Choosing and employing a nanny

Advice from the Metropolitan Police Service

These pages are designed to give you practical advice about choosing a nanny to look after your child. It will help you to make sure, as far as you can be, that your child will be safe with the person you choose. It is important for you to make sure that anyone you employ to look after children has told you the truth about previous jobs, their qualifications and past experience of working with children.

Ask questions
You should always set aside enough time to have a proper interview with anyone you are thinking of employing as a nanny, and plan your questions in advance.  Do not feel shy about asking personal questions. You are entitled to want to know a lot about a person you are thinking of employing for such an important position. Ask about the person's medical history, and particularly about any recent illnesses or disabilities that may affect the way your child is looked after. Other things you will want to know

Should you have a contract?
By law a contract must be offered within eight weeks of beginning employment. This could be very useful if you have any problems later. It is always best to draw up a contract of employment so that you and your nanny know where you stand. Make sure it covers all the aspects concerning the care of your children and the conduct of your nanny in your home. Also put down in writing what will be the grounds for verbal or written warnings, or even dismissal.

Are the references supplied to you reliable?
You should check references personally and, wherever possible, try to speak to people who have been previous employers. It is important to ask about any gaps in employment. Always be wary of any excuses you are given for there not being references, telephone numbers or addresses of previous employers.

Is the applicant qualified?
If they are, ask them to show you the original of their certificate or diploma. In case of doubt, contact the examining board to check whether or not they hold the qualification.

Where was the applicant educated?
If you can, contact someone at the college or other institution where the applicant claims to have obtained any childcare qualification.  Never employ anyone whose references you cannot check out, and do not be rushed into making a decision. See more than one person and take your time!

If there are problems
If you become at all concerned about the welfare of the child who is being looked after by a nanny, do not ignore the warning signs.  Make sure that any changes in a child's behaviour, such as not eating properly or acting in a strange manner, can be explained to your satisfaction. In particular, always ask about any injuries such as cuts or bruises, and be satisfied you are being told the truth. Monitor the situation carefully.  As soon as you suspect a child is being assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or is at risk in any way, contact your local police immediately. We have officers who are specially trained to help you.  Do not simply dismiss a nanny about whom you have concerns without telling anyone. You could be putting other children at risk in the future.

Make sure that your nanny knows about basic first aid, and knows to keep such things as irons, kettles, hot drinks, medicines, and cleaning fluids out of a child's reach. For your own peace of mind, stress the importance of stair gates, hob guards, cupboard locks, socket covers and of keeping the garden gate shut. Warn your nanny about keeping a close watch on things - not to leave a child alone in a bath, or a parked car, or leave a baby outside a shop, or allow a toddler to wander off alone. Make it clear that you must be told about any planned activities or outings. Always leave a number or address where you can be contacted in an emergency. Give your nanny the name of someone else if you know you are not going to be available. Make sure your nanny knows if you are expecting anyone to call at the house when you are out. Explain to the nanny that people should not be allowed in unless they identify themselves and have a valid purpose for entering the house (gas and electricity  employees, for example, or the emergency services).

REMEMBER - thousands of people employ nannies without there ever being any problems. Just take reasonable care!

Useful contacts

Muswell Hill Au-Pairs
42 Woodland Rise
Muswell Hill
London N10 3UG

Parents at Work,
77 Holloway Road,
London N7 8JZ.
Tel: 0171-700 5771/2

Parents at Work is a charity which provides information on all forms of childcare. It puts members in touch with a UK network of local support groups, and has a free advice line on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education,
4 Chequer Street,
St. Albans,
Herts AL1 3XZ.
Tel: (01727) 847636 or 867333

(This organisation incorporates the National Nursery Examination Board).

Professional Association of Nursery Nurses,
2 St. James's Court,
Friar Gate,
Derby DE1 1BT.
Tel: 01332 343029

For details of other forms of child care, contact your Local Authority Social Services Department or, if you are concerned about the welfare of any child, contact -

NSPCC National Centre,
42 Curtain Road,
London EC1A 3NH.
Tel: 0171 825 2500

The NSPCC have a network of Child Protection Teams and Projects covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to protect children and prevent child abuse. It also operates an NSPCC Child Protection Helpline (0800 800500). This is a free, 24 hour telephone helpline for anyone who may be concerned for the welfare of a child.