanny should be expected to ask questions about the position and your family (unless you have covered absolutely everything in your two-hour PowerPoint presentation).

Choosing the right nanny is largely about instinct. "The gut-feel factor is absolutely crucial," agrees one nanny-employer. "Can you live with her? Will she be 'right' for the children? Can she live with you?" Consider asking your top one, two or three nanny candidates to do a paid trial day.

Nanny-sharing

Some families choose to nanny-share, which means one of two arrangements:

  • More than one family employs the nanny to look after the children of two families
  • One nanny works for two (or more) families, but part-time for each family
     

Obviously, the practical side of the first arrangement is more complicated, in terms of who is the primary employer and how you divide her hours for the purpose of paying her salary. 

The main benefits are that it can reduce costs for each family, and (if the nanny is working part-time for each family) it can be a good arrangement if you only need a part-time nanny. But be warned, nanny-sharing can throw up conflicts over parenting styles.

There are agencies that specialise in nanny-shares and you can also advertise through specialist websites. Or you may know of a local family that's looking for this sort of arrangement, or a local part-time nanny with hours that she would like to fill with additional childcare work.

Helping your nanny settle in

Start by making your expectations about her role very clear. Experienced nanny-employers recommend writing out a sample daily and weekly list of chores for your nanny, so that she can see exactly what she needs to do.

Diary planning is also a good habit to get into, working out playdates and activities and making sure everyone knows who is responsible for booking/arranging stuff.

One common complaint on Mumsnet is that the child behaves differently (or just behaves full stop) for the nanny and plays up with you. This can be particularly taxing after a full day at work. If this happens, talk to the nanny and work out your strategy for dealing with it.

Like any new relationship, it may take a while to settle in and to get to know each other. But once you have found the right nanny, she should make everyone's lives easier.

Last updated: 06-Dec-2012 at 11:56 AM