After you have prepared for, and aced your nanny or governess interview, next is the contract offer. Governess or nanny contract examples are long, packed with information, and may include complex legal terminology or terms you may be unfamiliar with. Sadly, a nanny work agreement is a necessary evil. You don’t want to make any mistakes when you’re signing up a year or more of your life working for a family or private employer.
A new governess job or an and overseas role as a governor, nanny, full-time tutor or even a rota nanny role can be quite daunting, so it’s always a good thing to have a contractual agreement to revert back to in case any issues arise. You don’t want to make promises you can’t commit to, and equally you don’t want to sign up to an agreement that allows the employer to take advantage of you. So read on to find out which terms in your contract you need to pay attention to!
Here is a list of 12 points that we at Jobs in Childcare believe are essential - for your own safety, integrity and for mutual respect and understanding between the signing partners. Bear in mind that if your contract is an international one, it may not be properly legally binding across the separate jurisdictions. Nevertheless, it is helpful to have terms properly defined with your employer just in case you ever need to be able to point back and say hey - this isn’t what we agreed. From that point, it’s your decision whether you choose to continue working for the employer or not. So, without further ado:
1. Duties and kids.
OK, so these are the big ones. Who exactly are you supposed to be taking care of at work, and what roles do you have with them? Are cooking for the kids and cleaning the house involved? What about dressing the kids and personal hygiene? Are there other kids that aren’t your responsibility? And on top of this - are there any significant household rules that you need to be aware of? Be sure!
2. Your daily schedule.
This is another essential element. Make sure your work days and working hours are clearly defined in your contract. A standard full-time work-week for a nanny governor or governess is 40 hours up to around 50 hours. Bear in mind that over 50 hours per week is already a ‘heavy’ schedule - you don’t want to get burned out or be overtired. Make sure you can handle the schedule and be careful not to get drawn in by a fat salary offer for unrealistic working hours. This is for your employer’s benefit as well as your own; what’s the point in not resting and thus not being able to work to the best of your ability?
You should also define whether bank holidays and public holidays are working days or days off in your contract. For international roles bank holidays are generally working days, but this is worth checking.
3. The family holiday schedule.
Many families change from their regular schedule when they travel or have extended work periods (such as the school summer holidays). It is important for you to know if your working arrangements are expected to change here. Will you work extra days, and how will these be compensated? With extra money or days off ‘in lieu’? Will the working hours and living arrangements change during work travel? Will extra duties be added for these travel periods, and if so, which? Be sure to get all this defined before you agree to work all the hours under the sun (or moon!). Working as a travel nanny? Some things to consider here.
4. Your personal holiday time.
It is equally important to find out when your holidays can they be booked, as some families may have expectations about when a suitable holiday period is, and when is not. Will your holidays be mutually agreed in advance? Some families may expect you to travel home for Christmas, for example. Others may require extra help during festive periods. If you have any dates that you already know you will need off, it may be a good idea to ‘lock’ them in in the contract before you even start.
You should also check when your first holiday can be taken. Some employers may suggest that holiday weeks off can only be taken after 3 or even 6 months of work. If this is a factor, make sure you are comfortable with whatever you ultimately agree to.
Find out whether or not you'll be working for Christmas
As a general rule, work transport time is not usually paid (both UK and overseas). If you wish to ask for this (perhaps due to exceptional circumstances), tread carefully, and be aware of the fact that some families may feel they are being taken advantage of if you ask for this - after all, most normal jobs do not include paid travel time.
However, it is important to establish who pays for your work travel. Travel during work hours is usually provided, and many international childcare or nanny roles may provide a driver or transport if you are working in a country where you are unfamiliar with the native language. In this circumstance, you will need to define whether travel is paid or supplemented, and who organises it.
If you are working in a 'rota' position, be clear about who pays for and books your flights and transfers home. And if it is the family, be aware that there may be a limit on spending; it’s probably a good idea to establish what this is so you don’t end up overspending in their eyes and causing conflict.
6. Food at work.
Food at work is generally included during work hours. Ensure this included in your contract. Some families may have strange arrangements such as billing you for food they provide you with at work - this is almost certainly a red flag.
7. Accommodation or accommodation allowance.
This generally applies to overseas governess or nanny roles. If your role is live-out you should be sure about what your accommodation will be and who organises it. Will it be you or a family representative calling realtors, viewing flats and making payments? Flats may require deposits putting down or include agency fees. Who pays this? And remember that countries like Russia require registration for foreign contractors. Will this be organised or paid for by your work family? Be wary of this point to avoid disagreements later down the line.
8. Sick days.
Make sure you know how many sick days you are entitled to, how much notice (if any) you are expected to give, and how long you can be ill for before your employers have the right to end your contract. Most international contracts work around 10 days’ paid sick leave. For jobs the UK you can find more about the government’s recommendations for sick leave.
9. Visas and conditions.
Again, if you are working in an overseas position there may well be a visa required for your role. It is usual for the family to provide and organise this as well as any related costs (flights, transport, blood tests, photos etc.). Ensure this requirement is included in your agreement.
Visa costs should usually be covered by your employer
10. Health insurance.
This may or may not be included according to your employer’s preferences. If it isn’t, you may wish to organise it yourself - we strongly advise against working overseas without sufficient health insurance.
11. Notice period.
Be careful with this one, too. Your contract should state how long your initial trial period or ‘probation’ period lasts, and under what terms you can leave the position or the family can dismiss you during this time. How many days notice should each party give? Confirm that you would still be paid for any extra time you work off (except in the case of serious breach of contract, when no payment is likely to be made). When you are working under ‘full employment’ for the family, find out how much notice each party should give to terminate the contract, and ensure this termination period is also paid.
12. Your pay.
So, last but not least - ensure that any details to do with your salary are clear. How much are you paid? When is it paid? In which currency? By cash or by bank transfer? It is essential that you define all these terms to avoid misunderstandings later on.
Your pay during any trial period should also be clear (if it differs from hour standard pay). Equally, you may wish to include a clause that states you are still paid on retainer if your work family chooses to travel without you.
If you are preparing to work a rota position, be clear about whether weeks ‘off’ are paid or not and how your monthly salary is calculated. Bear in mind that extra holiday time for a rota position will not usually be granted beyond the 50% working time already off.
You should also make an effort to understand if your salary includes tax. If you are working in the UK, you may wish to use a service such as Nannytax to make sure you are paying tax correctly. If you are working overseas, your family may take care of this. Speak to a family representative and make sure the terms are clear in your contract.
So, there you have our 12 things to remember when signing your contract. Be careful. Don’t agree to anything you feel uncomfortable with - it may end up coming back to haunt you. Remember that if you are working overseas your contract may not be ‘court of law proof’. Nonetheless, ensure that your contract is clear and gives you a leg to stand on if your work circumstances change. Any employer family will usually start with smiles and handshakes in the interview but it’s better to be firm and understand your work position fully for your own security at the end of the day.
Disclaimer: Jobs in Childcare is not a lawyer, nor a law specialist. If you have any queries about your contract you should discuss them with a professional legal representative.