Gumtree or agency – which is best for finding a nanny?

When it costs little more than £30 to advertise for a nanny on Gumtree, why would you bother spending thousands of pounds for an agency to find one for you?

One agency we know of charges a non negotiable placement fee of £3,000 when you hire a full time nanny through them – and the CVs they sent us were of nannies who were also responding to our adverts on Gumtree.

Sarah-Jane Butler of Parental Choice

According to Sarah-Jane Butler, founder of Parental Choice (www.parentalchoice.co.uk), an advice and childcare search service for professionals looking for the right childcare to fit their careers, if you have time to sift through 100s of CVs (you will receive LOADS of applications if you’re using a website such as Gumtree of Childcare.co.uk), check references, make sure DBS checks are up to date, as well as First Aid qualifications etc, you won’t want to pay an agency.

The problem is, however, that most of us don’t have enough time on our hands!

This, she says, is where an agency comes in.

Sarah-Jane recommends all parents use one – unless you are lucky enough to hear of an amazing nanny through word of mouth.

Still not fully convinced, we asked her some questions:

Given the agency hasn’t actually seen the nanny at work, how are they any more reliable?

It is true that agencies haven’t seen them at work but then neither has the parent. This is the same in any employment scenario whether you are a nanny, a lawyer, a designer or a builder. Good agencies, or at least Parental Choice, will only look at nannies who have had five years’ childcare experience either as a nanny or within a nursery and  have the relevant childcare qualifications (level 3 or above).

We look for longevity in a job which is always a good sign and we specifically check with referees verbally the reliability and skills of each nanny. There is clearly only so much that one can do to place anyone in a job. The key is to know what to look for and how to properly assess any candidates that apply for a position. We would not place anyone with a family that we would not be happy looking after our own children.  There is no point just throwing mud at something hoping it will stick; it’s got to be right.

But if you check all the references of a Gumtree nanny, what can go wrong?

It is important to follow up any written references verbally because sometimes nannies will falsify  / amend the information on the written references and only by checking verbally with the referee will the truth come out. Also many written references will gloss over any issues that will come out when you speak directly to the referee. An agency will make all the calls on your behalf and introduce you to nannies they think will be most suitable to your situation.

The relationship with a nanny is a personal one that is very different to any other employment relationship and very often it can often be a personality clash that means things go wrong. Each parent has their own way of bringing up their children and it is often very difficult for mothers to “let go” when they go back to work. This can cause tensions which means the employment relationship can be strained if not managed properly – which is where an agency can help.

How can agencies justify the fees they charge?

Agency fees vary across the country. London agencies do charge thousands and thousands without seemingly any justification. Agencies outside London will charge on average between £500 and £2000 per placement depending on how many hours the parent needs the nanny to work. The more hours and the more experienced the nanny is required to be the more expensive the placement fee will be. Effectively a parent is paying for someone else’s time to do all the searching and checking that is required. It might gall parents to be paying an agency fee but they are doing a job and they have very strict vetting procedures and they will ensure that you are only looking at valid candidates that are suitable for the job.

If you want some quality control then you will have to pay.

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