Guaranteed hours are a standard industry benefit for full-time, part-time, live-in, and live-out nannies that says when a nanny is available and able to work and their employers choose not to use their services (e.g. Mom comes home early to spend time with the kids before a business trip, the family takes off early on Friday for a long weekend, the family goes on vacation, the kids go to sleep away camp), the nanny is paid for a guaranteed number of hours in the workweek, regardless if they worked those hours or not.
Many employers want to couple guaranteed hours with banking hours, when an employer requires the nanny to make up (beyond the current workweek) the unworked hours the nanny was paid for under the guaranteed hours benefit. For example, a family goes away on Thursday and Friday to see Grandma for a long weekend. They pay their nanny for the full week. If they’re banking hours, they now have 2 days “in the bank” to use at a later time. So they have the nanny stay late the next Wednesday and use 2 hours. They go on a date the next Saturday evening and use 5 hours. They ask the nanny to pitch in on a Sunday afternoon when the kids are all going in different directions and use 3 hours. They use an extra hour here and there until the nanny has repaid all 20 hours. Since the nanny was paid for those hours already, they’re working the 20 extra hours without seeing an increase in that week’s paycheck.
Banking hours is one of those ideas that seems like a good compromise in theory, but it ends up not working well in the real world. (Changing the schedule last minute to keep from paying for unworked hours has the same effect as banking hours so most nannies exclude that option by requiring their guaranteed hours to be based on their typical schedule.) The problem is your nanny has to make up the banked hours they owe you by working early mornings, late nights, or weekends in addition to their normal schedule. Although your nanny knows you’ve paid them for that time already, they still feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick. After all, it wasn’t their choice to miss work. They were ready and willing to come in. You just didn’t need them. Those banked hours take a big chunk out of their off time. To make up one 10 hour day, they might have to work 2 or 3 late nights. Those are nights they have to give up their much needed down time, time with family and friends, or additional babysitting income. It doesn’t take long for your nanny to become resentful and start to consider moving on.
Also banking hours, paying for hours in one workweek and having the nanny work those hours in a later workweek, is illegal. Your nanny must be paid for every hour they work and paid within the pay period they work the hours in. You can’t pay your nanny in November for hours they’ll actually work in December. Doing that opens you up to a claim for unpaid wages for those December hours.
Some employers try to avoid the banking hours dilemma by changing their nanny’s schedule to use those paid but unworked hours in the same workweek. If this happens only occasionally, the schedule change isn’t significant, the nanny is given ample notice and has the option to decline the change, that can work for some caregivers. For example, the family is leaving for Thanksgiving break on Tuesday evening and asks the nanny 4 weeks in advance to stay an hour or two late on Tuesday to help get everyone out the door in exchange for Wednesday and Friday off as paid days under guaranteed hours. Many nannies will accommodate a request like that if their schedule and family obligations allow. However, it should always be framed as a request rather than an obligation and the option to decline should be genuinely extended. If the nanny says no, they still receive Wednesday and Friday off with pay under the guaranteed hours agreement.
Banking hours is one of those things that can quickly sour an otherwise good working relationship. Families that see banking hours as a money-saving add on to guaranteed hours will quickly realize their nanny does not. Guaranteed hours doesn’t come with any caveats. If the nanny doesn’t work enough hours within their typical schedule to meet the guaranteed hours threshold, they’re paid for those unworked hours. This additional investment in the employment relationship (and the nanny’s financial stability) is worth more than banking hours can ever save.
If you’d like help in navigating all the ins and outs of your nanny’s benefit package, the A to Z Nanny Contract will guide you through it all.