If you're hiring a full-time nanny or caregiver for your child, you might be considering having a formal contract in place. But do you also need a contract for when the kid next door babysits for you for three hours on a Friday night?
Full-time sitter contracts
If you have a nanny or sitter who works for you on a full-time basis, it's a good idea to have a written contract so that the salary, responsibilities, and hours are clearly laid out. When someone works for you full-time, you want to be sure there are absolutely no misunderstandings.
According to the IRS, if you pay more than $2,000 in wages to a household employee over the course of a year, you're required to pay employment taxes for that employee. If you hire a nanny through an agency, they will likely handle the contract and the taxes for you.
Ongoing part-time sitters
When deciding if you need a contract for a part-time sitter, think first about how frequently the sitter will be working for you.
If you're looking for ongoing help, for example, for three days a week for eight hours a day year-round, you're hiring an employee, and it's in your best interest to have a written contract with all of the information you've agreed upon.
You need to be able to count on this sitter and be sure he or she will show up. A contract will help you clarify what you expect and what everyone's responsibilities are.
Casual part-time sitters
If you're hiring your best friend's teenager for a single Saturday afternoon, you might not feel as compelled to have a written contract. After all, you're using the sitter just once in a while for a few hours, and, most likely, the sitter is a teenager, you know. You don't think of him or her as an employee.
However, it is a good idea to create a written agreement (presenting it as an “agreement" rather than a “contract" will seem less intimidating to your average teen). Keep it short and sweet, and include things like:
- The hourly rate you are paying
- The phone numbers where you can be reached
- What you expect the sitter to do: play with the kids, clean up, serve dinner, put the kids to bed, etc.
- Things you do not want the sitter to do: have friends over, be on her phone while with the kids, go into certain rooms, etc.
- Things the sitter is welcome to do: eat anything she wants, use the TV after the kids are in bed, etc.
- Rules you expect the sitter to enforce with your kids: no dessert before dinner, no leaving the yard, one hour of TV only, etc.
It's a good idea to print up a generic copy of this agreement and then, each time you have a sitter, fill in some lines at the bottom with the current date and the anticipated hours you will be gone. Then sign it and ask the sitter to sign it, too, after you review it with him or her. Encourage your sitter to take a photo of it with their phone, so they have a copy.
Keep in mind that minors, generally people under 18, can't enter into a legal contract. Even under those circumstances, asking your sitter to sign an agreement may make him or her more likely to stick to its terms because your expectations are all in black and white, and it's less likely the sitter can claim to have misunderstood the arrangement. You may also feel more secure, knowing you've written down all your rules.
Clearly communicating your expectations—and having a contract or agreement in place—can protect both you and your babysitter, no matter how often the person is in your home, caring for your kids.