Hiring childcare is something that every parent needs to take very seriously before they sign on the dotted line. This is somebody you’re entrusting your children to, and although I feel that mother instinct is key when interviewing, you really should take it a step further and do some important checks. We called on Parental Choice’s Sarah-Jane Butler to help us along the way.


Our children’s safety is paramount. We strap them into car seats to prevent accidents, put stair gates up to stop them falling and teach them about stranger danger. And still many people will leave their children in childcare that they haven’t checked.

For nurseries and childminders, reading the Ofsted reports is important as well as talking to other parents who have children with the same childcare provider. For au-pairs and nannies, it is essential that you find out as much as possible about them before they start looking after your children.

If you have used an agency to find a nanny, that agency should have done all of the necessary checks for you. If you choose to hire a nanny independently you can either do the checks yourself or use a nanny reference checking service provided by a nanny agency instead (as an aside Parental choice can provide such a service). Below is a list of the things we recommend you check before making a firm job offer to a nanny. Many of these items can be checked at your first meeting. Simply ask the nanny (or the agency) to ensure the relevant documents are brought to the interview. Do not hire anyone you do not trust or that you believe to be dishonest. Even if all the information checks out, listen to your gut feeling and don’t hire anyone you aren’t comfortable with

  1. OFSTED registration

Not all nannies are Ofsted registered. It is not compulsory. If they are registered, you can benefit from childcare vouchers but in addition you can be assured that his/her has public liability insurance in place, an up to date DBS check and relatively recent childcare skills as Ofsted registration has to be updated annually.

  1. DBS Checks

It is important that anyone who is going to be left in sole-charge of your children has an Enhanced Disclosure check completed. Employers are legally bound to run an Enhanced Disclosure on their nanny to ensure that they have no previous convictions and are entirely suitable to work unsupervised with children. However only organisations registered with the DBS can submit applications for criminal records checks such as nanny agencies.

Enhanced DBS checks for nannies specifically check against the ISA Children’s Barred List for information which suggests a person should not work with children. DBS checks are out of date as soon as they are done in that they give no information after the date they are issued. Whether or not a DBS check is sufficiently up to date is largely a judgment call. Many people consider anything over two years out of date and in need of renewal, although if someone has changed addresses or jobs frequently there is an argument for updating more often.

  1. Passport, identity and Visa checks

According to the Asylum and Immigration Act 2006 all UK employers have a legal duty to make basic document checks on each person they intend to employ. We would recommend that you ask for a minimum of two identity documents from nanny candidates prior to employment – these may include passport, driving licence, birth certificate, utility bills, work permits and visas. Proof of current address should also be obtained.

There is a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker if you do not carry out the necessary checks, which will be £15,000 from May 2014. There is a statutory excuse if you can demonstrate that necessary document checks were carried out so do keep a paper trail.

  1. Driving skills

If you would like your nanny to drive your children you should ensure you are happy with the nanny’s driving skills before you make a job offer. (Typically this would involve the mother being taken on a drive by the nanny on a route that will be normal for the job.)

  1. References and qualifications

One of the more time-consuming aspects of the employment process is checking your new nanny’s references. Irrespective of whether the nanny comes highly recommended from a personal friend or neighbour or is Ofsted registered, it is essential that you check her references thoroughly. You should obtain at least three references and check each one out personally. Ask those referees for specific details. How long was she employed? How did she perform? Why did she leave? Would they hire her again? Do they recommend you hire her? If you can’t reach the people listed or if they cannot provide you with enough information, then obtain more references from your potential nanny.

For qualifications you may wish to contact the issuing organisation unless you are familiar with the relevant certificates. The qualifications to look out for are:

– Diploma in Childcare & Education (formerly NNEB)
– BTEC in Child Studies/Nursery Nursing
– CACHE Certificate in Childcare & Education
– GNVQ Level 2 or above in Early Years Childcare & Education
– Advanced Diploma in Childcare & Education (equivalent to a Master’s Degree)
– Diploma from The Norland Nanny College
-The Princess Christian College
– The Chiltern Nursery Training College
– Montessori Teaching & Childcare Diploma

For more information on these qualifications, please visit Parental Choice or the equivalent from other countries that have a strong nanny culture such as Australia, New Zealand, The United States, Canada or France. These courses must cover the same subjects and training, and be of equal integrity and duration.

First aid qualifications should be up to date (within one year of employment) and if not, your nanny should be willing to go on a refresher course before employment starts.

It is vital that you check out your au-pair/ nanny’s background. It may be time-consuming but its better safe than sorry.

By Sarah-Jane Butler, Parental Choice

About The Author

Founder of Parental Choice

Sarah-Jane Butler is the founder of Parental Choice (www.parentalchoice.co.uk), a one stop advice and childcare search service for professionals looking for the right childcare to fit their careers. In 2014, she was recognised by Brummell Magazine as one of the City's Top Inspirational Entrepreneurs, whilst Parental Choice was short-listed for the SME Employer of the Year Award by WorkingMums. A graduate of Bristol University, where she studied French and German, Sarah-Jane did her legal training at the College of Law in Guildford and then London. She began her career in financial law as a trainee and then junior associate within Linklaters' Equity and Debt Market Department. In 2004 she became an associate at Freshfields, a role which included a secondment to the New York office and to the Real Estate Banking Group at Goldman Sachs. From 2007 until 2011 Sarah-Jane was a senior associate at Berwin Leighton Paisner. It was whilst she was on maternity leave with her first child that Sarah-Jane started researching into childcare. As she explains, it didn't take long to recognise she was facing an uphill task: “There were nanny agencies telling me about nannies, local authorities offering contact details for childminders and various websites giving information about different nurseries, but what I really wanted was a central resource.” Sarah-Jane went back to work but realised that the time may have come to consider a change in career. “One evening my father asked what ever happened to my idea for a one-stop childcare shop. I thought, why not? I had never dreamed of starting my own business but it was something that seemed fundamental to me and to all parents out there facing the same issues as me.” She began sowing the seeds for what would become Parental Choice while she was pregnant with her second child and still working. A friend helped her to create the website, whilst contacts who were childcare and education experts assisted with the copywriting. At the same time as undertaking a huge programme of research, Sarah-Jane started retraining as an employment lawyer. Parental Choice was formed in June 2011 and was launched three months later. The first client came on board in August 2011 and her first employee, a friend who also happened to be an HR expert, joined as a consultant in September 2012 as the business was getting busier and busier. Today Parental Choice has grown to the point where it now has eight employees, with three additional members of staff due to join by the end of the year. As the company began to take shape so Sarah-Jane realised that helping other parents avoid the stress and hassle she had encountered was only part of what could be achieved. Already a firm believer that many companies were losing valuable talent and experience through parents leaving work due to lack of childcare and difficulties combining a career and family, she began to see what a valuable resource Parental Choice could be to employers too. Aside from running the business, Sarah-Jane is also a Changemaker supporting Working Families and is a member of the Regulation Matters campaign working towards the regulation of domestic care in the home. She has been involved with Government consultations on childminder agencies as well as speaking publicly at Government policy briefings on topics such as “Bridging the Gender Equality Gap - The Future Role of Women” and the “Back to Work for Women” programme. She has attended several HR summits in her role as director of Parental Choice, including speaking at the Institute of Director's “Women in Business” conference in 2014. Sarah-Jane also presents at law firms, banks and corporates on family friendly benefits, childcare options and businesses' family rights and obligations at work including flexible working, talent retention and shared parental leave reforms. www.parentalchoice.co.uk Sarah-Jane Butler is available for interview or comment on any matters relating to childcare issues in the UK For further information, please contact: Ruthe or Amber @ Jori White Public Relations Ltd Email: ruthe@joriwhitepr.co.uk/amber@joriwhitepr.co.uk or Tel: 020 7734 7001

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