Graphic from RaceWire The Colorlines Blog
The new Nanny Law in New York will hopefully give both domestic employers and in-home employees a clear guideline for what is fair when negotiating a new contract.
The Nanny Law allows penalties against those who do not follow basic labor laws. But, it is largely unenforceable unless someone makes a complaint. While the law will put pressure on parents that hire nannies to adhere to the regulations so that a blemish not appear on their legal history, in this economic downturn, both nannies and employers may still prefer to work, and to pay, off-the-books.
The number of nannies, babysitters, elder caregivers, and housekeepers in New York is as difficult to determine as it is hard to gauge the size of the underground economy. Many employed as child caregivers are people unaware or unwilling to assert their rights.
Outside of the largest metropolitan areas, the law may have little effect. In rural areas, people may assume the duties of a nanny are available far below minimum wage.
I don't think the law will lead most parents who already employ a nanny to find another child care option. The Nanny Law follows the same labor laws already in existence in the United States. For example, no one, no matter their occupation, is supposed to make under minimum wage. It is just a matter of regulating the laws and whether workers are willing to accept or reject jobs that don't offer the standards of labor laws.
Educated, experienced, professional in-home child care providers don't even consider jobs that do not offer the rights listed in the new law. I think the best nannies already work for great employers and know not to accept jobs that offer lower than minimum wage, without paid vacation days and holidays, and some paid sick days (plus plenty of other benefits). If the parents can already afford a great nanny these very simple changes won't make the difference between keeping an experienced and educated caregiver to a less expensive child care option.
Some suggest the new Nanny Law will force parents to fire their nannies to hire au pairs. Let's not forget the Au Pair Program in the United States has many of the same rules already. In fact, au pairs cannot even work as many long hours as nannies (only up to 45 hours of child care per week). The rules of the Au Pair Program in the United States include that au pairs are provided a private bedroom, meals, remuneration tied to the minimum wage ($195.75 in July 2009), 1½ days off weekly, plus a full weekend off each month, two weeks paid vacation (and this new Nanny Law only requires one week paid vacation), and the first $500 toward the costs of required course work to be completed at an accredited institution of higher education in order to satisfy the requirements of the educational component of the program. Au pairs are not to serve as general housekeepers or assume responsibility for household management.
Nannies can work longer hours, take on any housekeeping responsibilities or household management duty she is willing to do, when au pairs cannot. So, if any of those factors are essential to working parents, than they obviously won't fire their nanny to hire an au pair.
But, au pair regulations are are hard to enforce unless the au pair complains (as I predict will be the case with the Nanny Law) so many au pairs do, and will, work overtime hours for under the minimum wage. Just having guidelines for au pairs and laws for nannies isn't enough to make changes for everyone -- but it is a step in the right direction!
The real deciding factor will be if the new law can be regulated. Currently nannies must negotiate a good salary and benefits themselves and I don't think that will change. Parents will still offer jobs that break the law and nannies will still have to either accept of reject positions that will break the labor law. Will nannies continue to accept jobs offering no vacation time even with the Nanny Law? Absolutely.
A web site on labor laws reads, "Good labor laws are only as good as their enforcers, which is something that we should consider: a country can put anything it likes into its legal code, but legislation is useless without inspection agents and law enforcement to back it up. For example, most countries have laws against child labor, but the use of child labor is a perennial problem in the developing world."
But, even though child labor laws may not be 100% effective, would anyone suggest they are usless laws or we don't need such laws? Of course not!
I feel the Nanny Law is a step in the right direction. I think all workers (immigrant or not, salaried or hourly, part-time or full-time) deserve basic labor rights.
How do you think the new Nanny Law in New York will effect nannies, employers, nanny placement agencies, and other child care industries in the state?