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writing a reference for a nanny who has been a mixed blessing?

(12 Posts)
silvermum Tue 29-Jul-08 19:50:04

Can anyone help me with this dilemma? our nanny, who has been with us since January, is leaving at the end of next week. She'd like a reference. My problem is that we have had our ups and downs with her, and in truth i could not wholeheartedly recommend her to another mum. There are lots of wonderful things about her (hence we kept her on) but we have also had some significant problems, relating to poor time keeping, her not bothering with the bits of the job she doesn't like (eg processing baby's laundry; tidying up his toys etc) and her being quite manipulative. (demanding extra time off, each time as a 'one off', and making us feel so bad we cave in to it even though mega inconvenient.)
What do i do? I want to do the right thing by her; don't want to be mean spirited; but... I simply can't write a glowing reference..even though, as i say, there are lovely things about her.
I should stress that i know nobody is perfect and that there are always some ups and downs in any employee. i do my best to be a great boss but i'm sure she also sees flaws in me!
i want to be kind and nice, but i also want to be honest.

whooosh Tue 29-Jul-08 19:58:03

Wehave the same problem!
I have just written her refernece and purely focussed on what she does do well,areas in which she is not good,I have not mentioned.
I have at the end of the reference invited telephone calls to me for clarification.

I personally think that what isn't said in a reference is more important.....I hope other emplyers have the same view.

imananny Tue 29-Jul-08 19:58:27

Maybe just write a short one stating facts

ie xxx worked for us from xx to xx. She had sole charge of children and obviously enjoyed playing with them. We wish xxx good luck in the future in her search for a new nanny job

The fact you DONT write that she is punctual/tidies up, i think says a lot, and sure that future employers will pick up on this, and then when they ring you, you can mention that she was late etc

imananny Tue 29-Jul-08 19:59:12

ditto whoosh - crossed posts smile

Fadge Tue 29-Jul-08 19:59:41

I know that you have to be truthful in any reference and you cannot be deliberately libellous - but you can write it in such a way that you omit to comment on certain things thereby assuming the person reading said reference would think well they haven't commented on xyz, hmm wonder why?! they'll read between the lines.

Concentrate on the positives.

Turniphead1 Tue 29-Jul-08 20:01:49

Most people will follow up with a phone call and you can be more honest then.

whooosh Tue 29-Jul-08 20:02:46

We are lucky that our nanny does have many positives and we will miss her-it's jsut that she is pretty rubbish in certain areas....we accept it as part of her charm but is somewhat irksome and not sure others would be so accomodating.
Imananny-great mindswink

silvermum Tue 29-Jul-08 20:02:47

good ideas, thanks

squiffy Wed 30-Jul-08 12:30:00

Just from an HR-ish viewpoint....

Any reference is required by law to be fair to BOTH sides. You have a legal obligation to both parties and can be sued by either party for any inaccuracies. SO if you only point out the good bits and not the bad and the employer then finds out that all of their issues were known to you as well but not mentioned then they could theoretically sue you.

Childcare is one of the very few areas where you are required also to give a full reference. To simply state brief facts for any childcare role is not allowed (it is allowed for most other jobs) simply because people will tend to require a full reference before offering a job, so not providing one can be termed as essentially preventing someone from obtaining employemnt. So your nanny could theoretically sue you for not giving a full reference.

You must also be careful with verbal references. If you gave a brief positive written reference and then a long negative verbal one you will also be in very hot water (if the nanny finds out).

And to top it all, if you raise in a reference a grievance you had that you hadn't previously discussed with the employee then you are also in very hot water (if you have never mentioned her timekeeping to her face, you could be in trouble by mentioning it in a reference)

So. What to do?

1) Say you will happily write a reference for any specific job so that you can then tailor that referenece to whatever job is applied for, but that it is something that you are not happy to provide in a generic format. You can also state that it references are confidential so would be between you and future employer only (but it isn't actually: she can - I think - demand to see it if she thinks you are writing something unfair)
2) Say you are too busy at the moment to write one but will give verbal reference to any potential employer that calls you
3) Write an honest reference. And be fair and unemotional. State: Areas where we were pleased with X include.... (list them, and be succinct) then have the next section start with 'Areas of improvement which we discussed with X during her employment... (list them).
4) Sit the nanny down and tell her that you are willign to write her a reference but that TBH there are areas where she really let you down and they were A, B and C. Then state that you are legally obliged to be fair and that in the circumstances maybe she should reconsider if she does want a reference or not.
5) Discuss the details with a solicitor

To be fair to the nanny, are you sure she is aware of the issues you have with her? If not, then maybe you are at fault for not being scrupulously fair to her during her employment: you can't expect people to fix the things that annoy you if you haven't explicitly pointed these things out to them. If you have let everything 'ride' then you are possibly in a bit of a pickle now and should definately discuss with a solicitor, especially if you know there is a job that is dependant upon the reference.

If you 'forget' all the bad stuff that you never pointed out to her and write her a positive reference on her good points such that it looks like a full reference and any follow-up verbal reference must also be positive), then you are probably 'safest' from a legal perspective; so you will only have your conscience to deal with. And possibly an irate future employer who phones up in 6 months time asking if X did A, Ba nd C (you will have to lie and say No).

Moral of the story is that if you have niggles with your nanny you MUST raise them at the time. It is after all only fair that nannies are given opportunity to improve. If you DO raise them all, then a nanny should only expect to see them repeated in a reference if they have not been addressed by the time she leaves.

Google 'bad reference' and you will find (I think) whole websites devoted to references and the problems with writing them.

I will also see if I can find flowery to double-check what I have said here.

flowerybeanbag Wed 30-Jul-08 13:48:15

Squiffy's advice is excellent.

As a general guide references must not give a misleading overall impression, and must be based on facts that can be substantiated.

In other words, if it is very clear that you raised these issues with your nanny and ideally made notes of the conversations and she still didn't pull her socks up, it's fair to bear that in mind when giving the reference.

If you didn't raise issues or give her the opportunity to address your concerns, it's not fair to use them in a reference, and in any case she could challenge statements like that. The issue about insisting on time off, for example, she could quite rightly challenge that saying you could have said no, which you could, however bad you might have felt about it.

Normally I'd recommend a facts-based reference only where an employer doesn't feel able to give a glowing one, but, as Squiffy points out, that's really not an option here.

Think very carefully about the options Squiffy has mentioned. The impact of a poor or limited reference on a nanny as opposed to a 'normal' office worker could be huge and career-limiting. If you feel strongly enough to feel that's fair, and feel that the issues were that important and well-documented, then fine.

I would agree with Squiffy's option of 'forgetting' bad stuff not mentioned and give a positive reference on good points. It sounds as though this nanny isn't bad enough to have her career damaged, and just needs someone to take a firm hand. You shouldn't give a misleading overall impression to the potential employer as I've said, but in this situation it's very difficult and if you haven't addressed any issues firmly and officially, you must bear some responsibility.

She may well not have any of these performance concerns at a future employer. It sounds as though there is a little bit of her taking advantage of you and you perhaps being a weeny bit 'soft'? She obviously felt as though she could manipulate you, and with a new employer she may not feel that, or they may squish such an attitude sharpish, in which case those issues aren't actually as great as they feel to you at the moment.

woodstock3 Wed 30-Jul-08 20:51:48

as a nanny employer i'm not qualified to tell you the legal bit but i could tell you what as the potential future employer of your nanny (well, only if our current lovely one fell under a bus, but ykwim) i'd want.
if she was neglectful/shouted at your kidslazy/did something potentially harmful to your dcs i would not expect you to give a reference as you couldn't give her a good one and personlly, it'd be on my conscience forever more if i foisted her off on someone else.
if she was generally good with your dcs but there were irritations (she came in late, didnt tidy up after them etc) which seems to be the case i would give her a fair reference stating the positives you were happy with and then put something like 'timekeeping is not X's strong point and we feel she would need active management, but we liked the way she engaged in creative play (or whatever)'.
That is enough of a warning light for any half awake employer to ring you and find out more. But it will not prevent your nanny being hired by someone who is looking for different things than you were (eg someone who is really bothered about what the nanny is like with the kids but more easygoing about other stuff: or someone who will say at the interview 'look we like you but you have got to pull your socks up on timekeeping or it will lead to disciplinary action" and be quite firm)

Simply Thu 31-Jul-08 09:11:07

As someone who has had one ap and has another one due to arrive next month, I find threads like this brilliant, thanks all. I'll add it to my watch list. I'll also discuss problems with my next ap more effectively (I hope!) I hope there won't be problems, of course, or only very minor ones. smile

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