Seven weeks into lockdown, the Government released guidance for nannies, stating that paid childcare providers that work in a child’s home can go to their place of work, if working from home is not possible.

 Testimonies from nannies, however, describe the new guidance as radically different from local MP and other Government departmental advice. Yoopies UK, Europe’s leading childcare platform, investigates the damaging impact of this long-awaited update on the nanny community. From speaking to nannies,their findings expose a severe lack of centralised guidance since March, which in turn, has allowed parent employers to ‘read between the lines of Government advice,’ financially pressure nannies to keep working and, in some cases, mistreat furlough. 

The ‘to work or not to work’ divide 

When the Government closed schools, nurseries, and childminders back in March for all but key-worker and vulnerable children, for nannies, Coronavirus measures remained a grey area. As a result, whether nannies should or shouldn’t work has been largely left to interpretation.

Before the 1 May, local MPs advised: “Nannies should not travel to their employer’s home for work unless this is essential (ie. children are vulnerable or parents are critical to coronavirus response)” , however, the Government website did not make this information clear.  Consequently, some parents have continued to use their nanny throughout lockdown, potentially contributing to the spread of the virus. One nanny questioned why she was working: “I’m forced to keep working for a family in which the dad is working from home and the mum is on maternity leave, am I really needed?” Another describes a similar situation: “we risk our health going to work as parents don’t allow us to be at home, even though the parents are not key workers.”

Since the new guidance emerged, the divide between ‘to work or not to work’ continues. One nanny explains: “I rang the Government Helpline yesterday for clarification, and they advised me to not work unless it was for key-worker or vulnerable children. When I asked why this wasn’t on the Government website, they said it was something they would escalate with management.” Another explains “I have been in contact with DfE since the new ‘guidance’  was released on May 1st. They’ve clarified that this information is still in relation to children who are vulnerable or the children of key workers. The Cabinet Office confirmed with me via email on April 22nd that it was best practice for live-out nannies not to travel to work unless we are caring for vulnerable children or those of key workers. This was also confirmed by numerous MP’s, and contradicts the May 1st ‘guidance.”

Many are now confused which advice to follow. 

While are some are happy to work, the popular hashtag, #whyarenanniesstillworking, has seen many question the current guidance in place: “why is it deemed okay to mix households during a pandemic purley because employment law states it’s a workplace” Another said “May 1st the Government tells us we can’t not see our own families, but can work for nonessential employers? Shocking lack of concern for this sector” Others found the safety precautions  difficlut to adhere to: “as someone that works for a family whom live in a flat with 3 adults (parents working from home) and 2 children in a confined space, keeping a social distance from those I am not caring for is difficult”  

“The parents want me to work, regardless of the Covid-19 situation” 

As a consequence of unclear guildance, while some nannies have been fortunate, others have characterised lockdown as a period of financial manipulation. Some nannies reported being left with little choice but to keep working or lose their job altogether, as one nanny explains: “the parents are not key workers but made it very clear, either I work or they will find someone else.” Research led by Yoopies further demonstrates this trend, reporting that only a fifth of 8 nannies surveyed had been furloughed by their employer and were the only childcare provider group to demonstrate employers paying a higher salary during lockdown. 

Some nannies found furlough an uphill battle, as one nanny said, “furlough is an agreement between parent and nanny, not a right, and we don’t always see eye to eye, it took me weeks to convince my employer to furlough me.” Others found it impossible to attain: “I can’t be 10 furloughed as the agency is saying they can’t afford to pay corporation tax on the government’s money, so I am completely out of work.” 

For nannies that had been furloughed, some found that parents did not respect the rules in place. One nanny detailed manipulation by her employer: “the family furloughed me but expected me to do online tutoring even though working is not allowed. I felt like I had no choice, as when I raised the issue, they alluded to just laying me off with no pay.” 

Jumping the gun on ‘normality’ 

Whilst childcare providers try to navigate the new Government guidance, one thing is clear, the divide on whether nannies should work continues. As Francesca Chong, UK Country Manager concludes, “The worry is, many people may take the new advice as a green light to jump straight back to normality. Families should still consider how essential having a nanny is if both parents are home, and be responsible in declaring their symtoms.” 


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