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7 Things to Do When Your Nanny Calls in Sick

Pregnancy & Postpartum

By Megan Horst-Hatch

It's a working parent's nightmare: your nanny just called in sick. You have to get to work, but what do you do with your kids?
"Have a plan in mind before it happens. You don't want to figure out what to do when your nanny calls in sick," advises Becky Cavanaugh, co-president of the International Nanny Association and a nanny for more than 22 years.

The following tips will help you keep everything running smoothly when the inevitable sick day strikes.

  1. Check your sick leave policy. Before hiring your nanny, hammer out a sick leave policy. Make sure it's spelled out in your nanny contract. If your nanny calls in sick, determine who is responsible for finding a backup. A nanny usually isn't expected to help find a replacement, though it's appreciated if she can, Cavanaugh says.
  2. Find backup care. If you're really, really fortunate, you have nearby family or friends who can fill in until your nanny gets better. If not, you need to rely on a backup babysitter or nanny. If you don't have anyone already in place, there are businesses like that can help you hire backup care. If you're really in a bind, consider using a day care center with a drop-in program. These centers are similar to traditional day care centers, but offer parents more flexibility. One caveat, though: These centers tend to be popular, so make a reservation as soon as you can.
  3. Explain the situation to your child. A child will wonder what happened to his or her nanny, so don't leave them in the dark. Kavanagh recommends parents keep things matter-of-fact when explaining the nanny's absence to kids. "Just tell them the nanny will be out sick, and that grandma or a different nanny will watch them. Emphasize they will still have fun, even though their regular nanny isn't there," she says. If your child is concerned, consider having her make and send a get-well card.
  4. Prep for the substitute. "It's disruptive to kids when the nanny calls in sick, so plan ahead and keep them on schedule, even though the regular nanny isn't coming in," Kavanagh says. Whether it's a relative pitching in for the day or a temporary nanny, it's important to keep everyone on the same page. What can you do to get ready? If you have not already done so, fill out a child care checklist. Include your work and cell phone contacts, emergency contacts, any allergies your child might have and other relevant medical information. Write down a list of your child's preferred foods, as well as favorite activities and games and where to find them. Encourage your regular nanny to type up a typical day's schedule before she gets sick, including information on local activities like story time at the library or playgroup dates. Keep the checklist and schedule in a folder that's easily accessible to any nannies or caregivers. Go ahead and set out your child's favorite foods or activities, too. You don't want the replacement to have to search your home for the dress-up trunk or craft box.
  5. Check in during the day. Grandma has arrived to watch the kids, and you head out the door to work. But there's still more to do. If possible, call once or twice during the day to see how the kids are adjusting, and answer any questions as they arise.
  6. Know your backup plan in advance. Avoid a last-minute scramble by having a plan in place. Are there any family members or friends who could watch your child for a day or two in a pinch? If so, ask them ahead of time if they would mind acting as the backup.

By planning ahead, you can sail through the day when your nanny calls in sick, making the day easier for you, the caregiver and your child.

Megan Horst-Hatch is a contributor for, the world’s largest online care destination.

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