Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The New Nanny Law: A Step in the Right Direction

Graphic from RaceWire The Colorlines Blog

The new Nanny Law in New York will hopefully give both domestic employers and in-home employees a clear guideline for what is fair when negotiating a new contract.

The Nanny Law allows penalties against those who do not follow basic labor laws. But, it is largely unenforceable unless someone makes a complaint. While the law will put pressure on parents that hire nannies to adhere to the regulations so that a blemish not appear on their legal history, in this economic downturn, both nannies and employers may still prefer to work, and to pay, off-the-books.

The number of nannies, babysitters, elder caregivers, and housekeepers in New York is as difficult to determine as it is hard to gauge the size of the underground economy. Many employed as child caregivers are people unaware or unwilling to assert their rights.

Outside of the largest metropolitan areas, the law may have little effect. In rural areas, people may assume the duties of a nanny are available far below minimum wage.

I don't think the law will lead most parents who already employ a nanny to find another child care option. The Nanny Law follows the same labor laws already in existence in the United States. For example, no one, no matter their occupation, is supposed to make under minimum wage. It is just a matter of regulating the laws and whether workers are willing to accept or reject jobs that don't offer the standards of labor laws.

Educated, experienced, professional in-home child care providers don't even consider jobs that do not offer the rights listed in the new law. I think the best nannies already work for great employers and know not to accept jobs that offer lower than minimum wage, without paid vacation days and holidays, and some paid sick days (plus plenty of other benefits). If the parents can already afford a great nanny these very simple changes won't make the difference between keeping an experienced and educated caregiver to a less expensive child care option.

Some suggest the new Nanny Law will force parents to fire their nannies to hire au pairs. Let's not forget the Au Pair Program in the United States has many of the same rules already. In fact, au pairs cannot even work as many long hours as nannies (only up to 45 hours of child care per week). The rules of the Au Pair Program in the United States include that au pairs are provided a private bedroom, meals, remuneration tied to the minimum wage ($195.75 in July 2009), 1½ days off weekly, plus a full weekend off each month, two weeks paid vacation (and this new Nanny Law only requires one week paid vacation), and the first $500 toward the costs of required course work to be completed at an accredited institution of higher education in order to satisfy the requirements of the educational component of the program. Au pairs are not to serve as general housekeepers or assume responsibility for household management.

Nannies can work longer hours, take on any housekeeping responsibilities or household management duty she is willing to do, when au pairs cannot. So, if any of those factors are essential to working parents, than they obviously won't fire their nanny to hire an au pair.

But, au pair regulations are are hard to enforce unless the au pair complains (as I predict will be the case with the Nanny Law) so many au pairs do, and will, work overtime hours for under the minimum wage. Just having guidelines for au pairs and laws for nannies isn't enough to make changes for everyone -- but it is a step in the right direction!

The real deciding factor will be if the new law can be regulated. Currently nannies must negotiate a good salary and benefits themselves and I don't think that will change. Parents will still offer jobs that break the law and nannies will still have to either accept of reject positions that will break the labor law. Will nannies continue to accept jobs offering no vacation time even with the Nanny Law? Absolutely.

A web site on labor laws reads, "Good labor laws are only as good as their enforcers, which is something that we should consider: a country can put anything it likes into its legal code, but legislation is useless without inspection agents and law enforcement to back it up. For example, most countries have laws against child labor, but the use of child labor is a perennial problem in the developing world."

But, even though child labor laws may not be 100% effective, would anyone suggest they are usless laws or we don't need such laws? Of course not!

I feel the Nanny Law is a step in the right direction. I think all workers (immigrant or not, salaried or hourly, part-time or full-time) deserve basic labor rights.

How do you think the new Nanny Law in New York will effect nannies, employers, nanny placement agencies, and other child care industries in the state?

25 comments:

Tobago Nanny said...

Always such good insight you have. I agree with nanny law and don't think it's useless. But conservatives will disagree because so many nannies are immigrants. They will say they can't afford nanny anymore because immigrants are cheaper. They will also complain they will need to find cheaper childcare.
But really it's not parents who can't afford these costs but immigrants are scared to fight for rights. I think too many immigrants are scared of being deported so will not speak up.
I've read everything I know the new nanny law protects immigrants. But you are scared as an immigrant.
I was a teacher in my homeland and can't here so I work as a nanny here. Until I became a citizen I never asked for raises. I couldn't drive since I couldn't get a license until I was a resident and I didn't want to risk my job or being deported. It may not make sense to Amreican born nannies but even when a newborn came at my fist nanny job in the United states I didn't ask for a raise.

It is scary to be an immigrant and some parents will take advantage of that. There are many good parents treat everyone equal but many do not. I don't think the law will help most immigrants that are not legal citizens because they are to scared to speak up. I don't think it's because parents won't pay what the law says.
But most American born nannies are smart enough to not accept bad jobs.
All parents I have worked for in United States have plenty to pay all of these things required in law, they just need to choose to do it.
I hope nanny law reaches every job in every State.

Anonymous said...

It's time to add daycare workers to the law!

Anonymous said...

I know nannies that insist upon being paid off the books and in cash each week, many situations at $1,000 per week. This will only work for registered nannies that pay taxes.

Good nannies will always be in demand and New York families will pay in cash without question. That won't change.

Brooklyn

Anonymous said...

It's always amazing to me how people who employ nannies (and don't pay taxes) justify their non-payment of employment taxes. There are plenty of excellent nannies who want to be paid on the books. Weird how wealthy, otherwise law abiding citizens don't think twice about exploiting their nannies in subtle ways. With this law there is no better time to be paid on the books, legally, to protect yourself in NY then now!

It's about time that domestic workers got some meaningful labor protections.
Gloria, NY

Anonymous said...

Very interesting debate - I don't live in NY but I am glad to see that domestic workers are getting their due, finally. Many of these nannies are moms themselves and they work so many hours, that they see their employer's children more often then they due their own children!

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but I do think there are families who can afford these new rights and they should pay their nannies if they like them and want to retain them.

lovebeingananny said...

Do people really think this will help the au pair and daycare industries because parents won't be able to afford nannies now? Really? In NYC it's not that much extra money. People who have nannies make 8 times what they pay their nannies, most can certainly afford it.

Eva said...

It is funny. If you read au pair blog they think this will help them, read this nanny blog it will help them, everyone thinks it'll be hard to regulate. But anything worthwhile isn't easy. Just because getting laws passed and getting immigrants to stand up for their rights is hard doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. I like the point about child labor laws. We don't hear much about it anymore, children still suffer in some countries, but no one would ever say those laws are not worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

I think this legislation is great because it will give parents clarity on how much and what to offer their domestic workers. It makes me feel good that I was able to offer my daughter's nanny a lot more then this legislation provides.

Anonymous said...

If you are paid legally you are protected by labor laws, and ought to be. If you don't pay taxes (like 80-90% of nannies are not) you don't deserve legislation to protect you and your job benefits.

Anonymous said...

Above- well said- I could not agree more!

Michelle said...

I agree with comments re: taxes and nanny above. The Nanny Law is awesome but it can't help you if you don't show you work and earn money. If you don't have a record that you work, it won't help you legally.

Will agencies be required to ensure the parents follow the law or just say they are a third party like they do now and wash their hand of it?

Anonymous said...

The argument that only tax paying nannies deserve to be treated fairly at work is insane!

No CRIME is allowed, period. Breaking labor laws is a crime. Immigrant, citizen, old, young, woman, man, black or white deserve to be treated fairly at work!

Immigrants aren't the problem. Parents who treated household workers badly are the problem!!!

Marissa Brooklyn NY

Nanny Protection Needed said...

Marissa, I think you're right. Who can blame immigrants who are offered job as a nanny in another country at way above the average wage in their home country? The problem is that the people who hire them disregard their rights and the law to save cash.

EQUAL TREATMENT FOR ALL said...

I am very concerned about the common social perception of nannies. Most comments in major newspapers are people angry that nannies have the gall to ask for these rights. Parents should treat those who help raise their kids like queens and kings. Nothing is more precious than our children.

Another common complaint is that parents should stay home and raise their kids and not hire others to do that. But, for every dollar a women makes she adds another dollar to our national economy.

Any change is difficult and comes upon opposition. GO NANNIES, GO DOMESTICS, TIME TO BE TREATED FAIRLY! If not, take them to court!

Nancy Staten Island said...

Since Wall St collapsed in Oct/Nov 2008 there have been many more articles about parents laying off the nanny because the parents lose jobs than anything about giving nannies rights.

I understand why some people might think parents won't hire nannies because this law may cost them up to let's say $5,000 per year. But in New York that's not very much. But, if it does force parents to hire au pairs or send kids to daycare so be it. We don't need to work for cheap parents. Save the generous parents for us to be nanny employers.

I think when parents lose jobs it's more damaging to the nanny profession than giving a few immigrants basic rights.

Reyna Horowitz said...

"Many employed as child caregivers are people unaware or unwilling to assert their rights."

This is the point. If nannies and parents don't know about it or care about it they will still hire nannies for less and abuses in labor law will continue!

Reyna H NY

smarty pants nanny said...

What some of you are forgetting is that if someone doesn't pay taxes they are breaking the law. Any contract that breaks the law is null and void. It's not considered a contract. So, even if a nanny negotiates good salary and benefits they aren't legally binding if you don't pay taxes (or any part of the contract is illegal). So smarty pants that are complaining about illegals may be illegal themselves simply if their employer isn't pay time and a half overtime after 45 hours of work!

Legal Immigrant Nanny said...

I am an immigrant and feel very strongly that ILLEGALS do not deserve rights. Immgrants going through the process to be citizens legally do deserve rights. It is a very long process to become citizen and many unfair problems in that process. But still those breaking law by not going through process legally don't deserve these labor law rights.

INA Board Member said...

INA statement about domestic workers rights:

The New York State Senate passed a bill this week that would mandate employers to provide certain benefits to their domestic employees, including legal holidays, paid vacations, paid sick days, 14 days' termination notice and one day off each week.

Last year, the New York State Assembly passed a similar bill, and both the Assembly and the Senate will now work together to reconcile the 2 bills.

We do not know when they will reach an agreement on a final bill to present to Governor Patterson, however, should the Governor sign a new bill into law it will certainly set a precedent for other states.

INA supports workers' rights and has a long standing history of providing educational information about average salaries and customary benefits, to the public, to our member agencies and to our nanny members.

In 2010, INA updated its recommended practices for nannies, placement agencies and domestic employers. These newly expanded publications (available at nanny.org) include an educational section on legal responsibilities for household employers and suggested items to be included in a nanny/family work agreement. INA has also revised its Nanny/Family Work Agreement to include information on overtime law.

Fiona Littleton said...

Thanks for posting the statement for those of us not members of INA but not much of a statement. Politically correct is all.Do most of the subscribers know what INA stands for?

Steph 6 said...

It's already against the law to hire someone in this country illegally. And if you do employ someone illegally, you are still required to follow the labor law. The law doesn't do anything that labor law doesn't already do! INA is International Nanny Association. They are just stating the facts, nothing wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

I am whole heartedly for this bill. Caring for children should be one of the most respected professions, not one of the most abused.

Anonymous said...

For the best advice, I would reach out to GTM Payroll Services Inc in Upstate NY. They are well versed in regards to the new laws of NYS. I recently signed up with GTM, and they have been great with this new process of hiring a nanny. www.gtm.com

Justamom said...

I think that an employers side needs to be stated. We have been extremely flexible with our Nanny since her first day. She arrived from over seas 2 and 1/2 years ago.Her starting wage should have been 9.00 per hour but we offered 12.00 per hour. She does not cook for our small boys, and refuses to learn. She works on average 26-35 hours per week, because when we arrive home, she "disappears" and neglects her night time duties,. yet expects to be paid for 40 hours per week which we have paid. We are extrememly disappointed in the arrangement and are relieved that she has asked to leave early. The work ethic is not what we are use to after employing several day nannies in the past.We thought a live in would be beneficial. This was our first experience with an overseas nanny and our last. She used us to gain citizen ship. I think we have been abused as well as our children.

Michelle said...

Justamom:

You are describing an AU PAIR. There is no such thing as an overseas nanny working in America.

This law is for American citizens that work as nannies. The law doesn't create great workers, you have to interview applicants to find someone with the work ethic you desire. Know what interview questions to ask and you need to negotiate duties with the nanny and then negotiate your own work agreement.

It's your home, your kids, don't hire someone doesn't fit your job description.