If you are a nanny or employ a nanny in Seattle, you need to read this:

Last summer the Seattle Office of Labor and Standards passed the Domestic Worker’s Ordinance. This ordinance went into effect July 1, 2019 and it requires meal and rest breaks for nannies.

new nanny law

Meal breaks must be 30 minutes of uninterrupted time where the nanny is completely relieved of their duties. This is effective for nannies who work more than five hours in a day. A nanny can choose to waive their meal period.

A meal period must be paid if the nanny remains on site during that time, and is both on call and ready to return to work. According to the Office of Labor Standards, “Hiring entities must provide an additional 30 minutes of pay to compensate for a missed meal period (even if already paid) when a domestic worker is required to engage in constant mental or physical exertion (e.g., caring for multiple children, caring for a vulnerable adult, or when called back to work from an attempted meal period).”

This law also requires rest breaks of 10 minutes of uninterrupted time for nannies for every four hour block of time at work. These breaks must occur no later than the end of the each third working hour (of the four hour block) and cannot be waived.

rest break

The law states that “domestic workers must be allowed to rest, eat a snack or drink a beverage, make personal telephone calls, attend to personal business, or make other personal choices as to how they spend their time during their break. However, if the domestic worker is called back to work activities during a rest break, then it transforms the on-call time to work time and the domestic worker must be provided with an additional 10 minutes of pay to compensate for the missed rest break.”

I would recommend discussing these new laws with your nanny to make sure you are being compliant. Ask your nanny if he or she is able to take these breaks, and if not, please let them know your strategy for tracking breaks or tracking compensatory pay for any breaks or meal periods missed.

Weighing in on how this new law change will affect families and parents is career nanny Cara Prediletto:

Cara has been a nanny for over 20 years and is passionate about workplace issues that affect nannies. Thank you Cara for taking the time to share your thoughts on this new set of laws that will directly impact nannies and the families they work with!

The new domestic worker laws go into effect July 1st and many families and nannies are wondering how to handle the newly required meal and rest breaks.  As a career nanny myself, I am both thrilled with this requirement and concerned with how to handle it in practice.  And of course, I have opinions,  and I hope others agree and disagree and voice their opinions as well.

My understanding is the new law requires one paid 10 minute break for every four hours worked,  and a paid or unpaid 30 minute meal break, for every five hours worked.  Breaks should occur as close to the middle of the time period as possible.  

But wait! What!?  Nannies are never really off duty and we have no coworkers,  so breaks are impossible…obviously employers are going to have to pay out extra for the breaks they can’t give. Right?!  Or hire a floater, or work from home.  Right?!

On the other hand, do the kids nap? Have quiet time, play independently?  Have classes? Watch TV?  As a nanny, I sometimes envy the simplicity of scheduled breaks those in other fields enjoy, but I also value the autonomy and flexibility of this career. 

With guaranteed hours, I’m paid while the kids are sleeping (even if I leave which I can because there’s a work from home parent), in classes, on play dates and of course whenever the family doesn’t need me. 

I’ve never felt the need for regular breaks because my employers have always allowed me to take care of myself throughout the day,  and generally I get a lot more paid downtime than people in other fields.  If my employers decided to follow this law to the letter, it would hurt me, not help me.

rest break

So my advice to parents and nannies is to recognize the spirit of this law is to grant protection to people who need it.  The way breaks will be taken as a nanny will look different from breaks in other fields, but the key is that the nanny has the legal right to recharge, make a call, check a message, play on social media, eat a snack etc. at various points throughout the day.  Personally, each stage and phase has opened up ways for me to squeeze in enough “me time” to compensate for not having traditional breaks,  and I value having that right solidified over a monetary payout.

So, first I’ll address how to comply on paper, if everyone is already happy with the contract and flow of the day. I’m hoping most people on this page fall into that category.  

Technically, the meal break is easy to handle, because it can be waived.  Many, in other lines of work don’t have the option of waiving the lunch break, and have to take an unpaid midday break.  My advice is to waive the lunch break, with the understanding that the nanny has the equivalent time for self care, including cell phone use, as desired through they day.  

The 10 minute breaks are different, since they are required to be paid and can’t be waived.  The simplest thing for employers to do is pay an extra 20 minutes for a typical full time shift.  However, I think it benefits both sides and the children to focus instead on making sure the nanny has strategies for getting that time as it is supposed to be taken. 

It won’t be the same as running to the break room, but hopefully experienced nannies already have strategies for getting downtime throughout the shift, and employers can support that.  

rest break

For most nannies happy in their contracts, waiving lunch and recognizing those downtime moments should be a pretty simple way to move forward in compliance with the law….no need to hire a second nanny, or rush home for lunch…or add pay (although always appreciated). However, if you are an employer who suspects your nanny can’t get any downtime because of the job (like multiple little ones on different nap schedules in the same family), please offer to pay extra for the breaks not taken (including lunch). 

Most importantly, if you are a nanny asked to leave your cell phone and life at the door and put the kids and employers first every second of the workday,  this law gives you the right to combat that, so please speak up!  If you are an employer who doesn’t want your nanny having downtime on your dime, please, at least comply with the law and recognize what you do for your nanny, you ultimately do for your kids.  

I’m really curious how others are handling the change and I’m hoping to hear some different points of view in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!

Cara Prediletto has been a nanny since before she knew she was a nanny. A Washington native and long time Seattle resident, she loves engaging in lively discussions with other locals on nanny issues in our region. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, helping with small animal rescue,  spending alarming amounts of money on vegan hamburgers, watching too much Dateline and generally over thinking things…at work, she mostly likes to be at the beach.

rest break

Note from Laura: If you are in need of a nanny or nanny share contract that includes this new law, please check out our nanny contract or nanny share contract early next week – this new law is being added to our contracts as we speak!


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