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Should I give a mediocre nanny the reference she deserves?

(48 Posts)
sfg Wed 27-Jul-05 21:35:58

A former nanny of mine left us to go on maternity leave. I know she's about to start looking for another job and I'm dreading giving her a reference. The written reference is fine, she did some things well, so I can talk about those and not mention the rest, but if somone phones and asks would I employ her again? the truthful answer is No Way.

What should I say to be fair to both the nanny and the prospective employer?

MrsGordonRamsay Wed 27-Jul-05 21:40:30

I would be most peed off, if you fudged the issue and I ended up with a medicore nanny.

Who knows how much planning and arranging has gone into gettting this far ???

We had someone ring the other day for a reference for a mediocre former employee, and we just said, "We decline to comment, and with respect you can make of that what you will.


They laughed out loud and said thank you for being so honest.

jamiesam Wed 27-Jul-05 21:41:18

Hmmm, I should think about how I'd face either of them after the event - ie if prospective employer bumps into you in street and says 'why didn't you tell me she does x', or if your ex-nanny comes to your house and says 'why did you say that'.

Might be better to think of a more diplomatic way of saying that her ways and yours didn't really gel. After all, if she's thinking of asking you for a reference, she must think you're going to give her a reasonably one, so you can't have thought that badly of her at the time??

sfg Wed 27-Jul-05 21:46:56

She asked me if I would give her a reference and I said yes. and I would like to keep my word.

She did walk out of a previous job and didn't get a reference as a result, (no surprise there but I only found out after I employed her) and then found it hard to get work, so I was put under quite a lot of pressure to say I would give one.

Fran1 Wed 27-Jul-05 21:50:54

Put yourself in position of the new employer.

You'd want to know the truth wouldn't you.

Especially when its about finding the right person to care for your children.

I think all employees of nanny's have a duty to give honest references as there is very little else taken into account when employing one. Not as if they are Ofsted inspected or the like.

Fran1 Wed 27-Jul-05 21:51:22

Sorry meant employers of nanny's!

nannyjo Wed 27-Jul-05 21:57:40

i feel sorry for you in your position cos like you say you want to keep your word, you also need to be honest to any other employers and you need to remember you can't give subjective comments.

With nannying it's hard because it's more of an informal chat between two mothers and easy to forget the formalities.

I've often wondered how the conversation would go.
If it is a written reference then only state the good points and leave the bad alone and let the future employer work out why.

I found ACAS really helpful with any legal/employ type issues.

Good luck.

chicagomum Wed 27-Jul-05 21:59:22

i may be wrong, but i was led to believe that you can't write a bad reference letter, so if that's the case you can only include her good points, which i guess would by their abscences show the areas where she was lacking.

jamiesam Wed 27-Jul-05 22:10:19

I don't understand. You didn't sack her? She left you as she was pg? So you can't have been that unhappy with her? (Never employed a nanny, or indeed anyone)

Miaou Wed 27-Jul-05 22:18:36

Jamiesam, someone can be mediocre at their job without them being bad enough to be sackable.

I would agree with the others here - mention her good points, don't gloss over anything you weren't happy with, but be prepared to answer questions honestly that you are asked. Get straight in your mind the factual details of what she did/didn't do that made you unhappy with her, rather than general statements - that way if she does come back to you you can point out that you only stated the facts, not offered opinions on her personality.

goldenoldie Wed 27-Jul-05 22:27:57

Please be honest and save the rest of us from finding out the hard way what you already know.

If you would rather not be explict - just say you can't comment - the message will get through loud and clear.

uwila Thu 28-Jul-05 00:31:40

I think that you should write down the positives and make the gaps a obvious. And if someone calls you to follow up the written reference, then you should tell them exactly what you wish someone had told you.

Ladymuck Thu 28-Jul-05 13:54:41

I've always called, even on glowing written references, and I would hope to get the truth from a former employer. You just get such a better feel of the person having spoken to a former employer.

You're also not doing the nanny may favours if you can't be explicit over the things she is medicore about. But it is horrific dealing with these issues with someone employed on your home, looking after your children.

WideWebWitch Thu 28-Jul-05 14:00:02

You could try damning her with faint praise? Sorry, no idea what I'd do. Be honest I hope.

wouldyou Thu 28-Jul-05 14:20:22

I really don't think the occupation makes a difference. I have checked on references before for people who appeared to have a sparse reference and was told "off the record" certain things about the potential employee which led to my decision not to employ. They didn't necessarily come out and say "don't take them on because x,y z" but just put things in a certain manner. Someone else employed them and they didn't last long in that position and I am not talking about a nanny position.

I think that you are safe enough having an "off the record" conversation without having to say too much and let the potential employer make up their own mind.

Or else you could still fringe on her good points and leave it that. Most people can read between the lines. I think.

Ameriscot2005 Thu 28-Jul-05 14:21:07

Write they key facts about the job - when she worked from you, hours, pay, basic duties - without saying how well she worked. Then give your phone number and say that you would be happy to answer any questions.

AfricoAngel Thu 28-Jul-05 15:30:17

Just tell the truth about your former nanny because you're warning them about someone who could potentially be looking after the most precious things in the employers lives and the parents will be eternally grateful to you for being truthful so they dont have to go through the same troubles that you had. I wouldn't even be subtle about it, just tell them that given the choice you wouldnt emply her again and give your reasons.

wouldyou Thu 28-Jul-05 15:40:16

How long was she with you SFG and were there sour grapes? Sorry for asking you don't have to answere if you don't want

MrsWobble Thu 28-Jul-05 16:05:28

I think you also need to work out why you think she was mediocre. In my experience the nanny/employer relationship is very different to a "normal" employee/boss one and much more emotionally charged. I know that I have had initially extreme views of something my nanny has done/not done - usually views that become more reasonable with the passage of time - but that if I had given a reference reflecting what I thought at the time it could almost certainly have been considered unfair - there are two sides to every story.

What I think you need to do, and what potential future employers should expect, is to be completely fair and factual - so if she was late every morning then her timekeeping is a potential problem but if you felt that she was less enthusiastic about a task than you would have liked then try and think about it from her point of view before deciding what exactly went wrong. It seems to me that it's usually a miscommunication which might not necesarily apply to other employment situations.

SoftFroggie Thu 28-Jul-05 18:06:14

Could you say something like "I think she'd be best placed in a position which didn't involve much cooking / organisation / childcare" (or whatever her main weakness was)?

chloeb2002 Thu 28-Jul-05 18:38:37

Jusat thought id add a quickie. I was wrongly given a bad (defamatory) refernece by an ex employer who was annoyed that i refused there offer of a job. I can assure you it is ileagal to give a bad reference even if it is true! you can decline a refernce which should set some alarm bells ringing or as previoulsly stated you can give facts. hours of work duration of work but not comment on personal isues. That same applies to phone conversations, so eevn a casual converarsion applies as a reference bad or otherwise. Just thought id mention that. it can get very messy. my new employers took my ex employers to court over it, so just beware!

lemonice Thu 28-Jul-05 18:38:38

This is a straightforward little giude which also covers some UK legal points Giving a Reference

mishmash Thu 28-Jul-05 19:08:05

Agree - don't think you can give a bad reference insofaras the mediocre job she may done for you -may not be mediocre to others. Nanny/Employer relations can be (can't think of word) "fractious", I think, but that shouldn't get in the way of giving a reference unless there is something that is so bad that it must be revealed like child abuse or the like.

Ameriscot2005 Thu 28-Jul-05 19:27:36

I think you are on safe legal ground if you tell the absolute truth, which I think is much easier to do on the phone - maybe having a crib sheet to make sure you deliver the salient points in a fair manner. The key thing is to focus on actions and not to be vindictive. When children are involved, I think it is reasonable to share more rather than less. Otherwise, the whole culture of giving references becomes futile and a waste of time.

CarolinaMoon Thu 28-Jul-05 19:59:47

Lemonice's link is fab. It does warn against "off the record" references though. Maybe it's better to just leave gaps where the negatives are? Generalising about her performance is risky anyway because it would be hard to back it up with unarguable facts if challenged later (unless it's e.g. that she was often late and you have records to show how late).

As that link points out, the nanny can get hold of the reference and any notes kept of "off the record" calls by using her rights under the Data Protection Act.

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