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Nanny left 3yo unattended, what do I do?

(59 Posts)
Catilla Thu 29-Jul-10 20:45:34

I don't often post on MN but have been lurking for several years. Unfortunately this is the first time I've felt the need to call on the collective wisdom that is Mumsnet.

My nanny has been with us for almost 6 months, and is our second nanny. She cares for DS (6) and DD (3) four days a week. She is lovely with the children and generally strikes a nice balance of interaction and discipline.

Today while out enjoying the summer holidays, an incident occurred: for some reason she left DD playing on playground apparatus while she took DS to get a drink at another part of the playground. For some reason DD decided that because she couldn't see nanny & DS, they must have left, so she walked out of the playground into the (big) park. Luckily she was "found" by a friendly other (stranger) mum who recognised her from earlier. After scouring the playground, nanny & DS came out of the gate and found DD.

It sounds like she has been quite panicked by the whole incident and handled the conversation with DD reasonably well. BUT IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED.

She told me about it just about as soon as she saw me afterwards, and was quite honest. However she didn't apologise or really indicate that she understands the fault was entirely hers. So now we are trying to decide how to handle this.

It seems the options are (she has a contract):
- dismiss for gross misconduct: lack of supervision (is this really gross misconduct?)... and we need new childcare immediately
- dismiss with notice, which she either works or we pay in lieu
- start disciplinary process: verbal/written/dismissal
- just discuss with her
- ignore (not an option!)

Can I go straight to written warning due to seriousness, so that if anything like this happens again she is out?

By way of background, I do have a number of other, less serious concerns, but the biggest are
(i) she has left DD with other people temporarily while collecting DS - people I know but without my explicit permission
(ii) she has previously shown less-than-ideal judgement on safety issues eg. letting DD go too far ahead on her scooter
The others are mostly niggles about not remembering to do things the way I've asked her to, and not being as clean & tidy as I'd like.

Can you please help me decide how to approach this?
And if I allow her the chance to improve, how to make sure she doesn't just hide such incidents from me.


deemented Thu 29-Jul-10 20:52:46

I think if you can't trust her with your childrens safety then perhaps you need to let her go, otherwise you'll never really relax when you're not with them.

MoonUnitAlpha Thu 29-Jul-10 20:53:46

When she has left DD with others or let her go too far ahead in the past, how did you address it?

You say she left your DD unattended, but how far away did she go?

I only ask because what counts as adequate supervision does vary significantly from person to person - some might keep a three year old with eyesight all the time, others might be happy for them to play out of view in a playground. Is the nanny clear on your expectations?

SparkleandShine Thu 29-Jul-10 20:54:45

Phone ACAS and ask their advice. they were extremely helpful when we had employee problems.

onepieceoflollipop Thu 29-Jul-10 20:57:52

"letting dd go too far ahead on her scooter" would be ringing alarm bells for me. Presuming you mean when there are busy roads etc? This is more worrying to me than the scenario in your op.

I have no idea of the legal implications/disciplinary process, but I strongly feel that if you cannot trust her wrt to safety then you may seriously need to consider letting her go.

Blondeshavemorefun Thu 29-Jul-10 20:58:14

obv it goes without saying that she shouldnt have left the child alone, but how far was the drinks place from where dd was playing?

was it in the same enclosed area?

she should have taken dd with her or said im going over there, point and say stay here if area isnt that big

do you trust her judgement? you mention other issues as scooting too far and leaving with other people

yes she should run it by you first, if she can do this,my mb doesnt mind if i leave one with a friend while picking up from nursery etc but she trusts my judgement

in the nannys defense she did tell you about what happened at once - do you feel you can carry on

i feel that maybe a verbal warning is in order

MoonUnitAlpha Thu 29-Jul-10 21:02:23

I feel what would make a difference to how I dealt with it was whether the nanny would take your concerns on board and improve her supervision of the children. If she already knows that you don't want the children left with other people/scooting ahead/out of eyesight etc and she does it anyway then can you really trust her?

If she just has a more "laidback" style than you are happy with, but isn't clear that you want things done differently, then maybe a clear discussion/warning will be sufficient.

nbee84 Thu 29-Jul-10 21:18:00

I think that if you want to keep the nanny you need to have a meeting with her without the children around. Let her know what you feel she has done that is not acceptable and what/how you would like things done in the future. Give her a chance to have her say afterwards and you will be able to tell if she has taken on board everything that you have said. You should then issue a written warning and make sure in it that you outline what should/should not happen in future.

If you have decided that the issue is too serious then, in my books anyway, leaving a child unsupervised out of the home is gross misconduct and you can dismiss her for it. No notice and no notice to be paid.

Catilla Thu 29-Jul-10 22:29:33

Thankyou for such quick responses - and a variety of views!

To answer the questions posed:
I understand that she went back to the picnicking group to get a drink, outside the playground and certainly not within easy sight (DD said she couldn't see them and presumably no-one saw her leave).

She always seems very reasonable and appears to take things on board, but I can't lay out every possible scenario, she has to be able to translate across between them herself. I don't think she "does it anyway" on purpose, but that in itself may be showing that she doesn't think things through enough and perceive the danger.

Of course that is feeling not fact, so not sufficient grounds for dismissal - it has to lead to being incapable of doing the job properly or a breakdown in confidence/trust such that

There is other much more minor evidence of a rather slack attitude to detail/priorities - which I let pass for the sake of the relationship and to prioritise the important things - but there is any number of things which I have asked her to do or not to do, which she "forgets".

Any other views?

reallytired Thu 29-Jul-10 22:45:06

The question is whether you actually want this woman as your nanny? If you want to carry on employing her then you need to give her a formal warning.

As she has only been employed 6 months you do not have to worry about an employement tribunal. You cannot claim unfair dismissal if you have not been employed for at least two years. Its worth checking with a solitor though.

I think you have grounds for gross misconduct for her leaving your children unattended or with strange people. Certainly leaving a three year old unattended is illegal and you know nothing about these strange people. Have they been CRB checked?

Anything could have happened. Your daughter could have been killed.

babyblue4 Fri 30-Jul-10 05:02:17

I agree with Reallytired. Any number of things could have happened to your DD while the nanny was gone... kidnapping, child could have fallen and gotten seriously hurt, she could have wandered off out of the playground and perhaps run into the road... etc. Not nice things to think about, and thank goodness she was fine, but definitely things to consider.

In the end, your children are your most prized possessions and the centre of your life. If something happens to them, think of how you would feel. Is a nanny worth that? No one will be perfect, but for your own sake, try and get as close to perfect as you can. Woman's/mother's intuition is a strong guide... go with how you feel.

Good luck!

Strix Fri 30-Jul-10 09:39:34

I would have a fairly serious chat and possibly count that as a verbal warning. And I would far more interesteed in her reaction to the chat and how her behaviour changed following the chat than I would about the fact I needed to have the chat.

If she was very defensive and didn't see that it was a bit negligent to leave a 3 year old on her own, then that would worry me. If she was very aplogetic and explained she understood the error of her ways and would never do it again, I'd be quite happy with that (assuming she really didn't ever do it again).

I think her biggest flaw in all that happened was not thinking to communicate with the 3 year old that she would be out of sight for a bit but would be right back. If I thought it was safe to leave the three year old where she was I would say "DS and I are going for a drink. We will be back right over there and then come straight back. Do you want to come with us or stay here?"

mickytoo Fri 30-Jul-10 10:31:23

Agree with Strix, but only if you want to keep her at all. As long as she doesn't do this particular thing agian, would you be satisfied? or do the other incidents bother you too?

I ask because it's only if you're generally not feeling good about the situation that a single incident would bring on such thoughts. if you're thinking about it, be really honest with yourself - is it because you don't think it's working?

For instance, a few weeks ago while my nanny was in the kitchen filling water bottles, DD ran out of the front door of the house to go chase after DH who had left without saying goodbye. Nanny wasn't aware of this until 5 min later when she realised door was open. It's a serious breach of safety and it could have been a disaster but I didn't dream of sacking her, because I'm generally really happy with her. I was confident it was an isolated one off incident. It doesn't sound to me like you're that confident.

BTW, leaving DD with others without my authorisation is grounds for instant dismissal in my contract.

nearlytoolate Fri 30-Jul-10 10:39:37

Personally I think leaving a three year old in a playground out of your sight line is not acceptable. The fact that she then wandered off and it is just luck that she was retrieved by someone who recognised her confirms that, does it not?
I'm not saying that this could never happen to me as a parent - but I think when you're looking after other people's children professionally, you need to be more vigilant with safety to compensate for the fact that you don't have the same instincts when you are not a parent (and perhaps, if she doesn't have any children of her own, those instincts aren't well developed anyway).

looneytune Fri 30-Jul-10 11:01:08

Haven't read all the posts but I did see that you said she left the park to go OUT OF SIGHT and this IS enough to dismiss her imo.

I'm a childminder and look after 6 children every day, 4 of who are either 2 or 3 years old. Now it's the school holidays we have been out on several day trips (with picnics etc). and if ONE child needs the toilet, all SIX children come with me (even if I have a friend there as I can't risk leaving all these children with someone else). As a childminder I have to have ALL children in view or hearing distance at all times. I took them all the an outdoor paddling pool yesterday and forgot the towels so they come with me to get them then come back (unless friend can get of course). The only exception is I allow MY DS who is 7 to be out of sight (i.e. we fed the ducks and I let him stay in the adventure playground just behind me). This was my choice as HIS PARENT but I would never do this for a mindee. Surely a nanny is the same? Why couldn't she take them both to the picnic area?

Also, the scooter thing worries me. I'm very strict with safety as I'd never forgive myself if something happened. A 3 year old would only be allowed to walk just ahead of me (and that's once I felt they could trust me). I need to be very near them 'just in case'.

If you don't like this nanny, I'd get rid. BUT if you like her and want to keep her, I'd definitely have a meeting and start the verbal warning thing and make sure you're very comfortable with her reaction back when you talk to her.

Good luck

Strix Fri 30-Jul-10 11:12:27

On the previous occassions which you mention you are not happy about (i.e. too far ahead on the scooter, and leaving DD with other people) what was your course of action then? Did you have a serious chat, a verbal warning, a written one?

As an employer I think you will be in a tricky position to site these things now as reasons for dismissal if you did not address them at the time.

Regarding the leaving DD with people who you know but have not given explicit permission to look after DD, are these friends of your or hers? Would you be happy to leave DD with them if she was in your care?

ChunkyChick Fri 30-Jul-10 11:22:43

Without even reading any other post since your original there is in my opinion only one course of action: immediate dismissal for gross misconduct. I employ a nanny four days a week and would do this without hesitation.

DinahRod Fri 30-Jul-10 11:30:44

Looneytune makes a really good point. My CM has a strong sense of professionalism and is scrupulous about road safety, meeting points when she collects ds from school etc, and I wouldn't expect anything less from a nanny. CM is like this primarily for her own peace of mind and sanity, but she also knows it gives mindees security and she has a lot of parents watching her! Although as a parent I can be a bit more lax with my own children e.g. letting them go ahead as I know they stop at road junctions, even as a lax parent I wouldn't disappear out of sight of a 3 yr old at the playground.

mickytoo Fri 30-Jul-10 11:38:24

>As an employer I think you will be in a tricky position to site these things now as reasons for dismissal if you did not address them at the time.

True but you can still do an instant dismissal for gross misconduct for the specific playground incident. The problem with that route is that you should really have suspended her immediately if you believed it was gross misconduct.

I think you can still dismiss her with notice, without going through the disciplinary procedure, without fear of being sued later for unfair dismissal, as you're within a year of employing her. The advantage of instant dismissal over giving notice is that you don't have to pay out or get her to work out the notice period.

Strix Fri 30-Jul-10 12:47:03

I think I would need a better understanding of the setting before I categorised the incident as gross misconduct. She definitely exercised poor judgement. But, the nanny may well already be very shaken up about this. I doubt she'll do it again even if the employer doesn't say another word.

I think a nanny has a right to some level of guidance from her manager, just as any employee does. What would matter here is not so much that it happened nce, but if I thought it was likely to happen again.

reallytired Fri 30-Jul-10 12:53:15

I am pretty certain that you do not have to worry about unfair dismissal. Your employee has only been with you for six months. You only need to worry when she has had one years of service.

Stop fannying about. The park incident is grounds for dismissal for gross misconduct. She can't take you to tribunal and even if she did she wouldn't have a leg to stand on.;

Your children deserve better.

nappyaddict Fri 30-Jul-10 12:58:48

Could she see your DD from where she was?

mamatomany Fri 30-Jul-10 13:03:59

Get rid of her, alarm bells should be going off, i found out after she'd left mine left the children in car whilst she went to the bank, various other minor misdemeanors that finally came to head with my three year old being locked in the garden in the rain.
If they aren't 110% perfect they don't deserve to be trusted with your precious children.

grapeandlemon Fri 30-Jul-10 13:09:13

I would be giving her notice immediately

Laquitar Fri 30-Jul-10 14:04:54

I 'm afraid i wouldnt continue employing her.

I'm quite lax regarding other things and i usually try to see the nanny's point aswell. Have been nanny myself for 2 decades and i have defended nannies on this board.

My principle is that you have to prioritize and ask 'how much does it matter' and 'whats the worst scenario'. Example: Nanny left a messy kitchen=annoying but doesn't effect my child's wellbeing. Nanny listens to radio/chats on her phone/sticks a dvd/ate all the salmon etc i can live with this. In 20 years time it wont matter that my child watched dvd for an hour on 29 july 2010 because the nanny had a particular bad day.

But... child left alone, child got burnt in the sun, child ate rubbish food every day, child was called names... these are things that will matter for years to come. If it comes to health/safety/emotional wellbeing i would sack immediately.

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