How to Protect Yourself When Hiring a Nanny?

Updated June 7, 2024
7 min read
cubes, nanny candidate profiles, Nanny Contract paper, magnifier, teddy bear

Remember that infamous "The devil is in the details?" This holds especially true when speaking about law intersecting with family matters. Today, the spotlight will shine on one particular legal document, one involving parents, kids, and — of course — nannies.

There are over 169,633 nannies currently making ends meet in the United States, and every sixth family has some issue with their nanny. 99% of those issues could be solved or simply prevented by a well-written nanny contract.

65% parents without a legal contract reported issues with their nanny

So, let's consider the central pillar of a well-managed family-nanny relationship and the must-knows about this agreement.

What Is a Nanny Contract?

Just as there are no two identical families, there are no two identical contracts with nannies. One family may want the nanny to do light housekeeping or laundry while the baby sleeps. Another may ask the nanny to come solely to play developmental games with the child for a few hours.

But despite different requirements that parents might have, the contract with the nanny can still be reduced to one general structure with its own rules and laws. This structure must be laid out on paper — a real or digital version of it.

6 out of 10 parents hire a nanny with a written contract

Think of this contract as a roadmap for the professional relationship between parents and a nanny. It’s a written (and should always be written) document that clearly spells out the key details of the nanny's role in a particular family.

Verbal agreement vs. Written agreement

Can you just verbally agree with the nanny, rely solely on a warm handshake, and not worry that something will not go according to plan? Absolutely, you could. Can something go awry without you being able to prove it? Well, it 100% can.

When you rent an apartment or buy a car, you sign a document, sometimes even involve witnesses — not needed for a nanny contract, while on the subject — and you can even hire a lawyer to make sure the document is valid and legally binding.

So, why would you even entertain the thought, even for the briefest millisecond, that there's no need to sign anything when entrusting your child to a stranger?

As many as 6 out of 10 parents in the U.S. firmly believe in the power of ink when hiring a nanny. But what about the remaining part? More than half of them end up with some problems they cannot solve.

Risks of Not Having a Nanny Contract

To fix the idea that "Oral agreement = no agreement," let's deal with the principal risks and problems parents can encounter if there is no contact with a nanny.

Risk factors of not having nanny contract: legal disputes; financial issues; child safety risk; liability issues

Risk Factors

Imagine a family verbally telling their new nanny that her role includes childcare and light housekeeping. As weeks go by, the nanny’s interpretation of "light housekeeping" starts to stretch expansively. She insists that the family said she only needed to clean up after the kids, while the parents argue that they meant the nanny should also clean the common areas and do the family's laundry.

In this backdrop of unmet expectations and resentment, the nanny resigns, leaving the family without childcare on a busy work week. And it gets worse. The nanny decides to file a complaint with the labor board for being overworked, so the parents have no help with a child and a possible legal proceeding.
But it’s not only about potential lawsuits on the horizon. A family can shake hands with a nanny at $20 per hour. As weeks turn into months, the nanny becomes a part of the family's life, a true friend to the child, and the help around the house. She then announces that from now on, her new rate would be $50 per hour. The family has two options: to refuse the increase and lose the nanny right now, scrambling to find childcare at short notice. Or pay $50 per hour. What would you choose in such a scenario?

Let's move on with the risks. Let’s say a nanny, under the umbrella of a verbal agreement, is thrown into the deep end during a health scare with a kid. Amid all the verbal instructions, parents share critical health information. Like allergies.

All's well until one day, the child bites a peanut-laden snack and has an allergic reaction. The nanny struggles to remember the parents' directives. Without a concrete point of reference, the child's health issue escalates into an emergency.

What are the fundamental responsibilities nannies should be expected to perform?

Getting once more back to money, let's paint another hypothetical picture. A family and their newly hired nanny seal their deal with a handshake. While performing her duties, the nanny accidentally knocks over a pricey, one-of-a-kind vase. With nothing in writing about responsibility for damages, who foots the bill for the broken piece becomes a thorny issue. Should the nanny pay for the vase if no contract states it should be done?

There are many situations where a single contract can solve or, better yet, prevent such issues.

By signing a contract with a nanny, families insure themselves against unexpected resignations, extra charges for running errands, and larger, looming threats. Such a contract can prescribe any process and thereby preserve the family's peace.

But there is always the other side of the equation. The one where a rushed or poorly-written contract is no better than no contract at all; it leaves loopholes that might invite disputes, ranging from hours of work to termination clauses. Or something way worse. So, what should include a legally binding contract with a nanny?

What Should a Nanny Contract Include?

To get well-rounded legal protection, you don't need to ask a lawyer to make a nanny contract for you. Firstly, it can take from a couple of hours to several days. Secondly, you can expect to spend anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of your agreement and the lawyer's rates.

There are many nanny contract templates on the Internet. If you take this matter seriously and spend more than 1 minute, you can find a template made by lawyers, not people without a legal education, children, and experience in hiring nannies.

You can trust such documents, especially if the template has all the essential clauses and even recommendations for what a person can include in the contract.

So what are the main clauses that should be in the nanny contract? Let's consider this in the example of a nanny contract because, in this document, we can find a complete list of details that make the nanny contract bulletproof.

Sample of a nanny contract

What should be definitely mentioned in the contract with the nanny?

  • Job responsibilities: Specify the clear-cut daily duties and regular tasks. Is laundry part of the job? Should the nanny help the kids with homework?

  • Work schedule & compensation: Define working hours, clock-in timings, overtime protocols, and compensation specifics — crystal clear, like, “$15 per hour, remitted bi-weekly every Friday.”

  • Time off: Detail holiday entitlements, sick days, and personal days off. If there’s a notice period, indicate it.

  • Transportation details: If driving the kids is part of the job, is your nanny using her car or yours? Who pays for gas?

  • Termination terms: Outline grounds for job termination and the notice grace period. Specify the procedure, for instance, "Either party may terminate this agreement with a 14-day written notice."

  • Contract amendment process: Include a defined process for updating the contract if required.

  • House rules and guidelines: Be precise about any specific rules or guidelines that the nanny must adhere to during her tenure.

  • Confidentiality: The contract might specify that the nanny is forbidden from posting photos of the children on social media or discussing family matters with third parties.

  • Emergency procedures: Add a well-defined, step-by-step response to potential crises, including medical emergencies. List out any important medical information, such as allergies or chronic conditions.

It seems like there are so many aspects to consider and add to the contract, but in reality, all the work has already been done for you.

Instead of spending hours figuring things out on their own and searching for examples of specific points in the contract, a family can take a ready-made template, input information about themselves, mark the points they want to have in their contract from all the proposed ones, and even sign a contract with a nanny without leaving a single website or app. The whole process takes up to 10 minutes. At least, this is how advanced platforms like Lawrina Templates work.


Why do families still make oral agreements with nannies or sign non-binding contracts? Some do not know what exactly is at risk. Others do not believe that legal agreements do not require a lawyer's hand, inevitably costing a fortune and taking up excessive time. Then there are those who simply place their trust in a caregiver recommended by dear friends.

The bitter truth is that no one is immune to unforeseen circumstances. And there is one fail-safe armor that can protect us, our home, and our children — a legally binding nanny contract.

Article by
Karyna Pukaniuk

Karyna Pukaniuk, Head of Legal at Lawrina. Experienced Tax and Corporate Lawyer, team leader, and legaltech pro. Led and backed the smooth operation of the legal team and accompanied several different projects simultaneously. Worked closely with department's leads, and shareholders and advised them through all legal, regulatory, and risk management matters. Supervised multi-million dollar M&A deals and actively participated in the company's product development.