Why Working Moms Shouldn't Worry About the 'Babysitting Bill'

kids at parkThere are a lot of misperceptions and inaccuracies floating around about the babysitting bill. And as a working mom, I was worried, too. How would Assembly Bill 889, which applies to all domestic workers (sitters, nannies, and housekeepers) affect me? I need in-home childcare while I work. Would this bill currently only in California, eventually pass in my state?

Andrea Cristina Mercado, co-director of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (United and Active Women), and supporter of the bill, helped clear up some of the confusion.


Why should employers of childcare providers and nannies be subjected to rules?

  • Rules for household employers in the state of CA are longstanding. Wage Order 15 has been in place since the 1970's. AB 889 just applies those longstanding rules to nannies and caregivers who often fall outside those protections. The problem is that current law only applies to some household workers and not others. AB 889 makes the same rules apply to all household workers so employers can understand their obligations and employees can understand their rights. 

Will the required rest breaks mean someone else would have to come in and cover during those times?

  • The only thing required break is 10 minutes to sit and relax in a 4-hour work period. There's no need to replace the employee during the rest break -- the employee doesn't even leave the premises. It's just a chance to take a breather, make a personal phone call, etc. Every worker should have this right. It's no burden on the employer. The nanny can easily take this break when the child is napping.

Does this mean date night is doomed?

  • Babysitters under the age of 18 are already excluded from this law and the Domestic Worker Coalition will be offering an amendment in January to exclude casual babysitters over the age of 18 from the bill. This bill is intended to address the right to dignified working conditions for those women who work part to full-time as nannies and childcare providers caring for that which we all cherish most – our children.

How is this law helping domestic workers the most? 

  • In Behind Closed Doors, a survey conducted by the Bay Area Domestic Worker Coalition in 2007, we found that one in 10 workers earned less than the minimum wage, 23 percent earn below the poverty line, and 3 percent were never paid at all.  Furthermore, 22 percent of domestic workers surveyed were paid less than what was agreed upon, and 16 percent were not paid at all or were paid with bad checks.  

Andrea also mentions:

Domestic workers have been systematically excluded from basic labor protections many of us take for granted.  Domestic workers and farm workers were left out of the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930’s to appease Southern segregationists. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that African American domestic workers fought for and won inclusion in minimum wage protections. But since then, not much has changed.     

Not only is including domestic workers in labor laws the right thing to do, but many employers have stood up in support of AB889, a bill that provides clear, uniform standards on how to be a responsible employer. Caring for our children and our homes is such important work. It is time for these workers to get the recognition and respect they deserve. 

This legislation would include domestic workers in overtime protections, ensure they are covered by workers compensation if they get hurt on the job (already in your homeowners or rental insurance), and give them the right to on duty meal and rest breaks, i.e. the right to sit down for ten minutes, or have lunch while the kids are napping. No, this bill does NOT require you to hire someone else so that your nanny can leave for lunch, but you would be amazed at how many employers give their nannies endless lists of chores to do for every minute the children are sleeping or watching TV. The bill also ensures the right for live-in workers to use the kitchen and get 8 hours sleep (except for emergencies) in adequate living conditions. If you’re a good employer you are probably already providing these things. 

For the record, paid sick days, vacation days, and an annual raise are no longer part of the bill. I still plan on providing them to my nanny, because I wouldn’t want a job without those things. Would you?

I am proud to be a part of this historic campaign for a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights to honor my grandmother who did this work, in recognition of the women who helped raise me and my siblings, and out of respect for the women who will care for my daughters. 

If you are an employer of a domestic worker find out more at www.domesticemployers.org

Does this change your mind on the 'babysitting bill'? What, if anything, still concerns you?

Image via emrank/Flickr


Read More >