Injured Nanny Leaves Parent in a Quandary

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Dear Miriam,

I recently hired a new nanny for my 2-year-old daughter. We were having some trouble conveying our expectations to her, but we wanted to give her a fair chance. Over the weekend, she injured her leg and now she’s unable to fulfill most of her job description for the next four to six weeks. I know she really needs the money, and we really need child care, but I don’t feel comfortable having her watch my daughter when she can’t run after her or pick her up. Plus, she recently moved here from another country, and with all the anti-immigration talk going on, I don’t know what that means for her. What is the right thing to do?

Signed,

Child Care Dilemma

Dear Child Care,

Your first priority is to your child and her safety, so the right thing to do is to be sure that your daughter is well taken care of. When I injured my back and had two toddlers at the time, I couldn’t safely take care of them by myself, and I had to get backup child care. Kids are exhausting and unpredictable, and unless you’re going to have the nanny stay inside with your daughter for the next four to six weeks, you need someone to care for her who can keep up with her.

When I first started hiring babysitters, I thought a lot about this passage in Deuteronomy 24:14-15: “You shall not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of your people, or of the strangers that are in your land within your gates. You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will incur guilt.” When you enter into an employer/employee relationship with someone, you take on these obligations — to treat her well, to pay her on time, to give fair wages. Otherwise, you’ll feel guilty! But, more importantly, I hope, otherwise, you’ll know you’re doing something wrong.

Your nanny is probably upset and worried, both about her job and, it sounds like, potentially, her immigration status as well, in addition to being injured. Though your obligation is to your daughter, you do also have an obligation to be a compassionate employer. If you think it’s feasible, you could hire someone else until your nanny is healed and tell her that her job will be waiting for her. You could also give her some amount of pay as compensation for the times she can’t be fully employed, though I would suggest getting advice from someone who knows more about taxes and employment law than I do.

Then again, despite being compassionate and fair, you also need someone who can do the job. Your description sounds like the nanny wasn’t totally up to par before the injury, so there’s no reason to think that, post-injury, she’ll be the kind of child care provider that you want her to be. If this unfortunate injury allows you to let her go gracefully, I would still suggest giving her something like a week’s pay, plus offering (if you can do so in good conscience) to be a reference for her for future jobs.

No matter how compassionate and generous you are, sometimes people aren’t the right fit for a job, and you — and your daughter — don’t have to suffer for that because you feel badly for this person’s situation. If you think the nanny is in a situation where she needs help specifically related to her immigration status (or possibly health care costs), you can also help to connect her with local resources. You can call your elected officials to voice your concerns on DACA and other immigrants-rights related legislation. You can volunteer with organizations that are helping immigrants in our communities. All of these are worthwhile and productive things to do that don’t compromise your daughter’s safety or your integrity.

Be well,

Miriam

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