It is a sad day indeed when someone poaches your nanny.
Let me say right off the bat that I’ve been extremely lucky with all of the nannies I’ve hired over the years for Exhibits One and Two when they were mere tots. Each one better than the next with not a clunker in the bunch.
Others have not been so lucky. There is a friend of mine who has had the opposite experience… one nanny an even bigger horror story than the last.
In the olden days when dinosaurs ruled the world and it was relatively easy to hire a nanny, the government had (and still has, as far as I know) an ‘incentive program,’ of sorts. If a person outside Canada could find employment in Canada as a Foreign Domestic Worker (I think that’s what they were officially called) and maintain employment as a domestic for two years, then that person could apply for permanent residency status.  This was a good way for Canada to get the kinds of workers it needed and, in addition, increase its population. My father, like so many Italians, came to Canada after the war with a similar program that encouraged foreign labourers to work up in lumber camps in northern Ontario for a year or two, then become landed and bring over their wives. It was a pretty good deal in those days.
So, too, the foreign nanny program seems like a good set-up. So… what is going wrong?
You know that old cliché, “Good domestic help is so hard to find!”?
Apparently, the supply of good nannies is drying up.
According to a recent Toronto Star article, “Since 2010, fewer foreign live-in caregivers have been admitted to Canada, partly due to the declining applications by Canadian families who are now required to pay for all recruitment fees incurred and partly a result of Ottawa’s slower processing and tighter screening. The shortage of live-in caregivers has been exacerbated since mid-December when the federal government issued 14,000 open-work permits to nannies who met the employment hours to apply for permanent residency.”
The article continues, “The number of live-in caregivers arriving in Canada has plummeted by 40 per cent from its peak of 13,773 in 2007 to just 8,394 in 2010. Currently, average processing time to get an overseas nanny is 15 months, 17 months for the Philippines, the main source country.”
As a result, nanny poaching has become a rampant! Fewer foreign domestics coming into Canada (declining applications, tighter government processing), more experienced nannies leaving the job pool and more families desperate to find good, trusted nannies to care for their kids, especially in a situation where both parents have full-time jobs and do not want to put their children in day-care.
What was once an employers’ market has rapidly turned into a nanny’s market! No longer content to work for minimum wage, good nannies these days can pretty well call the shots, especially when parents are willing to tempt them away from their present employers with higher wages, better living conditions and other attractive incentives.
As mentioned above… and this fact cannot be overstated… so many good nannies have completed their two years employment, obtained open-work permits and have moved out of the ‘live-in nanny’ business and into the ‘I’m going to make a better life for me and my own family, thank you very much’ business!
Which leads me back to my opening statement. It is a sad day indeed when someone poaches your nanny.
But really, what did we expect? Did we seriously think these wonderful women become nannies for the sheer thrill of taking care of our little kids night and day for little pay? Did we honestly believe these girls wouldn’t leave us for more money and a better deal for themselves? Or, heaven forbid, to start their own lives and families the first chance they could get? The only reason they looked after our kids, cleaned our houses and cooked our food was the hope that after two whole years of this crap, they would be well on the road to becoming Canadian citizens! Oh, and just in case you still haven’t caught on… that’s why they came over as nannies in the first place!
The law of supply and demand is hitting parents were it hurts the most… in their children’s lives.
It’s a tough situation to be in, no doubt. But parents can make it easier on themselves and reduce the risk of having their nannies stolen from under their noses.
Here is some free advice from an old man who’s hired a few nannies in his day.
- Pay them well. Don’t scrimp when it comes to the women who are taking care of your children. Don’t give them only what you are absolutely required by law to pay. Give them the bare minimum and it is just a matter of time before someone realizes how much your nanny is really worth… and is more than willing to pay it!
- Treat them well. They aren’t your servants. They aren’t your slaves. They certainly aren’t your friends and family. Treat them as valued employees. As with monetary compensation, if you don’t treat them well… someone else will be happy to do so!
- Give them their own time and their own space. Having a live-in nanny doesn’t mean she is on call 24-7. She needs her own life, her own space and her own time. Make her work environment seem like a prison… and she will be happy to grab the first opportunity to escape.
- Do everything above-board. Pay all of her source deductions. Make sure she is in this country legally! Don’t give in to the ‘under the table’ urge. You will both be happy in the long run. Trust me.
- Be kind and generous. You, in turn, will be rewarded with their loyalty. Be nasty, stingy and mean… and you are basically asking them to find a new job.
Here is another truism I’ve learned when I was an employee…
‘You will often put up with being treated poorly if you are paid well… and you will often put up with being paid poorly if you are treated well… but there has to be at least one or else you quit!’
Good luck out there. I hope you are as fortunate as I was!
 A permanent resident is someone who has acquired permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not yet a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents have rights and privileges in Canada even though they remain citizens of their home country. In order to maintain permanent resident status, they must fulfill specified residency obligations. (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)