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The Value of Employment Agreements

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You’ve just hired your nanny or other household employee. You’re thrilled, she’s thrilled, and you’re in the employer-employee version of a honeymoon. You can’t imagine that anything will ever go wrong.

While in most cases, fortunately, that’s true, in other cases things can get contentious if your understanding of the details of your arrangement is somehow different than your employee’s understanding of them. This is where ugly disputes can begin, some of which may ultimately cause the end of the employment relationship. Shared expectations are critical and, as with most things in life, the devil is in the details.

Even though this employer-employee relationship will and should be more familiar than most, you should not be too casual about your relationship. Remember that on a basic level it needs to be professional: right from the beginning, make sure that you’re clear about your expectations. This includes performance, days off, and more. The more specific you can be, the more smoothly things are likely to go. This is where employment agreements can be invaluable, so that there are no unpleasant surprises on either side.

What is an Employment Agreement?
Sometimes referred to as a contract or a work agreement, an employment agreement outlines a nanny’s terms of employment and specifies how the employer expects her to care for the children. Although not legally required, the agreement is enforceable and greatly reduces potential disputes.

Let’s say, for example, that you are offering your employee five vacation days per year. You were planning for her to accrue them throughout the course of the year, but didn’t articulate that to her; meanwhile, she wants to take all five paid vacation days during her second month on the job. Had you spelled it out completely in an employment agreement, a potential dispute could have been avoided.

An employment agreement should contain important provisions such as listing the nanny’s job duties, work hours and compensation, detailing, for example, any vacation, sick days and holidays you are planning to offer your nanny.

Many household employers also utilize an employment agreement to emphasize their privacy and confidentiality expectations of their nannies, important points when you have someone working so closely within your home. The document should include anything you and your nanny have agreed to so that there is no ambiguity down the road.

This document can be complicated and is not like a typical agreement used in corporate or non-household settings. Rather, it should be tailored specifically with domestic employment issues, laws, and requirements in mind.