A Nanny Contract – Worth the Paper It’s Written On?

By Guest Blogger Nathan Hammons, Esq.

Legal contracts can be a pain. They’re intimidating to read, not to mention boring. They’re also extra pieces of paper to deal with in our already busy lives.

That raises a question: Is a nanny contract – also called a work agreement – worth the paper it’s written on?

Despite the ‘pains’ of legal contracts, the answer is a resounding YES. Let’s look at the main reasons why.

# 1: Legal Protection

When a nanny and one or both parents sign a nanny contract, it becomes legally binding. That means one side can sue the other for failing to live up to a promise in the contract.

For example, a nanny could sue for not being given agreed to wages or benefits (e.g., time off, health insurance, etc.). Or the parents could sue if a nanny discloses family secrets or quits without notifying the parents as required by the contract.

It’s worth noting that, in many situations, a lawsuit is not worth the time or money. Nevertheless, people are more likely to fulfill a promise when it’s in a legally binding contract. For that reason, it’s much better to have a nanny contract than not to have one.

# 2: Prevent Disputes

What’s the number one reason why parents and nannies get into disputes? Miscommunication.

You know the story. One person says something, and a month later the other person remembers having heard something else. Or they don’t even remember a particular detail of the conversation.

While there isn’t a cure for miscommunication, having things in writing is an excellent start.

That’s why a nanny contract is a great tool for preventing disputes. First, it helps ensure that everyone is on the same page for the important issues (e.g., job duties, wages, scheduling, etc.). Second, if a question later arises, it can often be answered by re-reading the nanny contract. Even if it can’t, the process of reviewing the contract – calmly and professionally – can help ease tensions.

# 3: Address Important Issues

Parents and their nanny naturally want to discuss the most important thing of nanny care – the children.

But nanny care involves much more than that. It also things that aren’t exciting – like scheduling, benefits, preparing for emergencies, transporting the children, and more.

Having a good nanny contract can help ensure you don’t miss something important. For example, does the nanny have to work Veteran’s Day? The nanny contract can answer that. Whose car insurance will the nanny go under? The nanny contract can answer that, too, as well as the many other important questions that arise with nanny care.

Stated another way, a good nanny contract acts like a checklist – go through it from beginning to end, and you’re much less likely to miss an important issue.

# 4: Promote Mutual Respect

A thriving parent/nanny relationship is based on mutual respect. The parents respect the nanny as a professional caregiver with needs and wants, and the nanny respects the parents as individuals who, while busy, care deeply about how their children are raised and cared for.

A nanny contract enhances mutual respect. It sets roles for parents as the employer and the nanny as both the employee and professional caregiver. It helps everyone plan ahead through the setting of work hours, schedules, etc. Lastly, because it is a legal document (see above), it raises the level of professionalism.

In sum, the benefits of having a nanny contract far outweigh the pains of putting one in place.

This post is the first article of a five-part series on nanny contracts. Nathan Hammons is an attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s also a father and the creator of MyNannyContract.com, a website with information about the legal issues of nanny care and providing a professionally written nanny contract. He can be contacted at nathan@mynannycontract.com.

DISCLAIMER: This post provides information only and not legal counsel or advice. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.


  1. Isn't it sad we need contracts to ensure mutual respect?! It's true though that in our job we sometimes feel like we are family (and the employers treat us like family) and forget professional boundaries (especially for live-ins). But do nannies really ever sue the parents? I would think the contract is great to reference but in the big picture the parents and nanny just move on when things take a turn for the worse. IMO.

  2. Things some families and nannies forget are the house rules and we also worked out vacation time by letting the nanny pick half of their vacation dyas, and then we picked the other half.

  3. Most nannies that I know who found jobs online don't even know there are contracts. My friend said today "there are nanny contracts." She had no idea. At least agencies can help parents w/ job descriptions + contracts.

  4. I meant to say: my friend asked "there are nanny contracts?"

  5. Excellent subject Best Nanny Newsletter! The more of us sounding the 'get it in writing' alarm the better. The contract or work agreement protects all parties!

  6. Extra duties must be very very detailed in the work agreement. The term "light housekeeping" can be misinterpreted and cause resentment. Most of my friends hate when dirty dishes are left in the sink. If you expect the nanny to clean adult dishes (even put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher) you have to make it a part of the job and make it clear in the work agreement. You would be surprised but au pairs don't have to do any housework for the parents. No parents' dishes, food, laundry. So make your housekeeping duties very specific. If you suddenly want the nanny to load and unload the dishwaher or iron clothes she will likely be resentful.Overnight care and tavleing with the family on vacationsis a huge issue too. Will she be paid more? Will she have more hours or the same hours? If you can think of it, write it up so you can negotiate it before the nanny starts the job.

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