What do you do when the nanny is sick?

THAT CALL. 7:20am. The croaky, sad voice on the other end of the line. Your nanny doesn’t feel well. She’s so sorry, she knows this will be really inconvenient, but there is no way she can work today. Hopefully she’ll feel better tomorrow.

You feel sorry for her – she sounded truly ill – but you’re also thinking, What do we do now?!

If you’re in a nanny share, what you could do first of all is call the other family. One of the hidden benefits of nanny share—at least in theory—is that there are four parents who might be able to take the day off, rather than just two. So if one parent has a full schedule of patients to see, another is in an all-day trial in court, and a third is giving a really important client presentation – maybe the fourth parent actually has a light schedule today and can look after the kids together.

Phew. Emergency over, at least on the childcare front.

Now it’s just the paperwork side of things to square off. You vaguely remember something about this in the contract, but where did you put that thing…  (If you’re doing a Koru Kids nanny share, just call us – we’ll find it for you!).

If and when the worst happens, Koru Kids will sort out the right amount of sick pay for your nanny. But if you’re interested to know in advance how sick pay works – or if you’re doing a DIY nanny share and may have to figure it out yourself – read on. 

The basic facts about sick pay and nanny share

In the UK, there is a legal minimum amount of sick pay (‘statutory sick pay’, or SSP). Even if a nanny’s contract doesn’t mention sick pay at all, they’re entitled to this legal minimum.

The general idea behind statutory sick pay is that a worker isn’t paid for the first few days of sickness, in order to discourage them from throwing a sickie. But to avoid really imposing hardship, they do get paid after that, at a specified rate. This strikes a balance between the interests of the worker and the employer.

Specifically: when a nanny is sick for at least four days (including bank holidays, weekends and non-working days), they’re entitled to pay at the rate of £88.45 per week after the first three days of sickness on days the nanny normally works. The pay is only due for the days the nanny normally works, and is paid by any employer who normally pays the nanny over £112 per week. The £88.45 per week is a flat rate, payable regardless of how many days a week the nanny normally works.  

Confused? Here’s an illustration…

Laura normally works Monday to Thursday, as part of a nanny share for which she earns over £112 per week from each of her two employers. On Saturday, Laura unfortunately came down with the flu. Laura calls in sick on Sunday to warn her employers in good time so they can make arrangements for cover. She then doesn’t work any day that week. She feels better over the weekend, so she’s back at work the following Monday as usual.

Here’s how the payments work: Laura isn’t paid for the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of the week she’s off, as those are the first three working days of her illness. (As an aside, as Laura still does want to receive income for these days, she agrees with the parents that all three of these days will count as holiday.) On Thursday, Laura is paid statutory sick pay. Since a full week equates to £88.45 in sick pay, for Laura this amount is divided by four days and so for the Thursday Laura receives ¼ of £88.45 from each employer, for a total of £44.24. This payment appears on her payslip, is paid with her wages on her normal payday, and is subject to tax and national insurance deductions.

Within a week, Laura unfortunately is suffering again – she’s having a bad month. This time it’snorovirus, the poor thing, and she has 24 hours off in bed. It’s awful, but over quickly. Because of her earlier illness – specifically, because she’s been back for less than 8 weeks since receiving statutory sick pay -- this time Laura doesn’t need to wait for the three working days before she’s paid statutory sick pay. She receives ¼ of £88.45 from each employer (for a total of £44.24). Again, this is paid via payroll and subject to tax and national insurance deductions.  

By the way, Laura didn’t bother to call her GP to get a sick note. She knew she didn’t need one, as neither of her illnesses lasted over seven days, and she also knew that as a policy, her GP didn’t provide them for sicknesses less than seven days.

Frequently asked questions about sick pay and nanny share

This is all a bit terrifying. How often are nannies sick, anyway?

Don’t worry too much. A professional nanny won’t call in sick on a flimsy pretext—they’ll know that this has huge impact on your family. Turning up even if you’re feeling slightly under the weather is a core part of the nanny job description. Many nannies hardly ever call in sick.

That said, when you’re interviewing a nanny, it’s a good idea to ask about their sickness history. How many sick days did they take off in the past year? (And cross-check whatever they say when you call their references!).

It’s also a good idea to make it clear to the nanny that if she does turn up feeling not quite 100%, you’re fine with her taking a relaxed inside day—perhaps involving more TV than usual.

What’s in the standard Koru Kids nanny contract about sick pay?

The statutory minimum is included by default in Koru Kids standard contracts, which also specifies that the nanny needs to let you know about sickness ‘by 7.30am on the first day of absence or as soon as practical thereafter’.

Can you claim back sick pay from the government?

Unfortunately, no.

Can nannies take time off to care for a sick dependent?

Yes. You’re not obliged to pay them for this time, although of course you could choose to.

Do nannies on sick leave accrue holiday?

Yes, nannies accrue holiday as usual while on sick leave.

What about if they’re on holiday and then get sick?

If a nanny is sick while on holiday, this can be taken as sick leave—although if this results in their being unpaid for three days while on holiday, they may not choose to take it as sick leave.

My nanny’s hours change from week to week. What are the rules on whether my payments to her ‘count’ as over the £112 per week threshold?

The £112 per week threshold is calculated based on the average weekly earnings over the previous eight weeks. If the nanny hasn’t worked for eight weeks yet, the wages paid so far are used to determine eligibility (or the normal wages stated in the contract, if no wages have been paid yet).

Do nannies qualify for sick pay immediately after they begin work?

Yes, nannies qualify for statutory sick pay from their very first day.  

What happens if a nanny is sick again after returning to work?

If a nanny comes back to work from a bout of sickness but then gets sick again within eight weeks, the ‘first three days’ exclusion doesn’t apply. (This was the case in the Laura example above). It’s also worth noting that the nanny is still eligible for sick pay in this instance even if her normal pay has fallen below £112 per week.

If it’s longer than eight weeks since the last sickness, the clock resets to zero and the ‘first three days’ exclusion does apply.

What makes a nanny ineligible for statutory sick pay?

Nannies who are not eligible for statutory sick pay include

-        Self-employed nannies

-        Anyone receiving statutory maternity pay

-        Anyone who has already received 28 weeks of statutory sick pay (unless they’ve gone back to work for at least eight weeks, which resets the clock)

There’s a lot to take in. Remind me why I’m using a nanny again?

We’re sorry. Sickness is rarely convenient. You might find solace in the thought that if your child were at a nursery, the impact of sickness may be even worse as children pick up bugs so easily there—and are excluded for 48 hours after being well again. And it really is unusual for nannies to take lots of sick leave. Laura and her family had a very bad month.

 Please note, this advice is correct as of writing, i.e. for the tax year 2016-17

 To find out more about finding a nanny share through Koru Kids send us your details. It's free to register and we'll explain how it all works.