Here at Care.com, we occasionally hear about relationships going sour between families and caregivers. These issues can usually be prevented or resolved with some open and honest conversation.
Check out some of the most common caregiver relationship problems we hear about, and some advice (for both families and caregivers) for how to fix them, without making the situation awkward:
Employer: If your babysitter or nanny is late more than once, discuss the situation right away. Make sure the caregiver understands what the job's start time is and how important it is that the schedule is kept. This will usually resolve the problem. If she's still running late -- but you love everything else she's doing -- ask her to come 15 minutes earlier than you actually need her.
Caregiver: And employers should show you the same courtesy of being on time. Occasionally a meeting runs over or your boss hits traffic, but ask them to call you and let you know about the delay. If you find yourself regularly working extra, talk to your employer about permanently extending your hours -- if that suits your schedule. And you should be paid for any additional hours you're working, including overtime hours.
Employer: It would be nice to come home to a tidy house, but keep in mind that your caregiver is not your housekeeper. A nanny may be expected to put away toys or do a child's laundry, but cleaning your house is an unreasonable expectation. If she's leaving personal trash around or not putting dishes in the dishwasher, mention that you're trying to teach your kids responsibility and how important cleaning up after themselves is -- and it would be great if she set a good example.
Caregiver: If your employer leaves dirty laundry around the house, assuming you'll take care of it, it may be time for a talk. Take a look at your contract (if you don’t have one, create one now!). Does it mention housekeeping duties? If not, have an honest discussion with your employer, saying you don't mind helping out now and then, but your priority is caring for the kids, pet or aging adult -- and you don't want anything to interfere with that. Set ground rules for what's allowed so you're not taken advantage of.
Following The House Rules
Employer: If you discover your dog walker is giving your pup extra treats or your babysitter is letting your kids stay up past their bedtime, reiterate the house rules. You can even post a short list on the refrigerator of the important rules that the entire family and any employees need to follow. It's a great reminder.
Caregiver: Some employers aren't always consistent with their own house rules. If you feel like things change regularly, or you're not sure what's expected, ask. Work with your boss to put the house rules in writing as part of your contract, so everyone is on the same page.
Issues Involving Pay
Employer: You may not be used to your role as a household employer, but setting up practices for paying your caregiver is important. Make sure she knows when she will be paid and how. And pay on time, every time. Keep a written log of the hours she works, so there's no dispute. If you need your caregiver to come earlier than scheduled or stay later, adjust the pay accordingly. And if you pay her more than $1,900 per year, make sure you also file taxes.
Caregiver: If you're having trouble getting paid, talk to your employer. Explain very clearly that, while you love what you do, this is your job and you depend on the pay -- just like people do with any other job. Read about 4 Tricky Salary Situations to Discuss with the Family You Work For.
Employer: Ever had a caregiver not show -- or call last-minute to cancel? If you still want to keep the person on, have a discussion about what to do in this situation. If your caregiver can't make it, how should she tell you and how much advanced notice do you require? Be clear that if it happens again, you'll be looking for someone more dependable. And, just in case, make sure you have backup child care options you can call.
Caregiver: Do your employers regularly change your hours or cancel at the last second? Ask for a meeting to go over the problem and talk about how this impacts your life. You're a professional and should be treated as one. Review your contract and see if your hours or responsibilities need to be updated.
Debbie Dragon is a freelance writer. A single mother of two active boys, she has been writing from home full time for more than a decade. For more information, visit her website.