Working as a Nanny

What does a nanny do?


A nanny is a professional children’s caregiver, who works in the home of the child or children she is caring for. A nanny takes care of a child’s physical needs and also helps with the child’s social and mental wellbeing. A nanny therefore usually takes care of hygiene, health and medicine, clothing, and sometimes nutrition. A nanny may spend time with the children playing, organises both indoor and outdoor activities and reads with her charges. ‘Learn through play’ is common to promote speech and learning. For children of school age, a nanny may also help with homework and the ‘school run’. A nanny should aim to provide a constructive learning environment which ensures that the child’s best interests are at heart. Many nannies include playing sports and arts and crafts, music or even other languages in their childcare repertoire.


Depending on the role in question, a nanny may work on a full-time or part-time basis. And in fact, there are different kinds of nanny - some specialised to different stages of child development or focusing on introducing a particular language to a child. Other nannies provide a service based on a particular schedule.

What different types of nanny are there?


A maternity nanny specialises in the care of newborn babies for the first weeks or sometimes months of the baby's life. For first time mums, a maternity nanny is able to give help, support and advice to new parents. For parents who already have older kids, a maternity nanny can take on duties related to caring for the new baby. A maternity nanny should be experienced and qualified, sometimes as a paediatric nurse. Maternity nannies usually work on a live-in schedule, working 5 or 6 days per week on 24-hour call. For this reason the salary of a maternity nanny is typically quite high. 


An SEN nanny or Special Educational Needs nanny is experienced in working with children who have learning difficulties or special needs. The SEN nanny will have a general understanding of learning disabilities including behavioural and social issues, issues with reading and writing and physical needs or impairments. He or she will have come across conditions such as ADD, autism or dyspraxia in children and will be confident in helping them deal with changes in their environment, interaction with other children and providing activities suitable to their individual developmental needs. The SEN nanny should be a friend to the child and help the family as a whole understand how to support the child and help to be responsible for the child’s physical, social, emotional and educational needs.

A foreign language nanny often lives overseas (outside their home country) and works with the goal of raising their charge or charges as bilingual in the nanny’s own native language. Foreign language nannies commonly introduce English, French, Spanish, Italian or Chinese languages to children (although this list is by no means exhaustive) as well as taking care of usual nanny duties. Foreign language nannies offer the child a chance at immersion in the chosen language, and introduce said language through games, activities, reading, conversation and sometimes sit-down lessons. The nanny also tends to travel with the employing family when required.


Through time spent with a foreign language nanny, a child can grow fluent in two or more languages. Later in life, with language skills and a clean accent, the child will be well positioned to study overseas or work in an international role. The child will also typically develop an interest in other cultures. Hiring a foreign language nanny is a decision that opens many doors for a child and helps academic progress later in life. It is a popular decision for families that have the financial means to pay the salary, travel costs and accommodation of the nanny, which are all usually covered by the employer.


A ‘mother’s help’ nanny usually lives out and is less experienced than a full-time nanny. As a general rule mother’s help does not take sole charge of children, but may help out with nursery duties, clothing, free time activities and sometimes shopping and washing. A mother’s help nanny may work for one family or be shared between several families. Mother’s help may live in the family home or live elsewhere.

What working schedule is normal for a nanny?


Nanny schedules come in all shapes and sizes.


Live-in nanny jobs are those where the nanny lives on the employer’s property. Generally a separate room in the house with a bathroom is provided for the nanny, or an annexed apartment in the grounds. For very young charges, the employer may request that the nanny shares a room with the child or children. The ‘live-in’ arrangement is usually constant but occasionally only applies to working days. Live-in nanny jobs tend to comprise 5 or 6 working days per week. The working hours each day vary according to the role, but 40-50 hours per week of ‘contact time’ is normal.


Live-out nanny jobs are also generally based on a 5 or 6 working day schedule. However, in a live-out position, the nanny arrives at the beginning of the working day and leaves again when her shift finishes. The nanny may be required to organise and pay for her own accommodation, or may live in accommodation provided and paid for by the employer (but separate to the family home). Again, the working hours each day vary according to the role with 40-50 hours per week being an average scenario.


Rota nanny jobs are generally linked to overseas contracts. A rota nanny will typically work on a schedule such as 1 week on/ 1 week off, 2 weeks on/ 2 weeks off or even 1 month on/ 1 month off. It is normal practice for a rota nanny to work every day for days or weeks ‘on’, perhaps being available 24 hours per day. For days ‘off’ the nanny can return home or fly back to her home country if she lives abroad. Accommodation and arrangements for flights and visas for rota nannies are usually provided by the employer. Rota nannies are usually expected to ‘live-in’ for the working period.


Summer jobs/ travel nanny jobs  - Nannies may also consider short term, summer or travel positions. As with any other temporary nanny position, the schedule is likely to vary according to the employer’s requirements. A summer nanny will generally take care of children during school holidays, whereas a travel nanny may only accompany a family on holidays. Again, flights, visas and other work-related expenses tend to be covered by the employer.


Shared nanny - A shared nanny is a nanny who is shared between one or more employers. The nanny may travel between employers’ houses during the working day, work alternate days with different families, or otherwise according to agreement with her employers.

What accommodation, salary and working conditions can a nanny expect?


The nanny’s accommodation varies according to her contract and agreement with the employer. It may be on or off the employer’s property, but as a general rule should always be well furnished and have internet access.


The nanny’s salary varies based on the number of children she is expected to care for, the work location, schedule and other factors such as the knowledge of additional languages, music or sporting education. Overseas positions and maternity nurse positions also tend to be paid a higher salary than other nanny jobs.


Full-time nanny contracts generally include paid holidays (typically 2-4 weeks), sick leave (typically 5-10 days) and expenses related to travel and visas paid. The employing family will also usually take care of any work-related transport. Again, the details of these conditions vary from contract to contract.