Asking Your Nanny to Use Paid Sick Time and Vacation Time for COVID

The nanny boards are buzzing with questions around COVID and the many ways it impacts the employment relationship.  The question around how and if a nanny is paid if they need to stay home sick or quarantine because of COVID is one of the hottest topics. 

Most families are agreeing to the policy that “If a parent or child is sick or needs to quarantine because they’ve come in contact with someone who has COVID, the nanny will be paid for the time they have to take off”.

However, how pay will work if the nanny is sick or needs to quarantine because they’ve come in contact with someone who has COVID has become a point of conflict for many parents and nannies.  Many parents are asking their nanny to use their paid sick days and then their paid vacation for this time off.  I discourage this approach; let me tell you why. 

  1. Nannies will get sick with things besides COVID. Using their paid sick days for COVID means it will be a financial hardship for them to take unpaid time off when they get the flu, a stomach bug, or any of the other illnesses they might face.  Employers provide paid sick days so nannies can take off when needed and not work when ill.  Without that safety net, nannies will more likely work when sick rather than see a doctor or take time to recuperate.  This is a bad policy for a positive employment relationship and quick way for the nanny to infect those in her work environment. 

  2. Nannies are experiencing a heightened stress level during COVID. (We’re all feeling it!)  Employers are home, kids are virtually learning, the normal fun activities are closed or unsafe, everything is harder under the COVID cloud of isolation and fear.  Being able to take a paid vacation is quickly becoming a mental health issue, not just a fun thing to do.  Asking a nanny to give up their paid vacation time to COVID means that all important break they’ve been looking forward to is gone.  That’s a sure-fire way for employers to deflate workplace morale and inject more stress into their home environment. 

So what’s the solution?  I encourage employers to provide at least 2 weeks (more if possible) of COVID-related paid time off, separate from paid sick days or paid vacation, to their nanny to use if the nanny gets sick or needs to quarantine.  I know this raises an employer’s childcare budget and can feel like they’re taking on all the financial hardship of COVID.  However, when looking at the big picture, when looking at how well or poorly your nanny will make it through COVID, when looking at what state your employment relationship will be in at the other side of this pandemic, when looking at what you can do to make this challenging time better for those you care about, I believe providing paid COVID time is a worthwhile investment. 

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