If you are involved in a nanny share or are considering joining or starting one, take the time to read the important information below. I am not an attorney and the information I provide below should be used at your own risk.
What is a Nanny Share?
A nanny share is defined as two or more families sharing the expense of employing one nanny to care for their children as a group. A nanny share can be a more cost effective option for utilizing a nanny. Care is provided at one family’s home or a combination of both.
There are many benefits to belonging to a nanny share, both for the parents and the children including:
- For parents, it means a lower hourly wage than shouldering the entire cost of a nanny alone
- For the children, a nanny share can be a great opportunity for socialization and having a playmate
Note: A nanny bringing his or her child to work with them is considered a perk of employment and not a nanny share. If you are bringing your child to the nanny’s house, that is considered to be in-home childcare that requires the care provider to obtain a license and is not a nanny share.
Over this past summer, I set out to learn more about nanny shares as many of our members are turning to this option due to the high cost of childcare in our region. What I learned was troubling.
It turns out that when a nanny cares for the children of two (or more) separate families at the same time, and this care occurs on a regular basis in one of the family homes, it is ILLEGAL if the care provider is not licensed.
The type of license required would be the same type required for a home care center. The problem with this is in a home care center situation, the provider owns the home (and associated business) where the children are cared for whereas in a nanny share, the nanny is not the owner of the home where the children are cared for.
Wait a second. What?
Basically, the laws of Washington state that for a nanny share to be legal, the provider caring for the children must hold a home care center license. Silly huh?
Here’s the kicker: Per the Department of Early Learning, if a nanny share situation were to be reported to them, they would be “required to come out and investigate because illegal childcare is occurring without a license”.
Hold the Phone
Before anyone gets too excited about this, I want to just say that nanny shares have been happening for years, likely involving tens of thousands of unsuspecting families at any given time. Hundreds of Nanny Parent Connection members are using nanny shares as we speak.
I have no personal knowledge of anyone getting in legal trouble as a result of doing so, nor am I aware of anyone who has obtained some sort of license for a nanny share.
How Did I Figure This Out?
I began by spending about seven hours researching this topic on the internet. I didn’t find anything that I felt was “concrete” so decided to go right to the source.
On the morning of Tuesday, September 6, 2017, I telephoned the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) and spoke with J**** . I explained that I had some questions about nanny shares in Washington state.
I specifically asked if a nanny share situation (one nanny hired by two or more unrelated families where the childcare occurred in one or both of the families’ homes) requires licensing. She was unable to definitively answer my question and referred me to her “supervisor’s supervisor” whose name is T****.
I asked T**** the same question. She stated that:
“One nanny caring for one family’s child(ren) in the family’s home is legal but one nanny caring for the children of two families in one of the family homes is not legal without the nanny being licensed because that would be like an in-home childcare situation, like a business since care is happening on a regular basis.”
She went on to explain that the reason for this is that standards and site checks are required to ensure health and safety of the practices of the location per state licensing requirements when children of multiple families receive care at one location.
She mentioned that when care providers are licensed they are required to undergo a background check through the DEL, which is much more comprehensive than the WATCH check done through the Washington State Patrol.
What to Do?
The prevailing thought on nanny shares is that they are perfectly legal arrangements so long as both families pay the nanny as a separate employer and handle taxes individually, and the care is NOT happening in the nanny’s home.
Even nanny agencies have this understanding. Even Care.com seems to have missed this. They have a story up on their website titled, “Is a Nanny Share Right for You?” that makes no mention of checking local laws. One of their readers did issue a warning though:
Based on my conversations with DEL, what we typically think of as a nanny share is ILLEGAL in Washington.
I ran my conversations with DEL by a small group of parents and nannies that I get together with regularly (two of which are in a nanny share right now). As you can imagine, everyone was shocked and didn’t have any ideas on how to address this.
Nor do I have any surefire solutions. But I am continuing my investigation to learn more and already have some ideas cooking on how to work with some of our state senators and representatives to try to fix this.
While I am not here to offer legal advice, if I were currently involved in a nanny share, I would continue with the nanny share while keeping a close eye on the news for any enforcement action from the state.
UPDATE: I did find a potential workaround for this issue through an “exception”. It looks difficult to accomplish and I can’t find any language on an appeal if the exception is rejected. I highly doubt nanny share families are using this approach. See below:
After I had some time to digest my conversations with DEL and begin the process of writing this post, I found myself FURIOUS.
As the cost of living in our area skyrockets…
- Parents must have access to affordable childcare that is legal
- Nannies that are involved in nanny shares should not have to worry if they are breaking the law
A nanny share has been the most viable answer for many, many families and providers. Our elected officials need to fix this “loophole”.
As I mentioned above, I am going to continue investigating and build a plan of attack on how we can solve this. Check back for updates!
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