Sue Shellenbarger, Associated Press
Instead of a spoon full of sugar, how about some cash?
As the holidays draw near, many parents are trying to figure out the best year-end gift for a nanny or sitter. While these caregivers might seem like family members much of the time, it is best at holiday-bonus time to think of them as employees.
Although it may seem cold, currency is both the most useful and the least risky gift. Some 57% of sitters surveyed recently by the caregiving Web site SitterCity.com said cash is what they want most. And 93% of nannies surveyed by "Be the Best Nanny Newsletter," which caters to full-time professional nannies, said they expect at least a week’s salary as a holiday bonus, plus a thoughtful gift from the children.
For a part-time sitter, SitterCity recommends doubling the care provider’s pay for the last job he or she has before the holidays. For a regular sitter or nanny working more than 20 hours a week, consider doubling the weekly salary for a week before the holidays, SitterCity says. The "Best Nanny" newsletter reports some eye-popping bonuses — $1,200 on average, ranging as high as $8,000, or even a car leased for the nanny’s personal use.
If you can’t dig that deep – and most parents can’t — explain this to your nanny so she isn’t insulted or wondering if her performance has fallen short, advises Stephanie Felzenberg, executive editor of "Be the Best Nanny Monthly Guide." Nannies talk with each other and compare bonuses, and some are hurt or offended if their holiday gifts fall short of average. Also, make sure your behavior matches your words; nannies can become hurt or resentful if they see their employer families spending big on themselves or other people, then pleading poverty with them, Ms. Felzenberg says.
Gift certificates and gift certificates were nannies’ second choice in the SitterCity survey – but make sure you know your sitter’s preferences before buying one. Gift cards for a favorite restaurant or store, or free tickets to a movie, are useful.
If you can’t afford such payouts, consider other gifts that could be considered a benefit of the job, such as occasional personal use of a family car, frequent flier miles, a good laptop you no longer need, a week at a time-share, or an extra day off. One-third of the sitters surveyed by SitterCity aren’t expecting anything, the survey shows.
And don’t underestimate the value of a heartfelt "thank you" and lots of support on the job. Both SitterCity and a survey by Bob Nelson, an author and speaker on employee motivation, show employees value personal praise, and increased autonomy and authority when they are working, over almost all other kinds of rewards.
Readers, how do you handle the year-end bonus question with your nanny or sitter? Any gifts that have hit the mark? Or fallen short?