If it’s time to wave goodbye to maternity leave and hello to a nanny, don’t stress. While hiring help around the house is a big step, we have all the tips you need to make the transition smooth for everyone involved.

Find a fit
There are many ways to kick off your nanny hunt: through word of mouth, a private agency, Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program, or websites such as Kijiji. Whether or not you hire an agency (which, for a fee, will find and screen candidates for you), you need to get to know the person who will be sharing your house and caring for your kids.

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“Hiring a nanny is like marriage without dating,” says Robyn Zeldin, owner of Wee Care Placement Agency in Toronto. It’s such an important relationship but you may have just a short time to decide if you’re a fit.

Start by scheduling an interview, asking your potential nanny to bring her CV and references. Inquire about childcare experience, carefully check references, and always use your gut instinct, Zeldin says. During the interview, watch how the nanny interacts with your kids. “Your children are the most important people in your life, so you want the best quality of care for them,” Zeldin says. In addition to the basics, like asking about their discipline approach and how the nanny handles emergencies, home in on the attributes you’re looking for — whether that’s cooking, cleaning, or a star with newborns. “No one is fantastic at everything,” Zeldin says. “But knowing what you’re looking for is key.”

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Be crystal clear
Carefully list the job requirements, so the nanny knows exactly what she’s getting into. First, explain that the relationship is one of give-and-take, mutual trust and open communication. Then paint a picture of a regular day in your house, explaining how discipline issues are handled and which duties come first. “Never sugar-coat your expectations,” Zeldin says. “If Johnny needs to be walked to a program that’s five kilometres away, that may be a deal-breaker.” But be clear that should problems arise, you are there to listen and find solutions as a team.

The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to draft the terms of your agreement — including housekeeping duties, childcare, pay and vacation expectations — in a contract. Also be sure to question the nanny about training in CPR and first aid. And if the job comes with extras such as a dog or a pool, now is the time to speak up. “If she is deathly afraid of dogs or she can’t swim to the bottom and back up, that’s vital information,” Zeldin says.

Agree on pay
Once you hire a nanny, you become an employer. That means you have to report your employee’s income, making all the proper deductions, to Revenue Canada every month. Salary depends on whether or not your nanny lives in your house. Live-out nannies earn more because they do not pay room and board.

The Live-In Caregiver Program, through Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, allows you to sponsor a nanny from another country to live in your home. Minimum wage, vacation leave, and room and board deductions are determined by province (Ontario is currently $10.25 per hour gross for a 48-hour week), so check the website to find the rates that apply in your area.

For live-out nannies, budget for $500–600 for a 45–50 hour week, or approximately $10.25 per hour net plus transportation, Zeldin says.

And don’t forget birthday gifts and holiday bonuses (somewhere between one and two weeks’ pay) that tell your nanny she is a valued member of your household, she adds.

Consider the end
No matter how wonderful your relationship with your nanny, it probably won’t last forever. So that neither of you are blindsided, discuss up front how long you expect the job to last, and the terms under which you will part ways. Depending on the reasons for termination and length of employment, you may have a legal obligation to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice.

Under the Live-In Caregiver Program, it takes two years for the nanny to receive citizenship. But if the relationship falls apart, there is no obligation for you to keep her on or for her to continue to work for you. Still, the hope is that your nanny will stay as long as possible. Change can be hard for kids, Zeldin says, and the fact is, once you like and trust your nanny, it may be hard to replace her.

So make sure that you set up regularly scheduled chats to discuss how you are both feeling about the job. That way, if there are problems, you can resolve them early. “A happy person is a productive person,” Zeldin says.

Information is current as of the original date of publication.

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