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Nannies in the UK feel “scared” and “saddened” by the government’s new guidelines calling for them to return to work, claiming not enough is being done to protect them and their families.
Since March, registered childminders and nannies have been unable to work, except for those providing care for vulnerable children or children of key workers, such as doctors or nurses.
But under the new guidelines, they have been able to return to work from Wednesday, with guidance telling them to keep two metres from people in the household for whom they are not providing care, as much as possible.
The move comes as the government hopes that reopening childcare providers will help more people get back to work as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
However many are refusing to go back into work this week, pointing out that “social distancing is nearly impossible with babies and children.“
Tricia Pritchard, Managing Director of BAPN - The Association for Professional Nannies, said she has received non-stop calls from nannies who are suffering from “a lot of confusion and stress”.
“The government’s guidance was very clear from the beginning: you shouldn’t be mixing households,” she told HuffPost UK.
“So there’s been a great deal of concern for nannies who are being forced into work when they aren’t safe.”
Although employers are required by law to carry out a risk assessment to ensure the health and safety of a workplace, they only need to do so if they have five or more employees.
Nannies have as a result faced the decision between choosing between going into work or putting their safety at risk.
“We often hear about nannies being paid cash in hand, with no work contract, working more than 50 hours a week at barely above minimum wage,” said Pritchard.
Even before Sunday’s announcement, many nannies had been reportedly denied furlough by their bosses and told to come into work or risk being dismissed.
“What the government is saying is that if you are working for a large company, then you have the right to be safely employed.
“But if you’re a nanny and you’re working for a couple of households, then you’re on your own.”
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Toni, 34, would take her two young children along as she worked her two nannying jobs.
She has been on furlough during lockdown, and she says she is “really anxious” about the new rules and will refuse to go to work for at least another three weeks.
“We don’t have any PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and yet we’ve got to go in and out of households,” she told HuffPost UK.
“If I get sick then who will my children have? As a parent, it’s not a gamble I am willing to take.
“If I don’t get furloughed again, I’m really scared. Do I choose between not having any money or do I risk my health?”
Although people are currently forbidden to mix households under current regulations, nannies are having to work in separate households where they have little to no control over who goes in and out.
“One nanny I spoke to this week works in a busy household where there are 12 people coming in and out,” said Pritchard.
Pauline, 50, from Cambridgeshire, has worked as a nanny for over 30 years and claims it is “frankly ridiculous” that nannies are expected to return to work with no provisions made for their safety.
“I am shocked and saddened by the government’s lack of clarity,” she told HuffPost UK. “I feel like we are being thrown under the bus.
“Nannies are in an unenviable position where unscrupulous employers have been making them work throughout lockdown, not out of necessity but convenience.
“Most of us are feeling resentful. Bosses should have the legal obligation to provide a risk assessment.”
She says she will only be going back to work once her employers have assured her that no one else will be entering the workplace and once a rota has been drawn up for using the shared spaces of the house.
“The lockdown has shone a light on how undervalued nannies are,” said Pritchard. “They really are at great risk.“
An Ipsos-MORI poll, conducted between May 8 and 11, found that 76% of Britons believe nannies from different households should not be allowed to provide childcare.