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Thinking about hiring a nanny?

A nanny looking after children in her careIf you are investigating your childcare options, I would encourage you to look into employing a nanny as they become a valued member of your family and you know your child or children will receive 100 per cent care and attention.

What is a nanny?

Firstly, what is a nanny? A nanny is a proactive carer who provides personalised care to children in their own home. Nannies can be casual, temporary or permanent, part-time or full-time, live-in or live-out.

Nannies are also professionals, often qualified to Certificate III or Diploma level. They will have a current first-aid qualification including an annual CPR refresh, and meet the current police checks and working with children checks relevant to the jurisdiction in which they work. And they should be Child Abuse Prevention Certified.

What does a nanny do?

A nanny’s role includes being an educator, playmate and occasional disciplinarian for one to four children from newborns to tweens. They are obliged to undertake household tasks that relate to the care of the child, such as preparing their meals, child-related housework, cleaning up after the child and so on.

But as with any employee they should be treated as a person, not a servant and should not be expected to perform roles substantially beyond their job description. A nanny should certainly not be expected to act as a housekeeper or a babysitter.

A nanny will provide proactive, professional childcare for your child/ren and before you look at hiring one, ensure you compile a clear job description, which will avoid potential confusion and misunderstandings.

Parents may also like to consider a nanny sharing arrangement where two families share the nanny and split the cost. The two families need to be compatible and share similar child-rearing philosophies.

Ideally, the children are aged over 18 months and up to four children can be cared for. Nanny sharing has the added bonus of providing extra socialisation for the children involved.

How to find a nanny

It’s important to screen applicants carefully including checking their references. While it can be time consuming, it is really important. After all, they are caring for your precious child or children.

Make sure that you are shown the originals, not copies, of documents like a current Working with Children Check and written references. It is always a good idea to verify written references with a phone call. If you are using an agency they should be checking these documents for you, but there’s nothing to stop you asking to see them as well.

It’s also worth considering a probation period of up to six months as per employment law to make sure that the various parent/nanny/child relationships are working well.

How to employ a nanny

Like any employees, nannies must be formally employed, either by the child’s parents or an agency, and paid the award wage as a minimum.

Nannies cannot be employed as contractors working under their own ABN (this doesn’t meet the ATO’s definition), nor for cash payments. These are both illegal and could get both you and the nanny into hot water.

In addition to a minimum wage, you will also need to make arrangements for regular superannuation payments into the nanny’s fund, as well as organising worker’s compensation insurance and ‘pay as you go’ tax instalments. This can get complicated and time consuming, which is why many parents choose to use an agency who handles payrolls or a specialty domestic payroll firm.

Whether you employ and pay your nanny yourself or through an agency, the important thing to remember is that they are an employee and therefore entitled to the same rights as any other employee and should receive sick pay and holiday pay.


When selecting a nanny, my advice is to choose one who has at least three years’ childcare experience and demonstrable expertise.

In-home childcare is a profession not just a job. A nanny’s role involves being 100 per cent present and in the moment for the child/children they are looking after.

Children rely on this active presence and engagement; it’s how young humans learn and develop. They rely on all their carers to be hyper-vigilant, enthusiastic and above all, kind.

Have your say:
Do you have any questions about hiring a nanny in Australia?
What do YOU think? Let us know.

Louise Dunham

About Louise Dunham

Louise Dunham is the author of State of the Nanny: Telling It Like It Really Is. She is the CEO of Placement Solutions, a Melbourne-based firm, specialising in nanny placement, ...

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