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Is a retainer for a CM normal?

(19 Posts)
Elizabeth22 Wed 27-Feb-13 16:11:55

I found a childminder for when I start work in four months time but the terms and conditions are bothering me. I don't work to leave her in the lurch obviously but it seems expensive to me. I'm being asked to pay £75 a week until she starts. I wont get this money back. This is in addition to two weeks payment as a deposit that is returned to me. Then I'm locked in for six months. Finally, there is a six week settling in period to see if its the right fit as in the past she's had a child who she didn't get on with. Does this all sound like a typical contract? It would great to know as I have no experience of what's typically expected. Thanks.

Elizabeth22 Wed 27-Feb-13 16:12:59

(Want, not work in the first sentence!)

daisydoodoo Wed 27-Feb-13 16:18:14

It depends on how busy they are. If they have waiting lists they can dictate what they want basically.

Does she have a space currently? If so then I believe a retainer is common otherwise she could fill that space between now and when your child starts, potentially earning her more than £75.

6 weeks settling in period sounds good to me as long as it works both ways.

The only part that I question is the 6 months. Surely it should be that after the 6 week settling in period x amount of weeks notice should be given. What would happen if you lost your job before the 6 months was up? Would she then continue to ask for the money maybe even going for small claims court?

sheeplikessleep Wed 27-Feb-13 16:19:24

A retainer is normal so I hear, but I was never charged one from either of the two childminders I've used.
Locked in for 6 months sounds a bit odd. I've always had a 30 day notice period, on either side.

HappyJoyful Wed 27-Feb-13 16:19:59

Wow, we use a CM and it certainly wasn't in our contract to pay a retainer - and I think it's quite cheeky to expect you to pay that amount for 4 months. That's £1200. I assume she must have been let down in past, I know someone that paid a retainer for a nursery place, but surely this is at the CM whim / wish.
I'm not sure it's standard either to be locked into contract for 6 months either, I know our's is a month's notice. Only thing that seems reasonable is the settling in period. I think that is fair enough - I think the CM has to pay to get your contract drawn up and the assumption being she wouldn't do that till the 6 weeks up.
Personally, sounds very money grabbing / orientated to me. However, my CM is a diamond and would know she wouldn't get business if she imposed these sort of requirements.

FunnysInLaJardin Wed 27-Feb-13 16:22:05

I have never paid a retainer to any of my CM's and tbh it would really put me off. Plus I have only ever had 1 months notice on either side and never a deposit. Mind you I have always had lovely trusting CM's!

Elizabeth22 Wed 27-Feb-13 16:30:19

If I'm completely honest, it wasn't just the contract that concerned me. There were a few things that she said about toddlers being annoying and hard work - that I couldn't decide whether she was being honest with me (I accept there's truth in these statements) or it is an indication that she's only in it for the money and doesn't like kids very much! She didn't ask me any questions back which I found odd - just a long list of her wants.

mindingalongtime Wed 27-Feb-13 16:34:22

If a minder has a space available and the parent doesn't want to use it for some time, and the childminder is keeping it open for you, it is quite usual to pay a retainer fee which can be up to 50% fees, this is explained in the contract. If you choose not to pay the retainer fee, the childminder can fill the place with anyone else who wants it, she has no obligation to you.

The only time a retainer is not taken is before a child is born, I have had a family offer to pay a retainer for 6 months as they really wanted the place and could afford to pay.

A deposit ( normally a months fees) may be taken if a place is coming up, but not available at the time, but if it comes up before the agreed date, a retainer may be asked for at the childminder's discretion.

The NCMA contracts states 4 weeks settling in where notice may be given either side to terminate without any penalty, after that period, the contract details come into force.

The NCMA contracts run to 3 pages and have 30+ notes on the back, you must read it carefully as you sign to say that you have read and understood the terms, and have received a copy.

It is usual to give one months notice to terminate the contract, for teachers I ask for half a term and siblings 3 months.

FunnysInLaJardin Wed 27-Feb-13 16:41:47

I would be a bit hmm if my CM had said that. It is honest but really when she is interviewing for a job why would she effectively say that she didn't like her work. Fine to have that convo months down the line once you have established a relationship but not first off. I would look for someone else tbh. I have always immediately liked the CM's we chose and have spoken to some who put me off straightaway

ZuleikaD Wed 27-Feb-13 17:13:37

A retainer is normal if a CM is being expected to hold a place open that she could otherwise fill - if I was being asked to hold a place for four months I would certainly ask for a retainer of 50% of fees.

The deposit will presumably come off either the first or last month's fees - again that's normal.

Six weeks settling in period (presumably able to terminate without notice on either side) sounds ok, if a bit lengthy.

Being locked in for six months (essentially six months notice) is very unusual IMO and I'm not sure it would even be legal.

TBH you don't sound that enamoured of her - personalities have to fit and if I were you I'd keep looking if you're not comfortable.

Tanith Wed 27-Feb-13 19:00:35

For some time, I have waived the retainer only to find myself badly stung by prospective parents who have either changed their minds altogether and gone with another childminder or nursery at the last minute, or have drastically reduced their days. In the worst case, I had kept a 3 day 10 hour place for 8 months for siblings, only to be told a month before they started that she only needed a day for one child after all. It was an existing parent, to make matters worse, and I'd stupidly trusted her not to shaft us - she nearly put us out of business.

It's happened to us 4 times in the last few years and that's why, regrettably, I am forced to reintroduce retainers. I can't afford to trust parents not to let us down.

So not at all cheeky to charge a retainer if you want her to reserve the place for you and turn away other business.

The settling in period of 6 months is unusual: I can tell in the first few weeks if it's not working out. I would expect that any settling in period would allow either party to give notice with immediate effect, incurring no financial penalties.

Elizabeth22 Wed 27-Feb-13 21:35:28

Thanks all. I think it's personality and fit that I'm more worried about to be honest the more I think about it. If she was wonderful maybe a retainer wouldn't feel so bad. But she didn't strike me as a nurturing type person and the comments she said supported that gut feeling. She was talking about her daughter in front of her with these comments so i wondered how she would be with children who not her own. I also thought she could have asked at least one question back to show interest. But maybe I'm expecting too much. She's the first I've managed to find with vacancies but I guess I need to keep looking if I'm not happy.

From what everyone has said, I not sure if I've got the six month thing right - it does seem excessive - i will need to have re-read. But either way, I guess it doesn't matter if I've mentally already ruled her out.

Thanks for all your replies - really helpful to clarify things in my mind.

Fightlikeagirl Wed 27-Feb-13 22:12:12

I would charge a retainer to keep a space open for more than a month, I would also charge a months deposit and have a 4 week settling in period. BUT, I wouldn't say that toddlers are "annoying"! Or hard work. Looking after children is hard work but children aren't!! If you got the impression that she doesn't like her job very much then maybe that's true.
The six month thing is also not normal ime, most cm's I know have a notice requirement of 4 weeks by either party ( after the settling in period)

Tanith Wed 27-Feb-13 23:34:10

Personality and fit is something else entirely. I would trust your instinct. You have got to feel happy with the choice you have made or you'll be worrying the whole time you're at work. I think you're right to keep looking.

mymeatballishorse Wed 27-Feb-13 23:40:06

I guess youve found out why she has vacancies

I'd keep looking

RattyRoland Thu 28-Feb-13 14:37:34

She doesn't sound great tbh. I had to visit several cms before I found a brilliant one. Mine charged no retainer but did charge a £100 deposit, London too. Six months is a long time to be locked in! But her negative comments would put me off using her, find someone who likes children I'd say smile good luck!

Elizabeth22 Thu 28-Feb-13 21:27:11

Thanks everyone! I'll keep looking...

SouthernPolish Fri 01-Mar-13 22:54:08

It's very hard to comment without all facts & contract to hand... But;

I use the standard NCMA contract with a few hand written amendments, namely: settling in period of 3 weeks (following three settling in sessions) which works both ways (a days notice on either dide futing hhe first 3 weeks), beyond the settling in period I require 4 weeks notice, I don't take a deposit (I prefer to trust parents as this is a two-way process!), I invoice a month in arrears but request payment within 5 working days (otherwise I don't get paid for 2 months!). So far, I have not charged a retainer because I've always been asked to start working as soon as possible, so irrelevant.

I suppose if someone wanted me to 'hold' a vacancy for them until their child is ready to start, then I might have to think about it. But, personally, I'm a bit daft at asking for money when I haven't actually worked for it.

Childminders have all sorts of contracts, many use the NCMA ones because they go hand in hand with their insurance policy. Some CMs make up their own entirely.

You also need to look carefully at holidays, bank holidays, sickness etc

I'd be inclined to see a few more though :-)

SouthernPolish Fri 01-Mar-13 22:55:32

oops: a days notice on either side during the first 3 weeks

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