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Golden rules for choosing nanny.

It feels at the moment that every time I pick up a paper there is news of another celebrity pregnancy.

Ulrika Jonsson is the latest in a long line of famous - or infamous - mothers-to-be, which includes pop icon Madonna and our own Prime Minister's wife Cherie Blair.

What many of these women have in common - apart from a blossoming midriff - is the disposable income to be able to choose their childcare arrangements. Which means that in the majority of cases, a nanny is likely to be the most favoured option.

However, as Cherie Blair already knows, having faced a possible media expose on Blair family life courtesy of ex-nanny Ros Mark, you have to be careful. The key is for both sides to remember that being a nanny is a job and that the family is the employer.

So, for those of you reading this who are to return to employment after childbirth and are keen to take on a nanny, here are some golden rules for you to bear in mind.

When advertising for a prospective nanny you must not infringe the sex, race and disability discrimination Acts. Remember that you are bound by the same employment rules as a business.

Always check references and qualifications, even though you might be tempted to rely on 'gut feeling'. Be wary of excuses by candidates unable to supply names of referees.

Set up a contract of employment, which should be signed by both parties and a copy retained by each. This should contain a full job description, the nanny's responsibilities, hours of work, salary, overtime provisions, benefits (including holiday entitlement and sickness rules), important house rules, notice required for absences, procedures for termination of the relationship and a grievance and disciplinary procedure.

The contract should contain a confidentiality provision whereby the nanny agrees not to reveal confidential information - and you don't have to be famous to need this one!

The nanny should be given a written statement of Particulars of Employment within eight weeks of employment commencing.

Wages must be in line with the National Minimum Wage Regulations which provide that those aged between 18 and 21 years receive no less than pounds 3 per hour and those aged 21 and above no less than pounds 3.60 per hour (pounds 3.70 from October 2000).

As far as PAYE and National Insurance are concerned, it is the employer's responsibility to deduct these from salaries and forward them to the appropriate authorities.

Furthermore, nannies are entitled to not less than four weeks' holiday, which includes statutory and bank holidays.

This may all seem incredibly formal, but the law is there to protect both you as the employer as well as the nanny. And, as even Cherie Blair and her celebrity peers would agree, if you follow the right procedure you should be able to find someone that is a real asset to your family as well as your career.

Fergal Dowling is an employment law specialist at the Birmingham office of national solicitors Irwin Mitchell.
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Author:Dowling, Fergal
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 6, 2000
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