Since Misty and I have been attending child care conferences at the national, state and local levels for both center based and family child care over the past 10 years– we have discovered that, throughout this industry, many providers have a very fuzzy idea about what makes them an employer.
I have heard, “I’m not an employer, I only have 1 part-time helper.” Well, I have news for you….regardless of whether you have a helper, an assistant or a full staff – you ARE an employer. If you have someone in your program who you pay, supervise, and/or require certain activities from – you are an employer. Even if they are a family member! In the case of your own children, if they are older than the age of counting as one of the children in your care (typically 13 years old), they MAY be able to "volunteer" in your program as a helper, but tread carefully. This is a very fuzzy area.
As an industry, child care has been, and continues to be, targeted by federal and state wage and hour officials. Historically, our industry is horrible at understanding and/or following wage and hour requirements. Making yourself aware of the federal requirements, as well as your local requirements, is absolutely necessary for your business.
As an employer, you must follow minimum wage laws, exempt vs. nonexempt rules, proper calculating of overtime, establishing and following employment policies such as sick leave and vacation, having appropriate workers compensation insurance, displaying required labor posters in your facility, etc. Making a mistake in any of these areas can spell the end of your business.
You need to have policies in place regarding interviewing, evaluating, hiring, firing, employee documentation, labor law posters, etc. Don’t assume you are not an employer because you “just have a helper"; the IRS will see it differently.
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