Can UK Nannies Continue To Work During COVID-19 Coronavirus Lockdown?
Notable Nannies Limited, a central London based Nanny Agency, has been flooded with calls, emails, and social media messages from Nannies across our key nanny agency areas of Clapham, Wandsworth, Balham, Dulwich, Battersea, Wimbledon, Mitcham, and surrounding areas. We have received enquiries & messages of concern from parents asking us one key question recently. “Can we still place nannies during the COVID-19 lockdown?” and “is it safe to continue to proceed to employ our nanny?”
We have seen a lot of nanny agencies from London offering differing and sadly conflicting advice. Given that we are voluntary members of The Association of Nanny Agencies we have been able to take advice from our regulatory body and also support from our colleagues at UK Nanny, as well as government bodies including the Department for Education [DfE] and pass this to our current clients and candidates. It has been difficult trying to decipher what is fact and what is opinion. We have endeavoured to verify our sources wherever possible, and this has been a time consuming and laborious task, but vital in ensuring we are giving the right advice to our contacts.
Many nannies have been concerned about their welfare and the welfare of their employers & children, especially those individuals with existing health conditions such as asthma or cancer, or those that live with vulnerable adults or children, and of course many nannies now have issues finding childcare arrangements and have struggled to continue to work. We were contacted in early April by a Nanny from Battersea who was trying to negotiate being able to take her own child to work with her to look after her charges as her own childcare arrangements had fallen through due to the lockdown. We know from social media this case was not unique and we suspect there has been an increase of nannies working with their own child present too, due to childcare issues, given the mixing of families is frowned upon according to government advice which can be found on gov.uk.
So, can nannies continue to work during the COVID-19 Coronavirus lockdown?
The official stance from government has changed several times in recent weeks but the general consensus has been that if you cannot conduct your job from home, you can still travel to work. Some advice was issued by the government to mitigate the risk associated to COVID-19 and we have been giving the following guidance to our registered nannies:-
- Avoid public transport especially the London Underground tube system wherever possible and use your own vehicle to travel to work where possible, or walk/cycle if you work nearby to where you live.
- Ensure you maintain social distancing at all times whilst at work, especially as parents are often working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
- Practice excellent standards of hygiene and make the exercise of washing hands with your charges fun and part of a regular routine.
- Only continue to work if you are not in the high-risk groups with existing medical conditions such as respiratory issues or immune system deficiency.
- If you are pregnant consult your GP or maternity department for medical advice.
- Ensure your nanny insurance is still valid, and ensure your employer’s liability insurance is still valid too. The latter is a legal requirement and some policies have been invalidated by the Coronavirus COVID-19 government enforced lockdown.
- If you are unable to work, consider asking your nanny agency or The Association of Nanny Agencies for advice regarding furlough options if you are eligible.
- If furlough is not an option available to you & your employer, consider requesting annual leave if your employer is willing to be flexible. The government has urged employers to be flexible.
- Some nannies have had to resort to statutory sick pay or taking unpaid leave and applying for Universal Credit as a last resort.
Notable Nannies Limited has been able to help many families find resolve and come to agreements that have avoided the loss of jobs, and this is in line with government advice. There was a lot of misconception regarding can nannies continue to work, especially where key workers are employing the services of a nanny.
The BBC released an article that was in line with government advice that advised if nannies refuse to go to work without good merit, they could be in breach of their employment contract and could face disciplinary action, though the UK government advised that dismissal should be avoided at all costs, we have sadly heard of cases where nannies have either faced redundancy or lost their jobs and have been dismissed. We are certainly in unprecedented times, and families are facing unexpected pressures through either job losses or being furloughed themselves, and facing a downturn in household income. The ACAS helpline has certainly been signposted to many many times in recent weeks when nannies and clients have contacted Notable Nannies Limited.
At the onset of the lockdown there was also a quandary about the furlough Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and whether this would apply to nannies or not, and thankfully Notable Nannies Limited was able to contact their local MP in London and contacted Vicky Ford who works for the Department of Education, and sought clarity via The Treasury that nannies will be eligible for furlough and employers of nannies can reclaim 80% of gross salaries including pension contributions and National Insurance contributions, which will hopefully help keep nanny jobs safeguarded. That said, a number of employers have continued to require childcare in order to continue working, even those families who are working from home have struggled immensely to look after their own children whilst trying to work from home, and there has been a sustained demand for existing nannies to work where possible, and where employed nannies have been unable to work due to needing to self-isolate or due to being in the high risk category, temporary nannies have been in high demand across the UK but particularly in London, and we know from our colleagues that run other agencies, there have been clients willing to pay for private COVID-19 testing prior to engaging a new nanny. One of the jobs we have just filled in Belgravia insisted upon the candidate being tested for the virus, privately, prior to the role commencing. The employer covered the cost of the test. We felt this was the very best any employee could ask for and a very good sign of a long lasting professional relationship between our candidate and employer.
Coronavirus: Can my boss make me return to work?
The short answer, if you are not in the high-risk category described above & cannot afford to take unpaid leave, is yes.
The government has said that everyone should work from home if at all possible, and only go into a workplace if their job “absolutely cannot be done from home”. A nanny cannot work from their own home. Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety. If you or a member of your household have an underlying health condition which increases vulnerability to Coronavirus, you could argue that you have a right not to come into work. If you still do not want to go in, you could ask to take time off as holiday or unexpected leave as mentioned above, but your employer does not have to agree to this. An employer could bring disciplinary action against an employee who they consider to be refusing to work without a good reason, unless you communicate and negotiate to take unpaid leave from your employment until the lock down situation improves later in 2020.
I need a nanny to look after my children, can Notable Nannies Ltd help me?
Yes! Notable Nannies Limited is working to provide childcare solutions across the UK. If you are looking for a new nanny, the process may be slower than usual as we are all working from home instead of our offices, and the recruitment process may be slower than usual as some nannies are unable to work due to childcare issues or due to pre-existing medical conditions, but we will do our best to find suitable candidates for your requirements and we can advise you and set expectations over an initial consultation phone call. During our initial conversation we can discuss your needs and advise you of timescales to set reasonable expectations at the onset and to let you know about the salary costs and agency placement fees payable for complete transparency. Our advice and support is free of charge and you do not pay us anything if we cannot find you a suitable nanny that meets your needs. Please do not hesitate to give us a call on 0203 1500 670, we are open over the weekend and on an evening should you be busy working during the day. Let us know how we can help, and please give us as much notice as you can if you require childcare. The more notice we get, the better the chances of finding the best possible candidate for your vacancy. We can signpost you to everything you need including nanny payroll services and employer’s liability insurance, if you don’t already have this in place. We can also signpost to private COVID-19 testing if you wish to pursue this for peace of mind and to protect your children.
When employing a nanny you do have a duty of care to look after the welfare of your nanny as we have described earlier in this article, but if you help by exercising social distancing from your nanny, and practice high standards of hygiene, the risk to your nanny & precious children can be mitigated to some extent. We will be able to advise on steps you can take to keep your nanny and family safe, and we continue to provide ongoing support after the placement completes. This is also provided free of charge and is a useful resource if you are unsure about best practices during the lockdown period.
Our agency covers the entire London region, and other areas of the UK too, so regardless of your location, feel free to contact us for free and impartial guidance. There is no obligation or pressure to register with ourselves, and if you do register, it costs nothing. We are currently working on nanny roles in Croydon, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Kensington.
I am an employer, and not comfortable with my nanny coming to work, what can I do?
In this circumstance, there are several options available to you including furloughing your employee and reclaiming 80% of the nanny’s salary from HMRC subject to criteria whereby the nanny must have been employed and on the RTI payroll submission on or before 19th March 2020 [correct at time of writing 25/04/2020]. Call us on 0203 1500 670 to discuss your situation and we can provide advice and support in confidence based on your individual circumstances.
What Is Notable Nannies Limited doing to protect nannies and clients?
As a responsible and professional Nanny agency in Clapham & Balham in London, Notable Nannies Limited is following advice from government bodies and from our trade association, The Association of Nanny Agencies (ANA) and we are following the ANA Facebook updates vigilantly. We are keen to avoid a childcare crisis especially for key workers and vulnerable children, and with increased pressure and stress on families we sadly predicted there could be an increase in domestic violence and sadly, child abuse as reported by other key players in the childcare sector including Ofsted. We have been extremely vigilant and have been paying close attention to our existing nannies and clients, providing as much support as possible, and we have extended our opening times to provide free telephone support to our amazing candidates and clients.
Notable Nannies Limited has been insistent that all interviews are conducted by telephone and electronically using video conferencing to avoid in-person meetings as we would usually recommend, to curtail and kerb the spread of Coronavirus. Families have been able to use a number of technologies including Skype, Facetime, Facebook, Zoom, and WhatsApp to contact potential candidates and we have successfully hosted first and second interviews. Where job roles have proceeded we have recommended that nannies isolate for a minimum of 7 days prior to the position commencing, and all of the vacancies we have filled have been of a live in nature which has made isolation easier to undertake, though with care and due diligence live out roles are able to commence too in certain circumstances.
What if government advice changes or the lockdown rules become stricter?
This is entirely possible. We cannot speculate as to what may change or occur. We all face uncertainty. If anything changes, we will post on our website in the Updates section so do keep checking our website frequently. You can also follow Notable Nannies Ltd on Facebook where we post all updates online at https://www.facebook.com/notablenanniesuk. We recommend you follow us and like our page on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest developments surrounding COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Thank you for reading!
Stay Safe and remember if you need advice or support, we are here to help and guide any nanny or family in the UK regardless of whether you are registered with our agency or not as the case may be. If you have symptoms and need to isolate you can now seek an isolation ‘sick note’ from NHS 111 Online
As UK official advice is changing almost daily, we do recommend you also keep up to date with the latest government advice which can be found online at gov.uk/coronavirus – there has been advice for domestic household staff and childcare workers announced by the government in recent weeks.
Best wishes from the Notable Nannies Limited team, Sarah Parkin, Liane Herbert, Ray Burke, and Lydia Maslen.