For some parents, their childcare schedule never changes. They start and end care at the same time every day. For other parents, they may not need childcare for all the scheduled hours for a variety of reasons; Mom gets off work early, Grandma decides to take the kids to the park for the afternoon at the last minute, or the family heads out on vacation. It’s great when kids get to spend extra time with their parents, however, it can be a tricky situation when parents are required to pay for childcare services they don’t receive. Intellectually, most parents understand a provider needs to be paid for all the hours they’re scheduled to care for a child because they count on a base income and can’t replace that income on short notice or an infrequent basis. Emotionally, some parents really struggle with paying a caregiver for time they’re not actually caring for a child. Here are some tips for navigating this sometimes touchy situation.
1. Put it in Writing from the Beginning
Before a parent hires you or puts their child in your center, ensure they know your policy around guaranteed hours (for nannies) and non-attendance (for family care providers). This might be a deciding factor in their childcare choice, so it’s important they have this information before making a final decision. If they decide to go with you, they’re also deciding to abide by the policies you require around payment.
2. Avoid Soft Language
Often we use soft language around requiring something when we sense the other person might not be happy about giving it. In this case, that may sound like, “I hope it’s OK that I have to charge for the days Nicole was gone,” or “I’m sorry, but I need to be paid for the afternoon you let me go early.” Soft language phrases like “I hope it’s OK with you,” “I’m sorry about,” and “If it’s not a problem” are meant to soften or avoid a conflict. However, they usually just provide an opening for the other person to push back or outright disagree. Instead, assume you will be paid as agreed and don’t open a conversation around the topic.
3. Restate Your Policy if Needed
If a parent pushes back against paying you for time the child wasn’t in your care, simply restate your policy in one or two concise sentences. Remind yourself you’re not asking for anything outside the standard in our industry, and you have the right to protect your financial well-being. If you’re a family care provider, you might say, “Our non-attendance policy states parents are responsible for full payment when their child is absent. The costs of the center stay the same when kids don’t attend.” If you’re a nanny, you might say, “My guaranteed hours benefit states I’ll be paid for 45 hours per week if I’m available to work and you choose not to use my services.” Remember, they agreed to your policy before you started working together, so this is just a reminder.
It’s important you’re paid for all the time you commit to be available to provide care. This includes times when the parents decide care isn’t needed for whatever reason.