Are you planning to return to work after the birth of your baby? Do you have no choice? Or, are you unsure and planning to wait and see how you feel?
Regardless of your reasons for returning to work, it is never too early to consider your child care options (maybe the truly conscientious of you did this before you got pregnant). However, most of us can't really get our minds around this momentous life change in the first place and could use a little direction. So here we go…
As we promised last week, we turned to our friend Lisa Pierson Weinberger of Mom, Esq. to ask her about what moms can do prior to their baby's arrival to get on top of the legal aspects related to child care when they return to work. Pierson Weinberger counsels women to first become familiar with the three basic child care options available, which basically are:
· A Day Care Center
· Relying on friends, family or partner, or a combination thereof
· Hiring a Domestic Employee or Nanny
Each option has "pros and cons, relates to one's personal circumstances and one's particular needs and preferences" says Pierson Weinberger and all need to be taken together for the best fit for your family. For example, if both partners have to work and have no family or friends living locally who are available to care for their child—this option is off the table.
This leaves many working couples with the two other options—day care or hiring a nanny. Again, each option has its plusses and minuses. For example, while the advantages of a quality day care center can be that it's less expensive and offers your child more opportunities for social engagement, they can also offer less individual attention to your child. The best day care centers can have long waits of up to a year or more. So, if this is the option that best fits your pocketbook and your preferences, it is important to pick one that is either close to home or work, make sure they have proper licensure—AND GET YOUR NAME ON THE LIST.
The final choice is that of hiring a domestic employee. It is also happens to be the alternative that comes with greatest legal obligations, cost and individualized and personal care for your child.
Whether you choose to do this on a temporary basis such as when hiring a night nurse for those the first weeks post-birth or more long-term, like until your child can drive, you have become an employer. Many people when they first hire a domestic employee are not fully aware of their legal obligations says Pierson Weinberger, and employers, all of them, have a number of them. It's important to be informed.
First, you must register with California's Employment Development Department (EDD) and also with the IRS. As an employer, you are responsible for paying employer taxes and withholding required taxes from paychecks. But, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. Before you begin to pay anyone for caring for your child, Pierson Weinberger advises that you first conduct a background check. However, you must get the potential new hire's authorization before proceeding.
Assuming that they pass this initial hoop, Pierson Weinberger says it's wise to have a written employment agreement. Moreover, it's best to have this document created by a professional because a lot of people don't know all that needs to be included.
Next, one should obtain Workers' Compensation insurance, which can usually be accomplished by obtaining a rider on your homeowner's policy. The biggest risk to your household, says Pierson Weinberger, is if your nanny drives with your child in the course of her work, because if you don't have insurance, you are personally liable.
Speaking of driving, if your nanny drives her own car, after asking for a copy of her insurance and making sure she has appropriate limits, you must pay her for mileage. If she drives your car, you must add her as an additional insured.
Employers must also be informed about wage and hour obligations. At first, this might seem fairly straightforward, but it can easily get complicated. How much do you have to pay your nanny when… she travels with you or stays overnight, or for overtime?
A nanny is considered a non-exempt employee—even if you pay her a salary. Furthermore, the rules are different for live-in nannies. So, educate yourself about what's required for your particular circumstance.
Finally, Pierson Weinberger advises "that it's important to know how to properly end a domestic employee relationship, because that's when people get mad." It's also when if you haven't dotted all the "i"s and crossed all the "t"s we've discussed that it could come back to haunt you.
So, no matter what child care option you choose, you can proceed with the peace of mind that being informed can bring. And, if not, you know who to call.
Read up on another labor law, maternity leave.