Seattle’s New Nanny Law

[Update 8/1: As many know, we’ve been creating noise around this campaign for some time in an effort to bring communities together and move our industry forward in a positive manner.  Reach out to us with your comments, suggestions, grievances and questions: We welcome collaboration!]

What’s the noise about?

The volume of online chatter has been increasing around the public commentary on domestic workers, who do not have the same rights as other workers.  The recently passed domestic worker’s ordinance (DWO) in Seattle aims to address that.  It’s a lot less scary than it sounds.

From what we are hearing, nannies fear an identity crisis.  They are concerned that the definition of their work will be watered down, thrown in with “all domestic laborers.”  The good news is they need not worry about misclassification, as the nannies themselves will be allowed to participate in the rule making process.  This is a big deal because it is totally unprecedented.

As for employers, they are wondering how they will accommodate the impossible – like offering a lunch break when there is no one to relieve their only employee.  For the Seattle DWO, employers do have a voice, as they will also be participating in the ongoing rule making process.  Given this is one of the most attention grabbing elements of the ordinance, it’s helpful to know the details.

The Seattle city council has also expressed concern for the unintended consequences of driving down affordability for households who already struggle to hire domestic workers.  Keep in mind that the main intention is to insure the minimum wage law simply extends to home workers.  Many recent studies have been making headlines for stating that minimum wage jobs make livability for Seattleites wholly unsustainable, so a minimum wage for this labor pool is a good place to start.

Regardless of where you stand on the ordinance, one thing is for certain.  Change is coming, and already has to eight other states including Oregon, Illinois, and Nevada.  They have laid the groundwork for basic protections for domestic workers, in recognition of this historically left out segment of the labor pool.

In Seattle, employers and workers have come together for over a year in an effort to learn from these states who have implemented worker protections for domestic employees.  Their voices have been heard in stakeholder meetings, forums, rallies and public community hearings.  Now the real work begins as the board comes together.


Why now?

Nationwide low unemployment rates are forcing the issue as nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers are eyeing professions that offer more in the way of benefits and pay.  When you can’t afford to stay in a profession you will be driven to pastures greener, or you will stay and fight because you love what you do.


What does it mean?

The bottom line is that basic protections offered to other workers now partially extend to the 30,000 or so nannies, gardeners, home health workers, and housekeepers in Seattle.  The law will grant the right to minimum wage, a rest break if the worker puts in a full day (or pay for this time if it’s not possible to take a break, see this link for more info), and the right to one day off per week.  Oh, and an employer is no longer allowed to confiscate the passport of their employees.  That’s it.

Now it’s time to find worker and employer representatives from the industry to have a seat at the table and work together in creating higher standards around health care, written contracts, free trainings and certification, paid sick leave, workers compensation, and the list goes on.

This will unfold over the course of several years with the help of community volunteers working closely with the Office of Labor Standards.  Organizing, education, and outreach will be key to its success and we will continue to be a resource for both parent employers and home workers who seek a sounding board.


Copyright © 2018 Emily Dills. All Rights Reserved

My Home is Someone’s Workplace

I took a deep dive recently into the local and national movements that are taking place around the employer and domestic worker relationship and I can say, there are some exciting changes afoot.  Forays include attending a forum at Casa Latina in Seattle for the Working Washington’s Bill of Rights agenda and attending a live webinar from Hand in Hand, an organization out of New York promoting nationwide domestic workers rights.

Director of Hand in Hand Ilana Berger succinctly stated that “there is a deep sense of interdependence between families and the domestic workers who help them because quite simply … we need each other.”

“My Home is Someone’s Workplace” was the title of the webinar, with attendees nationwide.   The overarching goal is to create solidarity and support for a group of workers often overlooked, with Ms. Berger providing the sinister history behind this marginalization.  It is apparently rooted in slavery.  Take a moment to let that sink in.

Dating back to the 1930’s when the labor force was wholly unregulated, groups of workers (predominantly male) began to mobilize into unions and demand basic employer rights.  The domestic workers (predominantly female, immigrants, or people of color) were left out of these protections.  Nearly a century on, the legacy remains as child care minders and housekeepers work in a shadow industry that has remained almost completely unregulated.  Until now.

Some may remember Meryl Streep recently attending the Oscar’s with her plus one, the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Ai-Jen Poo.  The genius move was intended to bring attention to our industry, one Ai-Jen Poo casts as the “wild, wild west of industries with so few regulations.”

Ms. Berger explained that the context of this work is very confusing, even for those employers who “really want to do the right thing.”  She added that “although none of us created the system, we all have agency in trying to improve and make it more just.”

Hand in Hand began by establishing the Fair Care Pledge, pillars to be used as guidelines for home employers.  They begin with Fair Pay, Clear Expectations, and Paid Time Off.  They iterated that although the in-home environment begets a “family or friend” type relationship with a nanny, sitter, housekeeper, or caregiver – the reality is that “it is a labor relationship” and “essential that one pay close attention to obligations” related to the nature of this relationship.  “Its not like someone shows at your door with an HR booklet” added one of the presenters.

Paying a living wage, paying overtime, and paying reliably were added to the list of tenets.  You can find Guiding Principles around  “living wages” and calculate the cost-of-living geographically by using the Family Budget Calculator from the Economic Policy Institute here:

The thinktank over at National Domestic Workers Alliance has conceptualized the model of portable benefits through the launch of; designed to provide gig economy workers such as housekeepers with access to paid sick leave, disability insurance, accident/illness insurance, and more.

In closing, a huge emphasis was placed on fair treatment of household employees.  One of the tips they gave was literally “remember to say hello and regularly communicate with respect”.  Now, couldn’t we all use this advice in the workplace?


Copyright © 2018 Emily Dills. All Rights Reserved

Why Employment with Kids looks GREAT on a Resume

Working with kids is tough.  Working with their parents can be even tougher.  The skills you acquire with this experience translate well to just about any type of work you will ever do, and recruiters know it.

It speaks volumes about your candidacy for any job if you have done this type of work and done it well.  Work as a professional sitter, nanny, lifeguard, swim instructor, camp counselor, infant room teacher, preschool leader, before and after school care provider, or any number of additional roles sends a message to future employers that you have gained a unique skill set. 
You understand safety.  Keeping the most vulnerable members of our society safe is a huge responsibility.  The skills necessary to navigate a chaotic world come naturally to you.  You have learned how to think of others, not just yourself.
You are successful at multi-tasking. Learned while juggling the highly unpredictable needs of children.  A toddler teacher who is used to eleven tiny students all needing something different at the same time, knows a thing or two about management.
You are focused. In a world where attention spans are short, you have learned that children need constant engagement, and this ability to stay on task has prepared you for a variety of roles in the corporate world.
You have mastered the art of patience.  In fact, if you didn’t have it to begin with – you probably wouldn’t have “working with children” on your resume at all.  There are few things more trying than the repetition of a child asking “why?” or reading the same story over and over and over, or a child who stubbornly refuses to eat…or a parent who is overwhelmed.
You are versatile.  Children are as different as fingerprints, no two are the same.  If you are able to confidently manage their needs in a variety of settings, there are few situations you won’t be able to handle both socially and professionally.
Job recruiters and future employers know the benefits of making a hire who have these qualities, so be sure to include it in detail on your resume,  and don’t underestimate its value. 
Interested in working with us? Apply now here!
Copyright © 2018 Emily Dills. All Rights Reserved

The New Sick Leave Law and your Nanny

Is being a nanny even a real job? Does a nanny or sitter have the same rights as an employee of a company?

Many employers have questions about how the new law impacts the employment of their nanny.

Emily Dills, President of Seattle Nanny Network, Inc., helps you sort the answers out.

Employment Law and the Nanny

As an employer, you are required to pay your nanny “on the books”. Failing to do so means at the very least your nanny will not have credit history, which helps them to apply for a home or car loan. All too often a nanny will inadvertently alert the IRS to the fact that their employer did not pay taxes when they attempt to apply for unemployment benefits. The result is, you guessed it – the IRS finds and fines the family. Don’t let this be you. Pay the applicable taxes. We work with and recommend that you do too.

Is the Nanny Eligible for Benefits?

Until recently, the only legal requirement of nanny employers was to do the above – pay taxes. However, due to a change in the law effective January 1st, 2018, (which impacts almost all employers – more on this in the next post), it is now required that hourly workers be paid one hour of sick leave for every forty hours worked. This is accruable after 90 days of employment.

For a full time employee, this can be about 52 hours of paid leave per year. Wow! That’s a lot for a small employer who is not a company but a private home you say? True, but read on to see why this is a good thing, and why it’s not as complicated as you think.

Why does a Nanny Need Benefits?

The nanny industry is unregulated. This means anyone can call themselves a nanny, and anyone can act as a recruiter who places them in private homes. Private home employees are marginalized due to this lack of regulation, and the industry as a whole (along with the children for whom they care) suffers as a result.

By offering fair pay and benefits, the career choice of being a nanny gains respectability and the profession attracts more qualified people. This is a win for everyone.

Is my Childcare Provider a Sitter or a Nanny?

Your sitter, like a nanny, is an hourly employee, and hourly employees by law must receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. However, there’s a tax threshold of $2,100(updated from the previous $2,000) which typically differentiates the two. In a nutshell, if you pay one person less than $2,100 per year, you’re beneath the required reporting threshold. This is applicable to most babysitting arrangements. If you pay a person above the $2,100 threshold within a year, you will need to report to the IRS. This would be applicable to both part time and full time nannies. If you employ that person more than 40 hours per year, you will need to offer one hour of paid sick leave for each 40 hours worked.

Next week we answer the following questions: “Do I have to pay sick leave on top of the vacation time I already offer?” and “What employees are exempt from the sick leave benefit?”

Emily Dills is the President & COO of Seattle Nanny Network, Inc. Washington State is blazing the trail for domestic workers’ rights with their Public Health Initiative 1433, the same ballot measure that also raised the statewide minimum wage. Seattle Nanny Network has participated in the commission for domestic workers created by Working Washington since its inception. For more information, visit


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Copyright © 2018 Emily Dills. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: The New Standard for Nanny Cams

Parents are increasingly turning to nanny cams to ensure the safety of their children with in-home care providers. This trend has been driven by media coverage of nanny abuse cases, but it is also largely influenced by the culture of connectivity we live in. Video surveillance is no longer just for the overprotective or suspicious – it is a way to participate in milestones and see what your kids are up to when you’re away, and a tool for communication with your nanny.

Nanny cams provide peace of mind and quality assurance for parents who would prefer to hire a nanny but have shied away due to the lack of supervision present in facility care. By using a nanny cam, you are able to have both the high end, individualized care of a professional nanny, as well as proof that your children are getting the best care possible.

There is, of course, a catch.

The use of nanny cams is often viewed negatively by nannies and au pairs, but not because they are being filmed. The primary aversion is due to the lack of trust a hidden camera implies, and concern over their privacy being violated in places such as bathrooms or private bedrooms (this mainly applies to live-in nannies and au pairs, but also includes live-out nannies who have a designated room in the home for when they work extended hours or overnight). While it is legal in all fifty states to have hidden cameras in your home, if your nanny discovers she’s being filmed without her knowledge, it could permanently damage your working relationship, and even result in her quitting.

For this reason, companies such as Seattle-based NannySure are going beyond standard surveillance tactics, providing a transparent resource that benefits both parents and nannies. Observations customized to each family are compiled into a report that is provided to both the parents and the nanny, and either party can request footage. This benefits nannies who want advice on behavioral issues, and is especially helpful if parents are not wanting to believe their little cherub was capable of said behavioral issues. Obviously trusting your childcare provider is paramount, but also being able to eliminate hearsay from your 5-year-old? Yes, please.

Justin Baram-Blackwell, founder of NannySure, states his company’s approach builds on the proven concept that “employees will perform better when they know they are being observed,” and that “covert monitoring not only destroys trust but fails to proactively protect your family.” By creating an environment where there’s mutual trust and open communication, parents are able to more effectively manage their employees, and nannies are able to have their hard work acknowledged. “After all,” says Baram-Blackwell, “how can you comment on a job well done when no one thought you were watching?”

Another caveat to covert monitoring: you may not be the only one watching. Baby monitors and nanny cams are alarmingly easy to hack if they aren’t secured, so it’s crucial to hire an expert if you aren’t (hacker level) tech savvy. It is also a good reminder to parents that if they would feel violated being watched without their knowledge, so would their nanny – a point well worth considering when it comes to maintaining such an intimate working relationship.

Deciding whether or not to install surveillance is a personal choice, but one that is best addressed by first voicing your concerns to your nanny directly. There is no substitute for healthy, open communication. Technology has never been more prevalent in our world, and there are advantages and disadvantages to taking this route.

Bottom line: if you’re gonna do it, do it right.

Copyright © 2018 Seattle Nanny Network. All Rights Reserved

Nanny vs. Babysitter: What’s Really in a Name?

As a nanny, one of my greatest pet peeves, which I’ll go out on a limb to say is a communal industry gripe, is when my job is reduced to “glorified babysitter.” It happens all the time. At dinner parties, family events, and even random social encounters, the topic of profession often comes up, and upon finding out that I’m a nanny, I get responses like: “You’re a nanny? But…what do you do all day?” Or better yet: “So how long have you been babysitting them?” To imply, obviously, that their understanding of childcare is turning on Nick Jr., throwing together mac’n’cheese, and texting all day.

Okay, maybe not everyone thinks that, but as someone who puts 50 plus hours a week into a job that I am deeply invested in, it can be frustrating to have that work so casually diminished.

Emily Dills, founder of The Seattle Nanny Network, worked as a nanny while in college, an experience she never forgets when sitting across from applicants she feels are undervalued. “I would have made a career out of working with children if there were more recognition in it. The nannies we represent are not just educated and experienced – they have a gift. They have chosen to dedicate their lives to working with private families in much the role of a teacher, yet there is no formal acknowledgment of that in this country. It’s frustrating.”

The biggest problem is that the majority of people don’t know what a modern nanny’s role is. Having a nanny isn’t the norm for most parents, and even in circles where it is, America doesn’t have the cultural familiarity with professional caregivers the way other countries, such as the United Kingdom, do. When we conjure images of nannies in the US, stereotypical – and often socially and historically uncomfortable – portrayals come to mind. We have turned the role into a caricature, so much so that we have no idea how to react to the real deal. It makes sense, then, that we would try to relate it to the nearest experience we are familiar with, which for most people is their neighborhood babysitter. But the two are not interchangeable.

A babysitter comes over for a few hours to monitor kids that she may or may not know well, usually so the parents can have a date night. She is there to make sure they eat and go to bed on time, and hopefully is able to make the process as fun as possible. More often than not, the majority of her babysitting time is spent while the kids are sleeping, and she is free to watch TV, talk on the phone, or do homework. She is paid in cash. She is likely on a roster of several local, trustworthy sitters the parents call from time to time, but is not indispensable to the family or an integral part of the children’s development.

On the other hand, a nanny’s role is to partner with the parents in raising their children. She is their physical extension when they are away from home. She is there almost every day, often for years, to nurture, protect, and teach the children she has been entrusted to, and has a major role in their development. While some nannies are paid under the table, most professional nannies worth their salt are salaried with benefits and, along with their employers, are complying with tax regulations. A nanny typically has years of experience in childcare, and many times has obtained degrees and certifications related to her job. Often, her expertise and wisdom is relied upon in situations where the parents might lack experience (for example, how to help a toddler transition with a newborn, potty training, dietary challenges, etc.). Nannies are often present at doctor’s appointments, sporting events, birthdays, and other family celebrations, and are a major part of the family’s life. So, why the lack of regard for such an important role?
I wanted to look into how the United Kingdom, which is the birthplace of the nanny, approaches the profession, so I reached out to Royal Nannies in London (a nanny placement agency serving the UK and making placements as far as Riyadh). Lucy, a recruitment consultant at Royal Nannies, offered a jumble of post-nominal abbreviations when asked about the applicant qualifications for their agency: “Nannies usually [have a] CACHE diploma, and often also have a NVQ diploma, MNT training, NEST training…”

Wait, what?

“And,” she added, “our nannies have to have at least five years of professional nanny experience” to qualify for application, explaining that many candidates with daycare or primary school backgrounds wish to apply, but that the families feel it necessary they have “household experience” as well as degrees. So how does all this translate into, um, plain English?
In the United Kingdom, CACHE is a two-year degree from The Council for Award in Childcare and Education. According to Royal Nannies, about half those who graduate with the degree will become nannies, while the rest go on to be employed with nurseries, schools, and hospitals. Social workers with this degree “are particularly suited to work in child protection and residential children’s units,” they claim. And, if these qualifications aren’t enough, or if your children are older, you could also hire a governess. This role is an advanced version of a nanny in England; someone who, “in contrast to a nanny, concentrates on teaching children,” both as a primary and supplementary form of education.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Ms. Dills said, with regard to raising awareness and recognition for the professional nanny here in the US. “But we have come a long way in the two decades I’ve been in the industry. There is a lot more confidence from the applicants, if that makes sense. I see more people wearing the title of ‘nanny’ with pride because of greater understanding of their role and acceptance.”

Perhaps we can take a cue from overseas where the industry is more regulated and formerly recognized, leading to respect for those who work within it. In the meantime, the best advocates for educating others about the role of a nanny are the nannies themselves, and the families who employ them.

There is nothing wrong with the title of babysitter; I started off as one. But a babysitter watches children. A nanny helps raise them.

Copyright © 2018 Seattle Nanny Network. All Rights Reserved

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