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What parents are telling their nannies to do in the COVID-19 crisis

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managed wordpress hostingWhat parents are telling their nannies to do in the COVID-19 crisis 1

When New York City schools shuttered March 16 due to the coronavirus, mom-of-two Juliet Raio Silveira was faced with a dilemma: should she continue to have her nanny work for the family as they self-isolate in their one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment?

After talking it over with her husband, Piao, 31, Silveira, a charter school teacher, reluctantly decided to tell her full-time employee not to report for duty. She gave her checks to cash over the following two weeks as compensation.

“It didn’t make sense for her to come in,” says the 28-year-old from Marine Park. “She was taking the bus and we were concerned about her being on public transport.

“And, even though we have a large bedroom from where I am working from home, if she was in the living room with my daughters, the amount of interruptions was still going to be immense.”

Silveira is among millions of parents navigating the uncharted waters of child care provision during the pandemic.

Piao and Juliet Raio Silveira with their children.
Piao and Juliet Raio Silveira with their children.Photo courtesy of Silveira family

On one hand, many need someone to watch their kids while, in the case of essential workers such as doctors and nurses, they commute into the workplace or, as with the majority of people, they are working remotely. On the other hand, they are nervous about the employee coming into the household on a daily basis, possibly putting themselves and others at risk.

Under an executive order that took effect Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included child care employees in the list of essential workers obliged to show up for duty.

However, it continues to be a gray area confusing and worrying parents and nannies alike.

“Patients have been asking for advice,” says Manhattan pediatrician Dr. Barry Stein, of Carnegie Hill Pediatrics. “There are two issues: the nanny will often have a family that is also now home from school, so we need to consider that; the second piece is that, if they are coming and going to your apartment, they are being exposed to the virus.”

Dr. Barry Stein
Dr. Barry SteinDr. Barry Stein

Stein suggests that non live-in nannies stop coming into work, but understands that option is not practical for many families.

“If they must come in, have them go straight to the bathroom to change their street clothes and shoes in favor of items kept at the house,” he adds. “Then it’s a case of frequent, careful handwashing and possibly even wearing a mask, preferably the N95 mask — if they can get one — or, failing that, a surgical mask.”

Sharon, of Mill Basin, who asked for only her first name to be published for privacy reasons, is adhering to Stein’s second set of advice. She is allowing her nanny to come to work full-time to care for her
1-year-old and 3-year-old.

What parents are telling their nannies to do in the COVID-19 crisis 3What parents are telling their nannies to do in the COVID-19 crisis 4

“She changes into a new T-shirt and sweatpants and washes her hands as soon as she gets here, without touching the children first,” the 35-year-old office administrator tells The Post. “Her husband is an Uber driver, so he now brings her to work — she used to take the bus — and he disinfects the car in between passengers.”

The nanny and mom have also had frank discussions about social distancing. “We are on the same page about taking precautions and we talked about her playing with our children on our deck, rather than taking them to the park,” adds Sharon, who drives to her Brooklyn office on a daily basis. Her spouse, who works in construction, is also out of the house all day.

Manhattan labor and employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack describes the relationship between nannies and parents as being “especially complex” amid the uncertainty over the pandemic.

Steven Mitchell Sack
Steven Mitchell SackSteven Mitchell Sack

“Employers need to protect their child care providers in this time of crisis as well as their own families,” he says. “It’s the right thing to do.”

But what happens if the nanny demonstrates symptoms of the virus such as a sore throat or cough? “Parents are within their rights to demand a doctor’s note for them to be able to work,” adds Sack. “If the family is concerned the nanny is a danger, they can send her to a local doctor or urgent care.

“But, in doing so, they should consider paying the bill.”

As for the wider issue of possibly laying off a nanny or cutting her hours, he recommends checking the contract of employment if one exists. “The document should outline the terms of severance, notice and number of sick days,” he says. “If they put them out on furlough for the next few months, they should definitely give them notice pay, and possibly severance pay, with an invitation to re-hire the nanny when times get better.”

Experienced nanny Katherine, who asked for her last name not to be used for professional reasons, welcomes the lawyer’s recommendations, but fears for at-home child care providers who don’t have employment contracts or are paid off the books.

“Many of them are being told to stay at home with no pay, or they’re being fired,” says the 26-year-old, whose main employer is continuing to pay her salary while temporarily relocating upstate.

The Bedford-Stuyvesant resident has turned to Facebook mommy groups throughout the city to appeal to parents to support their nannies during the emergency.

In the heartfelt, determined posts, she writes: “I am asking parents to please please please consider letting your nanny stay at home, with pay, so we can fight this epidemic together.

“We understand that so many families are facing new financial burdens due to this crisis. But we also want to be here for you and your children when all this is over.”

What parents are telling their nannies to do in the COVID-19 crisis 5What parents are telling their nannies to do in the COVID-19 crisis 6
What parents are telling their nannies to do in the COVID-19 crisis 7What parents are telling their nannies to do in the COVID-19 crisis 8
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