The Virus is Taking a Toll on Nannies
Thu, February 2, 2023

The Virus is Taking a Toll on Nannies


Some nannies were laid off with no severance pay and others were furloughed. / Photo by fizkes via Shutterstock


For working parents, having a nanny to take care of their child during their absence is extremely helpful, especially if the child is young and not yet attending school. But as soon as stay at home orders went into effect due to pandemic, many in-home caregivers rapidly lost their income, reports Business Insider.

Michelle Brown considers herself lucky that she was spared from the sudden unemployment other nannies experienced around the world. The 35-year-old has been a nanny for the same family for more than six years that when the pandemic hit, her employer asked her to stay at home. They also said that they would continue paying her salary. Other nannies have had a different experience though.

US nonprofit National Domestic Workers Alliance’s senior policy director Haeyoung Yoon said that not just nannies but other domestic workers have experienced “devastating” underemployment and unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brown started a Facebook page called The Nannies of New York City!, which has now gained more than 7,000 members, all of whom have submitted their painful stories.

Some nannies were laid off with no severance pay and others were furloughed. More than a dozen nannies from the Caribbean region even died because of the pandemic. The Cut shared the story of a nanny who works for a Manhattan family. She shared that many people were coming in and out of their house and one of their co-workers has been washing the clothes of their children nonstop the moment they come in contact with a new person, but the family they serve doesn’t seem to be worried. When the nanny had a cough, her employer said, “Oh, it’s just the nanny.” Many nannies who previously lived in their own homes and not with their employers were asked to become “live-in” nannies so that they could take care of their employers’ kids.

Brown commented on how these nannies were forced to choose between financial security amid the pandemic and their health.



Nannies learned they are “disposable”

Many nannies also realize that they are just “disposable,” regardless of how long they have worked with the family. There was a family that went so far as to tell their nanny to come and live with them because if not, she could walk right out the door. The nanny in question used public transportation to get to and from work, worried that she might bring the virus to her family.

Brown narrates how that nanny was “very afraid” but needed money. It was hard for the nanny because she gave her love and time to her employers’ children only for that family to say “either you live with us or you can get going.”



A study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute and the National Domestic Workers Alliance shares there are more than 2.2 million domestic workers in the United States. These workers include care workers, house cleaners, and nannies. In the said demographic, 91.5% are women. Three out of four domestic workers in the US are also their families’ primary breadwinners. The median age is 45 and the majority of them are black, Hispanic, or Asian women.

The study also indicates that 52% of the 16,000 surveyed US domestic workers admit that they don’t have work during the week of March 30. The unemployment number rose to 68% the following week. Some 66% of them are uncertain whether they will have jobs when the health crisis ends and more than 55% said they could not pay their rent for April.

One in five domestic workers in the US are not American citizens and roughly a third are born in a foreign country.



Over 1.1 million nannies working off the book

The International Nanny Association moreover reports that about 95% of nannies in the US are paid off illegally or off the book, making the group ineligible for the government stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and other government benefits.  Yoon added that these workers were informed by their employers that they should just not come to care for their kids. There was no assurance, such as they will still be paid while they are going through a pandemic. “Don’t come any more” was the only message said to them.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics published that there were 1,160,000 childcare workers in the country in 2018 and they only earn about $11.65 per hour or $24,230 per year. They get paid the same amount while risking infection.


There was no assurance, such as they will still be paid while they are going through a pandemic. / Photo by Creativa Images via Shutterstock


Economic insecurity

For the workgroup is already overwhelmed by lack of job security, low wages, and no safety net or benefits, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered financial insecurity. Workers were forced to question how they can afford to feed their families and pay their rent and bills. Yoon emphasized how domestic work in the United States has been “greatly devalued.”



Wage distribution

Nannies' salaries vary, depending on their domain knowledge and experience. The overall 50th percentile (median) salary among all nannies in the US is $22,290 annually compared to other careers in the country that earn $35,540. At the 75th percentile, salaries for US nannies were $26,610 and $32,780 for the 90th percentile, according to data-sourcing platform Overgrad.

Rosalie, who requested not to have her last name published to protect her privacy, said she wanted to stay home with her husband and son during the pandemic too. Before the health crisis, she was working from 6 am to 2 pm, five days a week for her employer. She was helping the family’s two sons, seven and two years old. When stay-at-home orders went into place, the two other nannies working for the family quit their job. So, Rosalie was offered increased pay and benefits. She agreed but said she did not receive the promised weekly allowance.



Being a nanny is viewed as work that doesn’t merit the same compensation other US workers have. This is because the work happens in somebody’s home and people do not necessarily consider home as a workplace. This background has further led to structural and systematic labor issues, Yoon added. This is why nannies are not included in the basic employment laws that govern overtime pay and minimum wage and they cannot also form an organized union.

In these trying times and after the pandemic, nannies also need help. They would benefit from access to PPEs and hazard pay, among others.