Nanny employers must be aware of auto-enrolment pension changes

Any family which employs a nanny or other private household worker will now need to contribute to their pensions, as the latest phase of the automatic enrolment rules come into effect.

The pensions shake-up – the first stage of which was introduced by the government back in 2012 – was always intended to bring even the country’s smallest employers into the contributions fold, but so-called ‘micro-employers’ will now have no choice but to get their paperwork in order as soon as possible.

As of the start of October 2017, anyone who employs a nanny, cleaner or other domestic staff member (including carers) must contribute the equivalent of a minimum of 1% of their monthly salary towards their employees’ pension pot, provided the worker is 22 years old or over, earns at least £10,000 per year and is not already enrolled in another workplace scheme.

Rupert Jones, writing in the Guardian, notes that – despite the long-established timetable for the rule changes – it is possible that some families may still be taken by surprise because “of course, many of the smallest employers don’t think of themselves as such – they are individuals who just happen to have someone who works for them”.

Further contribution rises on the horizon

Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of the Pensions Regulator, which has an informative help section designed to teach people who are employing workers for the first time all they need to know about their contributions arrangements.

Something else which is important to bear in mind is that employers’ monthly contributions will not remain static indefinitely, even if their employees pay does not change from year to year. Contribution rates are pencilled in for the start of the next two financial years (April 2018 and 2019), which will typically raise employer contributions to 2% and 3% of the employee’s salary respectively.

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Prestigious nanny college welcomes highest number of male recruits

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Rightly or wrongly, the role of professional childcare has long been regarded as the domain of female workers. From Mary Poppins onwards, the image of a wise, maternal lady calmly overseeing our precious children is surely what comes to mind when we think of nannies, governesses and housekeepers alike.

With the possible exception of Mrs Doubtfire, there have been no famous male nannies – either fictional or real – in living memory. However, the recent intake numbers for arguably the most famous of all nanny training facilities show that, little by little, the days of professional domestic childcare always being classed as a job for women may be nearing an end.

This Telegraph article recently reported that Norland College in Bath, which it describes as “the world’s most elite nanny training school”, has just reported its highest ever intake of male pupils for its renowned Early Years Development and Learning BA degree.

‘Where do I sign up?’

Whilst this development has made headlines around the private domestic staff industry, it is important not to overstate the numbers of men involved – after all, only four of the 103-strong 2017 first year class are male.

Nevertheless, the very fact that this is a record-high number shows the extent to which being a nanny has previously been a profession so one-sided in terms of gender that being female could almost have been mistaken for a requirement.

Many within the sector, however, are now extremely confident that this apparently small step towards breaking down gender barriers could be the start of something much bigger, with the director of one agency being positively bullish about this prospect when questioned by the Telegraph: “With social barriers slowly-but-surely breaking down, we predict the trend to continue and for there to begin to be a balance in the numbers of females and males entering the sector.”

Being a nanny to the great and good can be a particularly rewarding career choice, and one of the new male recruits at Norland – 19-year-old Gregory Ridley – summarised why it is a path being taken by more and more young people, regardless of sex: “When my mates found out that I was coming to Norland at first they were really unimpressed. But then I told them about the salary and they said ‘Can I come?! Where do I sign up?’”.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg MP celebrates family’s loyal nanny

Jacob Rees-Mogg giving speech

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Member of Parliament for North East Somerset, has taken the unusual move of putting his family’s nanny front and centre in a photograph of his sixth child’s christening.

The photo, which can be seen in this Telegraph article, shows professional nanny Veronica Crook – who has served the Rees-Mogg family for an extraordinary 52 years – proudly holding baby Sixtus in her arms, surrounded by the happy parents and their five other children.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who has recently become an unlikely social media celebrity to the point where he has had to play down reports of ambitions to become the next Conservative Party leader, previously spoke to the same newspaper about the pivotal role Veronica has played in his life and the lives of his children.

“Although nannies who cover more than one generation are rare, those like Veronica Crook – who looked after me and now looks after my four children – are pearls of great price”, the MP wrote.

Rees-Mogg praises ‘continuity and stability’ of nannies

With six children and a working life as an MP, it is understandable that Rees-Mogg relies upon the expertise of Ms Crook, and he was keen to praise the work done by nannies all over the country (something which should be reassuring for anyone who is considering contacting a private household staff agency for their own family’s needs): “They provide a continuity and stability for a family that is of inestimable value for the child and, indeed, the man.”

In our last blog, we wrote about the growing trend of so-called ‘helicopter nannies’, who are employed beyond the traditional length of time and on into a child’s late teenage years. Even Mr Rees-Mogg, however, accepts that still being dependent on his childhood nanny at the age of 48 is particularly unusual: “In my own case I have been blessed to have such a good, reliable and devoted nanny, even if it has led to me being deservedly teased about it from time to time.”

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More nannies being employed into children’s teenage years

Mary Poppins flying over London

The role of the nanny is traditionally seen as someone who flies into a child’s life (quite literally in the case of Mary Poppins, fiction’s most famous nanny), looks after them for their formative primary school years, and is then gone again in what seems like a flash.

However, a recent Telegraph article has revealed the extent to which this state of affairs is now quickly becoming a thing of the past, as so-called ‘helicopter nannies’ are being employed well into the teenage years of the children they were called upon to help bring up.

The phrase is an adaptation of the concept of ‘helicopter parents’, which tends to be applied in a negative way to mothers and fathers who are seen as being an overbearing influence and imposing themselves on every aspect of their child’s life.

It is perhaps unfair, therefore, to refer to the growing band of nannies looking after teenagers in these terms, as the reality is that these household staff company representatives provide an increasingly invaluable service in our busy modern world.

More ex-teachers becoming ‘helicopter nannies’

One of the most famous advocates of this new breed of nanny is the BBC television presenter Fiona Bruce, whose children are still supervised by a paid guardian, despite being 15 and 19. As she explained in an interview with the Daily Mail, “I’m working a lot and my husband works a lot, too, and it’s really important for me that someone is in the house when Mia comes in from school”.

The aforementioned Telegraph article quotes one director of a nanny agency as saying that many ex-teachers are now becoming ‘helicopter nannies’, largely due to the academic intelligence and diverse skill set that is required – and, of course, the attraction of excellent remuneration.

The source is quoted as saying that “with children aged 12 and above, [parents] want someone with a teaching or tutoring background, and some PA skills, so someone who is willing to do not just the children’s organising…but also someone who might book flights for the parents or do some background work on places to stay”.

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How to get children to eat healthy food

As a member of private household staff, you may also have a responsibility to look after the children in the home. Alongside your usual duties, you may be required to provide an example of how to eat and live healthily by preparing meals and maintaining a healthy diet in the family home.

It can be a challenge to encourage children that fruit and vegetables are an important and tasty part of their diet. A recent blog by Wellness Mama said junk food is largely to blame for fussy eaters: “It’s quite obvious, with a quick stroll down the perilous middle aisles of any grocery store, that a lot of food marketing targets children. It is also no secret that obesity and type 2 diabetes are skyrocketing in kids and appearing at younger and younger ages.”

To help encourage children to eat well and enjoy a healthy diet, Wellness Mama recommends a few rules.

Commit to making a healthy, positive change

“When it comes to dietary shifts, you must present a confident front, and believe the information you are telling your kids,” says Wellness Mama. The same applies to nannies caring for children. “Research, meal plan and commit to making this positive change.”

Introduce food gradually

“While your kids won’t make the jump from happy meals to veggie smoothies in a day, they will adapt faster than you expect, and they will learn to love healthy foods. To start, put one small bite of each food you have cooked on a child’s plate.” This encourages children to try new foods without feeling overwhelmed.

Let the children make healthy choices

According to the blog, it is important to continue to give children the option to choose what they eat, within reason: “Whenever possible, let the kids make their own choices on healthy options for food. Not only will they feel better about trying a good they chose, but it will help break down their perception that you have hijacked their ability to eat what they want.”

Set an example

As a member of the private household staff, you will be spending a lot of time with the family and children. It is essential to remember that you will be influencing young minds. According to the blog: “Parenting experts agree that children pick up behaviour based much less on what they are told and much more on what they observe. If they see you routinely eating veggies and enjoying them, they will start to choose it themselves.”

Home cooking

Cooking may or may not be part of your job description in the domestic service sector. If you are looking for a household staff role, it may be worth picking up some home cooking skills just in case. “Your chances of eating healthily drastically increase when you cook at home,” says Wellness Mama. “You have the option of using more natural ingredients and more variety.”

Surge in requests for nannies with unique skillsets

People are increasingly looking for nannies with a unique skillset, according to a recent article. Skills such as yoga, cooking and music are fast becoming popular requirements for UK nannies. According to a 2015 survey by caretaker payroll service Nannytax, over 75% of parents want nannies to offer additional skills as well as traditional childcare, to give their child the best opportunities to succeed later in life.

The bespoke babysitting sector has had a massive boost in recent years. Those considering joining thousands as member of private household staff in the UK could help their career by adding additional talents to their skillset. Whether this involves learning how to cook healthy meals, how to tutor children in specific subjects or teach fitness classes, it is becoming clear that the more skills you possess beside “traditional” nannying, the more employable you are.

There are many courses designed to help nannies, domestic workers, housekeepers and au pairs to cook healthy meals for children. In today’s world of clean eating and an emphasis on nutrition, it is helpful to know the basics of healthy cooking.

When it comes to languages, it is often debated on nannying and parenting blogs which languages are the most useful to learn in this profession. Popular languages required include Mandarin, Spanish and sign language. Beauchamp Partners currently has a vacancy for a Mandarin speaking nanny in Oxfordshire. Learning a new language is also extremely useful if you’re considering taking your career abroad.

Learning a new skill can only be a good thing when it comes to domestic service. In an ever-changing world, being as dynamic as you can in your profession will serve you well.

Will Amazon Prime customers soon be getting butlers?

If you are a regular user of the Amazon shopping website, it will not have escaped your attention that the retail giant is pushing the benefits of its Prime membership scheme with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Even the most loyal of brand advocates, however, will surely be surprised by one service that may shortly be available to Prime customers: personal butlers.

The various adverts across the site and beyond which have been encouraging shoppers to sign up to the loyalty programme since 2007 (yes, it did launch in the UK almost 10 years ago!) tend to emphasise Prime’s quick delivery times and access to exclusive content, but not the chance to make use of ‘Amazon Assistants’ – at least, not until now.

First spotted in November by Angel Gonzalez of the Seattle Times, two American job vacancy listings were recently posted by Amazon which asked to hear from applications who would be interested in ‘helping Amazon customers keep up their home’.

Specific tasks listed in the job description which the successful applicants ‘will become awesome at’ include ‘tidying up around the home, laundry, and helping put groceries and essentials like toilet paper and paper towels away’. All of which seems to suggest that what the business is really looking for is expert household staff like experienced or aspiring butlers who will be able to ensure that Amazon customers, in the company’s words, can live ‘errand-free’ lives.

Just a stunt?

The idea that this is at least partly just an experiment or maybe even a marketing tactic to entice more Prime members came from a line in the ad which states that the future employees would be expected to provide ‘timesaving assistance to Amazon Prime members’.

However, a Business Insider UK article spotted that the reference to Prime was actually removed from the listings later on.

Whether or not the vacancies are filled and whether Amazon – who are yet to comment on the story – continue with their new employment drive, one thing is for sure: this development reinforces the notion that butlers and other household staff are back in fashion and are now once again appreciated by busy modern families.

New Year, new career: Things to consider when applying for private household work

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The New Year presents an opportunity to branch out into unchartered territory or simply advance your skillset in the field of private housekeeping. Whether a seasoned household staff member or beginning your career in domestic service, getting that all-important first impression right is crucial when approaching a new position. Follow our simple guide to applying for jobs in 2016.

Finding household vacancies

There are several methods for finding employment as a domestic professional. Responding to classifieds is a tried and tested method, but in today’s job market the need to ensure potential employers receive your interest in a timely manner has moved the application process online. With specialist household recruitment services offering full domestic position details through their website, this approach is a must for applicants. If your previous job was secured this way, then chances are that the agency will be more than happy to recommend you for future vacancies. Whether you’re a qualified Estate Manager, Chef or Nanny, the network effect is hugely influential in this area of employment.

Applying for domestic positions

No matter how qualified a candidate is, if they don’t apply themselves to their application then chances are another candidate who has followed every formality will get noticed in the early stages ahead of them. To avoid being eliminated in the first round, make sure that you tick every box as instructed, then move on to explain how your skillset matches every requirement in the job description. Once your application and resume are complete, ensure that any conceivable documents or background information are easy to pass on, should it be required by the agency. Household employers often need to fill a position at short notice and simply don’t have the time to wait for delayed paperwork, which could result in a less qualified applicant being hired in the meantime.

As a general rule the following resources are essential in almost every private domestic application process:

  • Current (up-to-date) CV
  • Identification documents and sometimes a recent photograph
  • Recommendations and a reference list (see below)
  • Record of your previous addresses
  • Brief explanation of your background – this is especially important for agencies in the screening process and candidates must be honest, offering details on any driving, credit history, civil litigation incidences and criminal behaviour that could affect their ability to carry out the duties expected.

Receiving Recommendations

Finally, potential employers will want to see third-party validation of your experience and performance in similar positions. It should be standard to obtain a letter of recommendation whenever you leave a household and having a few recommendations from different previous employees can greatly support your application in the present. Likewise, your reference list should include contact details for past employers should the agency wish to contact them for verification. It is essential to first check that the contacts listed are happy to act as a referee on your behalf and provide details when asked.

Remember there are several candidates applying for any one domestic job and in an area so focused on correct and proper attention to detail, the best way to stand out from a pile of applications is to first ensure that yours follows these guidelines to the letter. After that, you can embellish your application with the unique attributes, skills and experience you can bring to the position to benefit future households.

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