What’s Your Snow Day Policy?

It’s that time of year again.  Winter is coming and it’s time to make sure you have a comprehensive inclement weather section in your nanny contract.  (If you have the A to Z Nanny Contract and used the full clause, you’re good.)  If you don’t have a bad weather clause or it’s a bit flimsy on details, now’s the time to update it.  Chances are we’ll have bad weather this year so it’s essential that you have a clear inclement weather policy in place before the next storm hits.  Here are the points you should consider and questions to answer.  The A to Z Nanny Contract can help you outline all the information into your agreement.

No Snow Days Allowed
Some nanny employers have to work regardless of the weather. This group usually includes first responders (e.g. fire fighters, police officers), medical personnel (e.g. emergency room doctors, nurses), and other essential personnel.  In these cases, there’s not an option for the nanny to stay home due to bad weather. They have to make it to work to ensure their employer can make it to work. This usually means the nanny stays over the night before the storm hits.  If “no snow days allowed here” is a job requirement, that should be discussed during the interview process so the nanny can make an informed decision about the position.  If that didn’t happen, discuss it now and see where the nanny stands.

Q.  Who decides if the nanny needs to stay the night? Of course, the best case scenario is that it’s a mutual decision between the parents and nanny but that isn’t always the case so there needs to be one, ultimate decider. And since it’s the parent’s need driving the decision, it’s usually the parent’s choice.

Q.  When will that decision be made? It’s important to lay out how much notice the nanny will be given for a required overnight.

Q.  What will the nanny be paid? Although the nanny isn’t working during her overnight stay, they’re there because their employers need them to be there to guarantee availability in light of the next day’s forecast. Since it’s a requirement rather than a choice, the nanny generally receives a stipend that covers the off hours spent at the employers’ home.

Q.  Where will the nanny sleep? A guest bedroom with private access to a bathroom is the best set-up. If that’s not available, go with whatever gives the nanny the most privacy. Crashing on the couch and showering in the kid’s bathroom isn’t fun for the parents or the nanny. Although the kids would probably love it!  The higher the inconvenience level, the higher the stipend.  

Q.  Does the nanny have a child or pet that need to be considered? If they do, make sure they are part of the plan. Some employers welcome the nanny’s child or pet into their home for the night. Other employers give extra notice and dollars so the nanny has time to coordinate back-up care and pay for the back-up caregiver. And other employers simply pay an overnight stipend that reflects the added expense and inconvenience the nanny may incur.

What Does a Snow Day Policy Include?
Many employers have the option of taking off work for bad weather but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a snow day policy. In fact, because there are so many questions that come with that time off, it’s especially important to have a plan of action in place before the snow or ice hits.

Q.  How is a bad weather day defined? Some employers base their policy on school closures, local government closures, the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, or an assessment of the local road conditions. Whatever your “it’s too bad to come in” standard is, make sure the definition is clear and the contract is easily accessible so everyone can quickly review the agreements made.  And remember, this standard answers the question ‘Should the nanny go to work?’ and also ‘Should the nanny go home early?’

Q.  If you’re relying on an assessment, who makes the final call? This can be a tough decision. It’s important for the employer because it determines if they’ll have childcare. And it’s important for the nanny because it determines if they’ll have a safe commute to and from work. Hopefully this can be a mutual decision, however the parents and nanny often have different perspectives around how bad is too bad to come in. So it’s important to decide in advance who will make the final call.

Remember that there may be outside factors that you need to consider in your assessment. If the nanny takes the train or bus to and from work, their ability to make it to work and the time they’ll arrive will be determined by how the weather affects the public transportation system. If you live in an area that rarely sees winter weather, the nanny may have a car that’s simply not safe for even mild winter driving. All these factors need to be considered when creating your snow day policy.

Q.  Is alternative transportation an option? Some employers offer to send an Uber or pick up and drop off the nanny themselves to avoid forcing the nanny to drive or take public transportation.  For some nannies, this is a great solutions.  For others, it’s an unsafe option.  They believe hazardous streets are hazardous for every driver.  This should be talked through and if it’s an option, included in your policy.

Q.  Will the nanny be paid for inclement weather days? This is a pretty straightforward question. For employers that live in an area where harsh winters are the norm or have other weather issues that can affect transportation (e.g. flash floods, wild fires), it’s standard to offer 3 to 5 paid bad weather days per year. Even if the nanny isn’t paid for snow days it’s important to outline a policy.  There will be times, paid or not, when bad weather keeps the nanny from attending work as scheduled.  (The A to Z Nanny Contract has a separate section on emergency evacuations.)  

Q.  Does the nanny have children or pets at home? When the weather is bad, even if the roads are considered safe for travel, the nanny’s commute time can easily double or triple. If they have a child or pet relying on them to be home at a certain time, it can be impossible for the nanny to work their typical schedule simply because they can’t afford the extra commute time. If this is the case, employers should plan on shortening their schedule on bad weather days and paying for those hours as if they were worked.  That extra consideration will go a long way in the good will part of your employment relationship.  

Q.  Should the nanny work if a parent is home?  Many parents feel that if their nanny can make it to work, they should come in even if the parent is taking the day off or working from home. Many nannies feel that if a parent is home, they shouldn’t have to chance unsafe roads or deal with the hassle of traveling in bad weather. It’s important to talk about how both sides feel about these issues and develop a policy that’s fair to both parents and caregivers.

Like all clauses in your nanny contract, clear, honest communication before the issue arises is the key to a positive employment relationship.  

Hope you all have a happy winter!  

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