We are all finding ourselves in situations of uncertainty and unfamiliarity since the evening of Monday 23rd March 2020, when Boris Johnson announced lock down measures brought about by COVID-19 Coronavirus that left the nanny industry in a state of shock. Once again, there has been a lack of recognition within the nanny industry overall and the necessary work that nannies do to support a family with their childcare needs went unmentioned in all of the government advice issued to workers. This left employers and nannies in turmoil and wondering whether work can continue – or does the mixing of households extend to domestic staff that work in households too? There has also been an element of confusion with the way the Government guidelines have been interpreted and understood. We have never watched as much news and read as much information on employment rights, legal guidance, HMRC guidance and government instructions in our entire careers!
As nanny agency owners, we have a duty of responsibility to provide sound advice, support, and the correct signposting for both nannies and clients on a completely impartial basis. Nanny agency owners are often not legally qualified advisors, nor are they payroll or employment experts. Good agency owners have a sound knowledge and understanding of employment practices however there are experts in these specialist fields who we work very closely with and who we signpost to for more specific advice where needed. We can state categorically that we should have had our legal support team on speed dial since the lockdown commenced – we have been in touch with our lawyers almost daily to seek updates and guidance on what can only be described as vague documentation from the authorities and Gov.uk website. It is no exaggeration to say that it took over a week of letters and phone calls to get clarity that domestic workers and household staff, including nannies, would be eligible for furlough. There were a lot of other organisations that had the same quandary and could not seek consistent proven answers from the likes of HMRC. This led to a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, and we are sad to say, redundancies in abundance – which in turn led to us signposting to ACAS. Thankfully, some nannies have been able to furlough which means they should be reinstated in their role when the lockdown situation eases this summer, although that isn’t guaranteed unfortunately.
At Notable Nannies Ltd, we pride ourselves in offering the best possible service, advice and support to both clients and our candidates who engage with our nanny agency. Our agency has signed up to paid membership with The Association of Nanny Agencies (ANA – www.anauk.org) and their code of conduct, to demonstrate our professional excellence and standards as a responsible agency adhering to government guidelines during this difficult time. ANA has been instrumental in seeking clarity from Members of Parliament, The Treasury, and HMRC as well as the Department for Work and Pensions in terms of seeking clarity over the furlough scheme and its eligibility criteria for nannies and domestic household staff. We are pleased to say that the furlough scheme is confirmed to be available to nannies so long as they were employed and on payroll on 28th February 2020, the employer is willing and in agreement, and the role is effectively redundant – so the nanny’s services are not required on a short term predetermined period due to economic circumstance being the official definition of furlough.
It would be all too easy to say ‘stay at home and you will continue to be paid’ however it is important for everyone to read the whole message and not pick out the bits you wish to hear, which is something we have been experiencing during this unexpected time of pandemic. Often words are being interpreted in a literal sense and this too has led to upset and confusion. There are a number of circumstances whereby a nanny may not be entitled to be paid, there are other circumstances where Statutory Sick Pay could be appropriate at a rate of £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks, and in other circumstances the official advice has been to make a claim for Universal Credit and wait patiently amongst the one million applications that were submitted to the authorities shortly after Boris Johnson’s announcement.
The Government are saying ‘stay safe, protect the NHS and save lives’, the Government are also saying there are only five reasons you are able to leave your home as follows:-
- To shop for necessities, food and medication, and as infrequently as possible
- As a form of exercise, once per day and alone or with people who live in your household only
- Any medical need, to donate blood or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- To avoid any risk of harm such as domestic violence or abuse
- To travel to and from your place of work in circumstances where you cannot work from home and where you are not in one of the vulnerable ‘at risk’ categories
The government redacted some of their instructions on the government website www.gov.uk and are not saying you cannot go to work. This was a misconception we saw posted many times on social media and on websites as well as when handling the influx of telephone calls we received over the last few weeks.
Let’s think about the bigger picture here. This pandemic is not going to last forever, thankfully. If nobody went to work, what would happen? The country would be in more chaos than it already is, and the private childcare sector could be in absolute crisis.
Let’s remember the people who provide emergency and essential services such as NHS workers, the police, ambulance and fire services, the coast guards, shop workers enabling you to buy food & toiletries, chemists who provide medication & over the counter advice to free up our GPs, care workers to look after the elderly, disabled & the vulnerable.Then we must consider postal and delivery workers who are still delivering your post and parcels, delivering your online shopping, banks and financial institutes who are working hard to help so many people and businesses with their finances during this difficult time. Then there is HMRC & associated government departments who are building new systems within a short amount of time to support everyone with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough scheme), we could go on but we won’t – other than to say what about all these people doing these jobs who have children who need to be looked after? They need childcare in order to continue to provide the services that they do! We are thankful to those that have continued to work and put themselves at risk daily to serve the nation in their job roles, particularly to the NHS and health workers that are in direct contact with COVID-19 daily and have maximum exposure to this deadly virus.
Many people who are now forced to work from home, and the key workers that are at risk, require childcare so they can continue to operate. Nannies form a vital means of childcare and many nannies are working for and are employed by key workers. It is a vital role that some families simply cannot function without.
We each have a responsibility for our own wellbeing and doing everything we possibly can to practice social distancing wherever possible and follow the guidelines whilst remembering the five reasons we are able to go out. Hearsay is a difficult thing to ignore and every family who employs a nanny will have a different scenario or need, therefore just because one nanny is off work and being paid, does not mean another nanny will be able to do so. Each case requires individual consideration and no two cases we have come across so far have been identical scenarios. Both nannies and employers need to check their insurance policies are valid however.
The words we have been sharing with nannies and families have been repeated on numerous occasions and it is this:
- Please have a discussion between yourself (employee) and your family (employer) and find out if your attendance at work (your workplace is a household) is essential
- Discuss what each of you are doing to follow the guidance of social distancing
- Do either party have anyone who is in the vulnerable ‘high risk’ category?
- Are there any adjustments which can be made by the family to support the nanny during these times especially in relation to avoiding public transport
- Please do not just decide to not go to work
- Communication and agreement is vitally important
- Check your nanny insurance is valid
- Communicate with each other and consider all options
- Consider those nannies who have their own children at home or live with elderly or unwell persons who would be put at risk
- Consider if the furlough Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is applicable to your circumstances
- Please do not just decide to say “I’m not paying you if you don’t come to work”
- Try to be flexible and consider offering annual leave or offering compromised hours
- Try to look at ways your nanny can travel to work safely, avoiding public transport
- Check your Employers Liability insurance remains valid, as this is a legal requirement
- Please remember your responsibilities as the employer of your nanny under Health & Safety and consider if their coming to work is absolutely necessary
- If an employee is put at risk, and you do not take measures to safeguard your staff, you are at risk of being sued
A successful family and nanny arrangement must involve a fair two-way process between both, which includes clear consistent communication and mutual respect, especially during difficult times. Everyone is facing the same concerns, dealing with the same restrictions, not knowing how long these restrictions will be in place for, not being able to see their loved ones or do the things we are so used to doing naturally. We will get through this, however, we will get through this a lot more gracefully if we take a step back and think of the bigger picture and listen to the full government guidance of why you can leave your home and use your common sense.
The team at Notable Nannies Ltd are all working very hard to help everyone who needs help and support, whilst balancing our own home and family commitments at the same time. If you need advice or support, you are welcome to call Notable Nannies regardless of whether you are an existing client or candidate for advice, support, guidance and signposting to qualified advice wherever appropriate. Our telephone number is 0203 1500 670.
Best wishes from the team at Notable Nannies Limited. Please keep well and stay safe. We are here if you need us.