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My home is someone's workplace
if you hire someone in your home to clean, cook, assist, or care for members of the household, you are a domestic employer.

Have you planned for the holidays yet?

 

How much has the nanny, cleaner, or home attendant you employe done to make your year a better one in 2017? In a turbulent year, has their work provided relief, support, stability, or ease? Now is the time to return the favor.

Learn how to bring more light into your home as an employer during the holiday season, including year-end bonuses and planning for time off.

For many of us at Hand in Hand, the labor of a professional domestic worker has allowed us do to more of the work we want and need to do.  It allowed us to care for children and parents, show up at the office, and live independently at home. And yes, it even made it possible for us to protest! (Sometimes, we even did that together.)

Reflecting our own stress and anxiety this year, we can appreciate how much domestic workers have faced themselves, as a workforce that is mostly immigrants and women of color. (One star nanny, Namrata, who was honored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance this month, showed up to care for her employer’s children all year while also dealing with the risk of her protected immigration status being revoked.)

As we know from our own jobs and lives, it means a lot to hear that our hard work is appreciated. It strengthens our relationships and gives us more energy for the year ahead.

As one worker said:  “A bonus and paid time off show how much my employer values my work. It gives me a sense of dedication to the family I work for. When they come back from their holiday vacation, I’m here waiting.”

Here are 3 things to keep in mind, based on the Fair Care Pledge, our three golden rules of being an employer at home: Fair pay, Clear expectations, and Paid Time Off.

 

The Bonus

An average year-end bonus is usually between one and two weeks pay, although if it feels right to your family, you can of course choose to give more. Think of the bonus as an expression of how much you value your employee, within the boundaries of what you can realistically afford.

You may wish to let the nanny, housecleaner, or home attendant you employ know to expect a bonus (different from a holiday gift, though those are great too!) so she can take it into consideration when making her own holiday plans.

 

The “Annual Review”

The holiday bonus provides you with a great opportunity to communicate what you valued about your employee’s work over the past year and update the work agreement you have with them. (Don’t forget, if you’ve increased their responsibilities over the past year than in her initial job description, then you should also increase their wages.)

 

Vacation  

Please keep in mind that a bonus is not a replacement for paid time off. Your employee is also looking forward to their own holiday traditions, so make sure to give generously here too wherever possible. (You can find our recommendations about paid time off here.)

 

This has been a challenging year for many, many people, and many domestic workers have had an especially difficult year. Economic security is more important than ever. Together, we can bring more light to the end of a year that has felt dark for many. Make sure the person you employ gets the chance to have a restorative holiday season, and then, have a great one yourself!   

SEE THE COMPLETE GUIDE AS A PDF:

Making this year a better one with—and for—the person you employ

Among the many things the Women’s Marches around the world have shown us, one is just how many of us are ready to show up for one another. How many of us know that our lives are intertwined.

And when our homes are someone’s workplace, that interdependence is especially true and immediate: On the one hand, we rely on domestic workers to help make our lives possible. On the other, domestic workers need economic stability to make their lives possible, and fair work to reflect their dignity.

Our homes are also where many of us are confronting the threats we’re facing firsthand, from our children’s fears, to our own worries about health care, to immigrant domestic workers who may be newly fearful for themselves or their families.

In this time of growing crisis for workers, women of color, and immigrants, how can we make sure that the nannies, housecleaners, or home attendants who support us are more supported—as well as more valued as workers in our homes?

Ensuring you are a good, fair employer is the place to start. Here’s how.

Post-Trump triage, if necessary

If there is an immediate crisis, handle that first, of course. (We offered some tips around starting a conversation about the election in the fall.) In the next few weeks, we will also be sharing the ways we as employers are planning to participate in the broader Sanctuary Movement.

But having a stable, positive employment relationship is one of the best things you can do right now–for your benefit and for the worker’s. The new year is the perfect opportunity to set a new goal or put a new practice into place to make that relationship a stronger and more mutually supportive one. (And no, you don’t have to start on January 1 to make it worth setting a new goal for 2017!)

Reflect on how things have been

So take a moment to reflect on how things have been going with the person you employ. What went really well last year, and what was confusing or difficult? Has something been lingering in the back of your mind? (I really should have a written agreement in place. I meant to check the living wage for my city. Does she know that she can take sick days?)

Answering these seven quick questions is an easy way to get a temperature-check of how you’re doing overall as a Fair Care employer!

Now take another moment to think about what’s coming up for you in 2017. Are there any big changes on the horizon? Do you anticipate needing more support than you did last year, or less? Does anyone in your household have a big schedule change coming up? New work hours, changing schools?

Pick a priority

With these reflections in mind, what do you need to do? Schedule a check-in with the person you employ, or block out an hour of time on your calendar to review some of our resources once and for all?

If you feel like you have a laundry list of “to dos” for your domestic workplace, start by just picking one. Schedule an hour to address it sometime in the coming weeks. And while you’re at it, make yourself a reminder or date for spring to revisit your next priorities. Commit to making one concrete improvement first.

Our best ideas for a better year

  • It’s never too late to get your work terms in writing! Even if you hired someone with a handshake, creating a written agreement is still a great thing to do. It provides both of you with clarity. And if you’d like to make any changes to how things work, deciding to create an agreement is an opportunity to have that conversation. We have sample agreements you can use.
  • Take care of any check-ins, bonuses, or raise calculations that you meant to do at the end of last year. The holidays are a crazy time, but a late raise is always better than no raise at all. You can see our holiday & bonus tips here.
  • Commit to using the winter as a time to clarify your paid time off agreement. Make sure the worker you employ knows that she won’t lose pay for taking care of herself or a family member when the inevitable winter virus catches her. (Or for handling immigration-related issues.)

Building a stronger relationship, rooted in mutual respect and support, is its own reward for sure. But tracking our successes feels pretty good too. Mark your starting place now by taking that quick 7-question questionnaire, or doing a deep dive with the Employer Checklist.

Here’s to a year full of care and support, and lives and homes that we’re proud of!

1,000 Amazing Women: What It Really Looks Like When We All Work Hand in Hand

You’ve probably heard phrases like “we’re all interconnected” tossed around, whether on an inspirational Facebook post or at a religious service. It can be an easy idea to agree with but a harder one to picture. What does that really mean? What does it look like in daily life?

When we, a group of 25 Hand in Hand members, including seniors, people with disabilities, working moms, and more, traveled to Washington DC last month for two monumental events, the National Domestic Workers Alliance Assembly, and the first ever We Won’t Wait Summit, we got to see what it really looks like when we see all our issues and lives as connected.

It looks like a stream of women in matching red t-shirts, chanting “We won’t wait!” and “Si se puede! Si se puede!”

It looks like talking about reproductive rights, child care and elder care, voting rights, criminal justice, and immigration all in one conversation.

It looks like a very unusual little sign at the side of the conference center ballroom, just a plain piece of paper with an arrow pointing the way to “Childcare.”


Themed Dignity, Unity and Power, the Assembly had the participation of rich and diverse groups of domestic workers — nannies, house cleaners, home attendants — representing LGBTQ  groups, immigrants and women of color. By joining them and bringing the employer perspective, we saw how we can play an important role in the domestic work and caregiving movements. We participated in several workshops and panels, including our own workshop on how workers can engage with their own employers in conversation about their work.

Being at the domestic workers’ Assembly reminds us of our interdependence and renewed our energy to work for better labor standards for all workers and families. And just when we thought we couldn’t be more inspired, we were joined by another 500 women from around the country, from different organizations and movements to discuss what kind of comprehensive policy agenda would serve all of us.

We came with our staff and a nearly twenty-person phalanx of members! Some came from the Jewish social justice world, others from the disability rights movement in California. Our Fair Care Pledge partner, Care.com’s Sheila Marcos, was there too!

We heard women’s stories about how hard it is to juggle work and raising their own children, and we thought, yes, we know about that.

We heard stories about bad experiences with work. Stories of trying to make ends meet, working a full-time job while also raising kids and helping aging parents, and we thought, yes, we know about that.

Our own members, Nikki Brown-Booker and Monique Harris, gave incredibly powerful testimonies about their experiences at the intersections of race, gender violence, disability, and workers’ rights. As Nikki said, “When the domestic worker I employ has dignity, I have more dignity. It shows there is dignity in the work of supporting me.”

We left Washington DC believing more firmly than ever that what we all need is a women-and-families agenda that puts our lives and our ability to thrive at the center of America’s plans for the future.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. And we won’t wait for change to come. Here are 3 things you can do now to show that you don’t want to wait either!

Fair Care Means Thinking Ahead

The three components of the Fair Care Pledge may be a commitment to Fair Pay, Clear Expectations, and Paid Time Off, but thinking ahead is the most important tool in your employer toolkit.

Of course, the moments when we need care the most are often the ones when we feel least prepared, or have the fewest resources to dedicate to the work of finding, hiring, and managing a relationship with a new employee in our homes. Thinking ahead is a luxury not available to us.

That’s why the more you can plan in advance, the better. More preparation equals less anxiety for you, and more job stability for your employee.

Below are some tips to help you plan ahead at different stages of the employment life cycle. Don’t worry if you see something you wish you’d done in the past. You can always adjust the employment relationship—especially if it makes it better for both of you. Being a Fair Care employer is all about flexibility, honesty, and willingness to make the changes needed.

And if you’re still in the early stages of looking for a childcare provider, housecleaner, or home attendant, good news!  You have the opportunity of putting this into place right from the very beginning.

1. Expect the Expected, Young…

Are you expecting a new addition to your family? While you probably won’t be able hire your dream childcare provider before your baby is born, you can start thinking about who that person might be and what you might put into a work agreement or contract. Getting clear before you’re knee-deep in parenthood will make hiring and being a fair employer much easier down the line. Check out our guide to developing a work agreement for more.

…And Older

The same goes at the other end of the lifecycle. Consider having a conversation with aging parents and other family members now about care solutions they may want later—as awkward as it may be—rather than waiting until you’re rushed and in crisis mode. Clarity about personal choices, financial resources, and the ideal care plan are essential components when it comes to bringing on homecare worker(s) in a way that feels good to you and creates a strong, respectful relationship with them.

2. Do the Math

Check out our fair pay and paid time off guidelines and weigh what’s doable for you before you hire. Is it time to put money aside for the care and support you may need down the line? Do you need to consider an alternative solution to private care, such as nanny shares or day care?

3. Plan Your Time Off in Advance 

Remember, the person providing care and support to you or your family has a family or community of her own too. Think ahead about your own time off and vacation preferences as early as possible, and ask your employee for hers, so you can both agree to a schedule that works for everybody, before it becomes an issue. Read our paid time off and holiday guidelines for more.

4. See the Change Coming

Over the years, our lives and families are likely to shift and change—together with our need for care and support. Being a Fair Care employer means shifting accordingly. While we can’t always know what’s coming, we can ask: what changes might be in our future? How might these changes impact the worker we employ? Asking these questions early and often will reduce the pressures of last-minute decision making, and help build trust with your employee.

For example: Don’t wait until the last minute to start talking to your care provider (if you have the choice) about what lies ahead. If you know your parents will need more hours at some point, ask the careworker now if she could do more. If you want a house cleaner to come more often, make sure it’s doable before you plan on it! If you’re expecting a second child, talk to your childcare provider as early as possible about if/how her role may be changing and how your pay rate will shift with another child in the mix. Maintaining clear expectations when things are in flux makes a huge difference.

5. Remember, All Good Things Have Endings

When we hire a care worker, we know the employment relationship will come to an end. But for the most part we won’t think about it until we absolutely have to. For your employee, not knowing when their job might end and how much notice (Hand in Hand recommends two weeks or equivalent pay) and severance (we recommend one week’s pay for every year worked) they’ll receive adds financial and emotional uncertainty and stress.

Plan for the end of the relationship at the very beginning (or as close to it)! Not only will this put the care provider at ease, it will also help you prepare you to provide a fair severance package.

 


This post also appears in the Care.com community. Care.com is an official partner of the Fair Care Pledge, and you can be too!