How to Find Back-Up Care When Your Nanny is Sick

After weighing your childcare options, you’ve decided to hire a nanny. You may be wondering however, what you’ll do in the event that  your nanny becomes sick and is unable to show up for work. While the reality is that nannies, like anyone else, may end up with a stomach bug or other illness that prevents them from working, most seasoned nannies can count on one hand how often they’ve called into work sick over the course of their career.

Unlike in a daycare setting, where a director can call in another provider when a caregiver calls in sick, nannies understand that their employers don’t typically have that option. As such, nannies tend to show up for work, probably when they shouldn’t, and work through minor illnesses that would keep other types of employees home.

Should you find yourself in a situation where you need back-up childcare because your nanny is not able to work, however, you can take these five steps to try to secure childcare coverage:

Step 1: Ask your nanny for referrals. Nannies often have an established network of nannies in their area. There’s usually at least a nanny or two who are currently looking for work or who have schedules that would allow them to pick up extra weekday hours. Since nannies often meet up at the playground or at playdates, chances are, the nanny may already be familiar with your children, which could be a huge plus.

Step 2: Have a list of prescreened caregivers. Parents can more easily find back-up care if they’re prepared to do so. Having a prescreened list of caregivers who you use for date nights or other occasions when your regular nanny isn’t available to work can come in handy. If you have a pool of 5 candidates, chances are at least one is available for last minute coverage.

Step 3: Utilize friends and family. For many families, grandparents who live close or friends who live up the road are the built in back-up care. Inquire to friends and family if they’d be willing to pinch hit should you find yourself in a jam. Offer to reciprocate by providing weekend care for your friend’s kids, taking your parents out to dinner, or by offering to pay for their services.

Step 4: Contract with a back-up care provider. There are many local agencies that offer back-up childcare options. Nanny placement agencies, babysitting services and even corporate childcare centers often offer back-up care childcare services. Some require you to be preregistered, so you’ll want to look into what’s available in your area and preregister before you actually need to use their services.

Step 5: Utilize employer-sponsored care options. Many employers offer employer-sponsored care as a benefit to their employees. The care options can range from an on-site daycare facility to a resource and referral network to having contracts with placement agencies or internet based recruiting sites. Contact your human resources department to see if your company offers employer-sponsored back-up care.

If you’ve walked through these steps and have been unable to secure coverage, you’ll need to get creative. Working from home, asking your spouse to come home early, and even perhaps bringing your child with you to work may be viable options. If all else fails, however, you may need to exercise your last resort and call into work yourself.

To minimize the inconvenience that results from a nanny calling into work sick, parents should clearly outline when and how a nanny should communicate that she’s unable to work. Some parents prefer a phone call first thing in the morning and others prefer an email sent as soon as the nanny is sure she won’t be in. Having back-up care options in place can make securing back-up care more likely and finding a last minute caregiver less stressful.

Since nannies tend to work when they should perhaps stay home and care for themselves, parents should also communicate to their nanny when they prefer her to stay home. Some parents would rather their nanny stay home and rest if she has a communicable illness instead of risking the whole house becoming infected, while others leave it up to the nanny to decide what constitutes being ill enough to call into work sick.

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