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Should your childcare provider get paid days off?

If you deserve benefits, your sitter does, too

by MaryP  |  18708 views  |  18 comments  |        Rate this now! 

In one of life's little synchronicities, my sister provides also childcare.

Well, I "provide childcare." My sister "babysits" (her word). Though our job descriptions don't vary much, there is a world of difference. Witness the following conversation.

Sis: "I just found out on Friday that little Simon won't be coming next week. He's going to his grandmother's."

Me: "Well, that's nice. It'll lighten your load."

Sis: "Yeah, but I really needed the money."

There is a pause. I am appalled. She allows pay-as-you-go! If the child isn't in attendance, for any reason, the parent does not pay. Good heavens.

Not too long ago, I saw an article in our local paper written by a mother who was encouraging other mothers to pay for missed days and holidays, just as she did. She even paid for the occasional sick day for her caregiver. While I agreed with her position, I regretted that she saw her behaviour as exceptional. This should be standard.

I know there are sub-standard childcare providers. I know there are women who plonk the kids down in front of a television and only call them away in order to feed them Kraft macaroni and cheese or hot dogs. I know that. I am not arguing that these women deserve any better treatment.

If, however, you have a caregiver you love, if you're aways telling her "I don't know how you do it!" and telling your co-workers, "Candy is so wonderful; we couldn't get by without her, then Candy deserves her benefits. Just like you. (If you don't get benefits, the whole equation may need to be re-balanced, but in this article I am considering only those full-time worker bees with paid holiday time.)

In a professionally-run home daycare, the only reason a parent does not pay for a day is if the caregiver takes more than her allotted vacation days. Parents also pay if their holidays don't coincide with the caregiver's. If your child is in a daycare center, you pay when you take holidays. Why should home care be different?

Because I've been doing this for about a gazillion years, I also get a set number of sick/discretionary days per year. ("Discretionary?" Well, you know how difficult it is to get errands done with one or two children in tow. I do it routinely with half-a-dozen ... but do you really want your child there when I get my annual pap smear?)

My sister and I will likely never see eye-to-eye on this. But I doubt it's a coincidence that for her "The kids are pretty near the only good part of this job." Who's going to burn out sooner?

If you want your caregiver to be around to see your kids to school (and maybe beyond), it's wise to do what you can to see that she receives some job satisfaction from you, too.

About the Author

Mother of three (teens), step-mother of five (teens), home daycare operator of five (todders), and STILL SANE!! NOTHING is impossible...

Read more by MaryP

18 comments so far...

  • Totally! My DCP writes into her contract a certain number of paid holidays and vacation days for each calendar year. The parents also get two weeks per year "off" where we can not send our children and not pay. When my husband questioned this, I explained to him that she is a professional. He and I get paid vacation and holidays, why shouldn't she?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mom2Rylie on 1st August 2008

  • Michele - Thanks for your input, and obviously I agree whole-heartedly! Your last question is a good one: If you don't like paying her these things, is it a sign you have the wrong person?

    Your question is the flip side of the one I asked in the article: If you are positive you have the right person, why would you deny her the normal perks of a job? And not just any job. This person is helping to raise your children, arguably one of the most important jobs out there.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 31st July 2008

  • With nannies, we always provided paid time off - two weeks. We also paid our nannies for the days that we canceled or went on vacation. And we paid a holiday bonus. Our thought was, this is their job like any other job and they deserve the time off. Besides, they stayed at home with our children all day, I don't know how they did it!

    But seriously, why pay a nanny differently than you would have to day care center. Even while you are inconvenienced with their vacation days or sick time, the benefits of one on one attention and more flexibility with work hours for us has been great. No schlepping the kids to and from daycare. Love that. Ability to participate in activities and neighbors. Loved that too. I think we were also blessed with the fact that our nannies had a nanny network. If they did take vacation, there was always someone to help out then. We always knew who they were because of play dates and the occasional time they were there when we got home.

    I'd ask the question, "If you don't feel you should pay for vacations and time off, are you really all that happy with the care you receive?" Then, the question isn't the money so much as do you even have the right person?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Michele on 30th July 2008

  • Deneen - I can't think of the number of times I've worked when I've been feeling under the weather. I figure that most of the bugs I get, I've caught from the kids, anyway! Most caregivers I've known do that. There are all sorts of ways you give and take, and yes, accommodations should be made both ways. Having said that, however, if a caregiver wakes at 5 in the morning and has to race to the toilet to puke? She should be able to get that day off with pay -- even without notice to the parents.

    Beth - When is it too much? It depends on the circumstances. If the provider has ten more years work experience than a parent, then she's earned more benefits. If she works in a blue-collar neighbourhood where no one gets more than a week's holiday, she can't reasonably take four.

    The thing about being self-employed is that if you don't work, you don't get paid-- unless it's specifically contracted in. Further, if you annoy/inconvenience your clientele enough, you'll lose business, as your caregiver is losing you. It may be that losing you will cause her to reconsider her days off, or it may be that there are enough other people who don't find it an inconvenience that she will be able to keep her time off as is. That would be just the normal pressures of a free market!

    Yes, it would be a nice gesture for her to provide a list of possible back-up care. As you note, childcare is the parent's responsibility, but it's a nice, professional touch. When I had caregiver friends, I used to do that for my parents, even though few of my parents ever used them, preferring to take holidays at the same time as me, or to make their own arrangements. In recent years my caregiver friends have burned out/changed careers, so I don't have any referrals to give. At the moment, I have no caregiver friends. (Teachers, doctors, a police officer, a vet, a couple of designers ... but no caregivers!)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 30th July 2008

  • I think the provider should give a little to get a little. If I had to take a day off without notice I would not charge my families. I was paid 1/2 pay for the week of vacation that I took and I would charge them 1/2 pay for their week. This was over 5 years ago - if I were to have my own daycare again I would have in my contract that I would be paid full tuition - they are paid for theirs. (in most cases) I would not abuse the sick days - as a provider you have an enormous responsiblity to many people and you have to do what you can to provide the best service possible.

    Reported Posted by Deneen on 30th July 2008

  • I agree that childcare providers should receive paid days off, but when is too much, too much? My current daycare provider (in-home) receives 2 weeks paid vacation, 12 sick/personal days, plus she takes off 1 week at christmas unpaid. I on the other hand get a total of 15 days vacation/sick/personal days. I think what kills me the most is that she takes the 2 weeks straight. I am currently switching to a center due to these conditions. I think the 2 weeks vacation is a good amount and would not mind but to be taken all at once? I do think the 12 sick/personal days is alot. The other issue is if you take this much time, wouldn't you give you parents names of other providers you may know who might be willing to take on one or two kids during you vacation at a discount (maybe one of their regular kids is on vacation). So if you plan on having vacation, get together with your care giver friends and see so it is not such a hardship for the parents. I know alot of people would say it is the responsibilty of the parent, but if youwork in a business you still need to get the work done even when on vacation and if you can't you would have other emloyees do it...

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Beth Martin on 29th July 2008

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