Starting Off on the Right Foot

In addition to fulfilling your legal obligations as an employer, your ability to manage your caregiver is an important ingredient in the success of your arrangement. Consider the following points:

Prepare house rules in advance, particularly in the case of live-in caregivers. In some cases, you may want to include house rules in your work agreement.

Don't hire a caregiver without a written work agreement. After the two of you have both agreed on job responsibilities, hours, salary, benefits, etc., summarize the results of your negotiations on paper. (See page 63 for a sample work agreement.)

Set a probationary or trial period so you and your caregiver have a chance to see if your relationship will work out. Arrange opportunities to talk informally about how things seem to be going. If you are working with an agency, you'll probably tie your probationary period to the agency's refund/replacement policy. If you've hired a caregiver on your own, consider a 30- or 60-day trial period.

Plan regular, informal monthly meetings to talk about how things are going, share information about your children, and communicate about job responsibilities.

Schedule regular performance reviews. It will help both of you to know you can count on a formal, scheduled time to sit down and discuss how your arrangement is working.

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Always pay your caregiver according to your agreement, even if you need her to work fewer hours than usual for some reason. Although you may occasionally have to ask her to work extra hours, it is not reasonable to expect her to regularly put in more time than your original agreement specifies, even if she is compensated. If your schedule or needs change, it is best to sit down and re-negotiate your written work agreement.

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