Although many families like to default to paying nannies a cash under-the-table salary, I am a strong advocate for all nannies being paid over-the-table. Here’s why.
1. It’s the law
The only way to legally employ a nanny in the United States is to hire them as an employee, over the table. Families that attempt to pay a nanny another way, either by saying they are an independent contractor or by paying them cash and telling them to declare the income on taxes themself, are breaking the law. They could face fines or be sued. It’s not worth it! Especially because…
2. It isn’t as hard as it sounds
Families I have worked for are often initially intimidated by the idea of paying over the table, but that is just because they don’t yet know about the super useful services that exist for paying nannies. HomePay and Poppins Payroll are two that my nanny-families have used. These services charge a small monthly fee, but all the family has to do is input my hours (which I submit via an app on my phone). The service calculates and withholds all taxes and submits all the necessary paperwork, including a yearly W2. Every family I have worked with has found the cost of the services worthwhile, and agrees that paying over-the-table is no big deal once they have tried it.
3. It protects your financial future
A lot of people begin nanny work when they are quite young and perhaps not as financially savvy as they could be. In the short term, having a legal job means you can file for unemployment when the job ends. In the long term, it makes a big difference. Having verifiable employment means you can, for example, apply for a loan to buy a house. You also need legal income to prove your financial stability for things like opening a new credit card, adopting a child, or applying for a loan for a new business. In the long term, your social security benefits are based on the amount of income you made during your highest-earning 35 years of work, so that means you will do best if you have at least that many years of documented, tax-paying income. All of these things are important for your long-term health and happiness in our society, and a good nanny-family will understand your desire for financial stability.
4. It helps create a foundation for respectful employment
Most families don’t think about a nanny’s long-term financial stability unless you point it out to them. Once you have done so, a family that is interested in forming a respectful employment relationship with you will quickly see why being paid over the table is necessary. Insisting on being paid over the table also shows the family that you are a professional who knows the law and expects to be treated fairly. That, along with setting up a contract, sets a good precedent for your future working relationship.
If the family still doesn’t seem to want to pay you over the table after hearing the above points, it’s a red flag. Perhaps they would be better off having a young nanny who has yet to start their serious career and can afford to throw away a few years of financial documentation (or thinks they can). Unfortunately, these families experience high turnover, and their children’s attachment relationships suffer for it.
Or…perhaps this family just doesn’t think you are worth it. I am sorry to say that classism and downright exploitation does exist in our profession, and you should be on the lookout for it. Many nannies are women of color, so racism and sexism can come into play as well. Even wealthy families will sometimes try to weasel out of paying their nanny legal overtime or benefits like vacation days that they themselves take for granted in their own lives. These are not the families you want to work for.
A family that wants to hire an experienced, trained, career nanny, should be willing to pay you over the table once you explain how simple it can be. I hope this helps motivate you to ask for what you deserve!
For more ideas on creating a sustainable nanny career, check out some of my courses like Career Skills for Nannies and RIE® Nurturing Nanny™, or you can set up a consult to talk over specific issues. I look forward to supporting you!