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Nanny being bullied by employers - what to do?

(16 Posts)
Novstar Mon 20-Dec-10 14:25:12

Just wondered if anyone had any good advice on this situation. 3 months into her job, my lovely ex-nanny is being bullied at work by her MB. Nanny has resigned but has 3 weeks left to go, but is scared to go into work for fear of firstly being shouted at, and secondly being framed for harming the children.

Last time they met in a cafe to discuss things at the MB's request, but ended up with MB shouting at my ex-nanny: "I'll make sure you will never work again as a nanny". Nanny was very scared, but I don't think employer can actually do anything other than to give a bad reference if asked - ex nanny is Ofsted reg but I don't think Ofsted would be interested in a complaint that has nothing to do with the care of children, but would be interested in hearing other people's views.

Of course the woman could always invent a story about poor care, or even try and frame her, which is what nanny's now worried about. Tomorrow when she goes to work, nanny has lined up her husband and friend to stay outside the house for 30 min after she arrives. I've told her to take a secret tape recorder with her and to write down all the incidents.

But I'm now thinking she shouldn't go to work at all if she is so scared. She might not get paid the money she is owed, but at least she would be able to sleep. What would you do? I've told her to contact Acas but she isn't getting through.

jendot Mon 20-Dec-10 15:38:49

Sounds awful and no really helpful advice for you Im afraid.

But as a young nanny I had something similar happen. When I told my employers I was pregnant they were furious with me...(they didn't want a pregnant nanny and didn't want to pay my maternity leave, they had paid a £1000 agency fee for me the year before etc etc) they bullied me into leaving by ranting and raving and saying if I didn't leave now and not come back they would say I had harmed their children.... I was live in too and had been their sole charge nanny for over a year with no other issues!!! Twas bizarre
So I did leave..with no notice, no money, no reference and no home.

4 weeks later I had a solicitors letter from them saying that they were going to sue me for breach of contract as I left without working notice and were claiming compensation for loss of earnings etc Luckily I had a previous employer who was an employment lawyer and a few letters from him and they dropped the case.

Just a work of warning that if she doesn't work her notice it could cause problems for her.

People can be horrible sometimes.

mranchovy Mon 20-Dec-10 15:48:39

What would I do in the circumstances you describe? Speaking personally (and this is not, and is no substitute for, professional advice), immediately after the incident in the cafe I would have written a letter to the MB saying that her behaviour in the cafe fell so far short of that expected from an employer that I consider it a fundamental breach of my contract of employment which I therefore consider to be terminated immediately. In addition, her bullying behaviour during the previous weeks caused me to hand in my notice which I have now been advised amounts to a constructive and unfair dismissal by her.

Accordingly, I wish to receive my outstanding pay for the period of [day after last pay period] to today and pay in lieu of the outstanding period of notice from today until [end of notice period]. I also wish to appeal against my unfair dismissal; please arrange for this appeal to be heard and forward me the details.

But as I didn't do this straight away it may be difficult to point to this incident as making it impossible for me to continue to work my notice - how many days have been worked since?

Anyway, having made up my mind (acting reasonably) why I have to leave straight away then I would put the reasons in the letter - but they have to amount to what any reasonable person in my situation would consider a "fundamental breach". When I turn up for work I would say "I'd like you to read this letter now please", and hand her the letter. I would probably do this without going in to her house, and if she told me to come in I would say "I'd rather not, please read the letter which will explain why'.

I'd probably have my DH (well, DW in my case) standing at the end of the drive. If after reading the letter she says she wants to talk about it say yes, but I would like my DH to come with me.

If this happened, my DH must not join in the discussion. His only role is to be there so that I can turn to him and say "I do not feel that I am being treated fairly/I feel that I am being bullied/whatever and I would like to leave now.", and then he can make sure that I leave without further discussion.

Then I'd go and get some professional advice straight away (because none of the matters in the letter are clear cut, but they should alert the MB to the fact that I know that I have rights and intend to defend them) - if I couldn't get through to ACAS or a CAB, I'd find a lawyer that operates the free half hour consultation scheme.

I would definately not take a tape recorder, this suggests that you are trying to trap someone or catch them out, and that their behaviour is not totally unacceptable because you are prepared to accept it as long as you have a tape recorder in your pocket. Might be useful if you were looking to build up a case of persistent low-level bullying over time, but we don't have time for that here.

GoldFrakkincenseAndMyrrh Mon 20-Dec-10 16:04:02

I agree with mra.

Also, does she have nanny insurance? And does that include legal cover. Morton Michel, who most nannies choose, have a legal advice line. If she has insurance she should contact them ASAP.

Re: the bad reference she needs to note down any comments her MB makes about it and any conversations they have about her performance, satisfactory or otherwise. A negative reference can be given but only if there are clear reasons which have previously been discussed and the nanny given a chance to improve.

cinnamondanish Mon 20-Dec-10 17:56:14

That's just bloody awful. I can't stand it when bosses behave this way when they don't get their own way or feel they can treat their employees this way.
As you are her previous boss any future bosses would contact you for a reference and if she chooses to not put this awful person down as a reference you would be able to give her a glowing reference to anyone who asks.
As a nanny we rely on good references so I know how daunting it can be to worry about being bad mouthed and framed for things she hasn't done.
I worked for a real bitch of a woman (excuse my language) last year and put up with a lot of her crap, mood swings and general nastiness until I left. When I left she gave me a written reference but then bad mouthed me to every future boss who phoned for a reference. Luckily the mother of the family I'm with now contacted some of my previous bosses through my references and as they all had glowing things to say about me disregarded any comments made by this woman and just put it down to her being childish and feeling slighted in some way.
I also had to worry about her not paying me what was owed after I left so had to keep my mouth shut until all the money had gone through and tax side of things were sorted out. I wish I'd got on camera or on tape some of the things she said to me. I kept some of the emails she sent so I could show my current boss if needed. I had to hang on until my notice period was over because I'm by myself and needed the money but if your ex nanny is in the position to do so then I would tell her to leave now with the upper hand if she goes into work and things turn nasty. I hope she has a contract with this family because if they tell her to leave on the spot then she can sue them for breach of contract. If she is willing to stay for the remainder 3 weeks and put up with hell then please advise her to try and put up with things and not to worry about any future bad comments from this boss as you are on her side and are down as a reference (presumably) and if this boss is going to turn nasty and try and claim your ex nanny has been abusing the children she is gonna have to have solid evidence to prove it. Once the 3 weeks is up she will be out of there and can put all this nastiness behind her and just feel pity for this horrible boss.
Also I'm with Michael Morton and their advice line is supposed to be fantastic at setting your mind at ease and advising you on where you stand and what you can do about it.

surrealreality Mon 20-Dec-10 19:03:55

I've had a boss like that.
The difficulty is parents believe whatever the ex mb tells them regardless or not of the facts. If a nanny says to a future employer that their ex mb may say x,y and z they are rarely believed but if an ex mb comes up with some complete bitter nonsense they are always believed. I can understand how scared the nanny is especially if she has done nothing wrong. It's word against word and nannies can be something of a modern day folk devil.
The thing is with bullying employers is it works because nannying is such an isolating job and it's easy to lack perspective and go down the route of believing that you really are a terrible nanny and that's why mb is like she is. She's lucky to have you looking out for her.
Morton Michael are supposed to be pretty good on the legal side of things.

CarGirl Mon 20-Dec-10 19:07:23

If she is that frightened would it be worth going to the dr and getting signed off sick?

lobsters Mon 20-Dec-10 19:18:30

It's definitely worth ringing a legal advice line, either through nanny insurance or home insurance if she has that.

The being signed off sick thing might well be a viable option, when it comes to future references, it is worth the nanny or future employment agencies being upfront with future employment about these options. I know when I was interviewing one nanny raised that she had left her most recent employer due to certain issues (that left me gobsmacked), so long as there are other good references available it should be fine

Summersoon Mon 20-Dec-10 20:36:57

I would second what Lobsters said: from an employer's point of view, one bad reference is acceptable, but it could be a problem if yours (*Novstar*)'s is the only other good reference. It will come down to luck as well: I have taken up references for nannies, where I thought that the nanny in question had worked for a distinctly strange bunch of people and what they said about her reflected more on them than on her IYSWIM but I am a very careful and experienced interviewer and not everybody might read between lines the way I do.

mranchovy Mon 20-Dec-10 20:43:03

Going off sick is a very bad idea.

1. It won't make the current employer give her a better reference

2. The current employer probably won't have to pay her (except meagre SSP)

3. It would be false - she isn't sick

4. As it stands, she can explain the circumstances of her leaving her last employer and can retain the moral high ground. If she says she went off sick for the last 3 weeks of her notice what is a new employer going to think about that?

surreal what evidence do you have that potential employers believe everything a previous employer tells them? Even if this were true, if one reference is good and one is bad, how do you know which to believe?

Speaking as an employer both of nannies and in the 'real world', bad references from bad employers are all too common, you soon learn how to spot them and make your own judgement, the OP's ex nanny has no need to worry about that.

CarGirl Mon 20-Dec-10 20:59:52

I meant go off sick if she truly can't face going in. I say that as someone who once at a bully of a boss that drove me to the brink of a complete nervous breakdown. It's something that you never get completely over.

Novstar Tue 21-Dec-10 09:59:34

Thank you all for your comments and advice.

Eventually nanny spoke to Acas who thought that a letter similar to what mrA suggested above would be a good idea. It's been 4 days since the cafe incident and I think nanny should have done something earlier, but she isn't very good at dealing with these issues (else she would have left 3 months ago when the bullying started).

Anyway I helped her write it and nanny delivered it last night in person with two of her friends. She was a real mess by then, alternately terrified by the idea of handing the woman the letter, and the idea of going to work tomorrow instead. Apparently the woman said "well that's exactly what I was going to ask tomorrow morning anyway". Nanny was in tears with relief when she called me.

I think the woman will probably withhold pay for the days already worked (£800 or so), but that's a bridge to cross another day. She isn't paying tax on nanny's income so I have encouraged nanny to report her anonymously, but she is reluctant to have anything to do with her.

We did think about calling in sick, as nanny is taking sleeping pills to help her sleep, but she said she was fully capable of looking after the children as long as she was not harrassed or bullied by the MB, so we decided against it.

Nanny has super references from the 10 years that she's worked locally, as well as a bunch of supportive ex-MBs who still keep in touch with her, so she's not too worried about being slagged off.

The woman's said to nanny that "next time I'll get a young British nanny who will do what I say". The job's been advertised in Gumtree, so, if you're young and British, be warned!

GoldFrakkincenseAndMyrrh Tue 21-Dec-10 13:40:02

Ugh what a poisonous woman.

I think she's sorely mistaken in her assumption that a young, British nanny will be nice and pliable... I think most now are very clued up and stick up for themselves.

Does nanny have a contract? Or any paperwork proving she was employed? I'd be very inclined to chase this to teach that woman a lesson. It's just not on to treat people that way.

surrealreality Tue 21-Dec-10 18:48:53

In my experience Mr A I was speaking. I have a portfolio full of glowing refs but there are a gtreat many who seize on the one slightly less so and disregard me on grounds that are untrue. I always ask for a reason and was quite shocked when it was given but there's nothing I can do about that. I usually insist on a trial period anyway for both sides so if my employers are unhappy with me for some reason for vice versa we both have the get out clause.
You clearly read between the lines more than most. Many don't.

Numberfour Tue 21-Dec-10 18:56:00

Poor woman! Good thing that you are there to help her, OP.

mranchovy Tue 21-Dec-10 19:23:29

surrealreality that is both interesting and disappointing - I stand corrected on my overoptimistic view of the world. Of course a potential employer that is naive enough to take that view may turn out to have other shortcomings too - they may even have been looking for someone that they could manipulate and dominate without resistance and realised that they couldn't get away with it with you so you may have been better off not getting the job anyway (or am I now overcompensating with pessimism?)

As to the PAYE evasion, you can report this type of fraud online, or by calling the Tax Evasion Hotline on 0800 788 887, open Monday to Friday from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 8.00 am to 4.00 pm. This is a confidential service and you don't have to give your name.

And keep talking to ACAS, I am sure that they will support the nanny in getting from this employer what she is due.

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