When most families hire a new nanny, one of their top concerns is the safety and privacy of their family. That’s why confidentiality agreements have become a common part of many nanny contracts. But despite being standard in the industry, confidentiality agreements are still overwhelming to many nannies, particularly if they’ve never signed one before and aren’t sure what terms are considered “normal.” Luckily, these agreements aren’t usually that complicated, as long as you understand a few basic things about them.
Confidentiality agreements, also sometimes referred to as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), are common legal contracts, but the terms of each agreement will depend on your individual employer. That said, there are some standard things that the majority of these agreements have in common. “Typically what an employer is wanting to achieve by having a confidentiality agreement is that whatever a nanny learns about their family while working for them is private and can’t be disclosed,” explains Lisa Pierson Weinberger, a California attorney who specializes in employment law. “That could mean that anything related to the children, anything related to their family or to their personal life, and anything that they [the nanny] may overhear or learn about the family’s professional work is all secret, essentially.”
The scope of each agreement will vary, but usually “confidential” means that you are not allowed to post about the children or family on social media, and you’re not allowed to disclose private details about the family’s personal or professional life to anyone. If your employer is someone high-profile or a celebrity, then the confidentiality agreement could also prohibit you from doing things like speaking to the media about the family or about your experiences working for them.
Many nannies wonder if confidentiality agreements extend to their family, friends, and spouses as well. The answer is, it’s complicated. Weinberger says most confidentiality agreements are intentionally broad, meaning they protect the employer in a wide variety of circumstances and don’t typically list “exceptions” to the rules, such as the nanny talking to a spouse. If your employer is not a well-known figure, it’s fairly unlikely that you’d find yourself in breach of contract just because you happened to share something privately with your significant other. But, say you worked for a public figure and disclosed details about your employer to your best friend. Obviously, you trust that person and would assume that they are not going to share that information. But, in the event that they did decide to share it—whether they accidentally let something slip on social media or did something more intentional, like leaking information to the media—you could ultimately be liable for that. “If you are the source of the breach, then you’re held responsible for any damages,” notes Weinberger.
Having a confidentiality agreement in place, particularly with a high-profile client, puts you in the position of needing to be very careful about what you choose to share, even among people you trust. But you shouldn’t worry about running into problems, so long as you clearly understand the terms of your agreement. “The most important thing for nannies to do is to read the agreement, and not just sign it. And then ask questions if they don’t understand—if there’s something they’re not sure about or anything that they need clarified—because it’s always better to understand the expectations from the get-go rather than accidentally breaching the agreement and then having a problem,” says Weinberger.
To make sense of your agreement, Weinberger says you need to look for three specific things: what is considered confidential, with whom you are not allowed to share information, and how long the agreement stands. Some agreements may only cover information about the children, or they might extend to the entire family. Similarly, a confidentiality agreement can cover only the time you spend working for the family, or it can extend years beyond the term of your employment. If you have any questions about specific wording or details, bring those to the employer before you sign.
There are also a few things your confidentiality agreement cannot prohibit you from talking about. According to Weinberger, your confidentiality agreement cannot bar you from sharing information about the terms of your employment, such as how much you were paid, safety information, or the types of benefits you received. And, starting in 2019, California employers also cannot require you to keep instances of sexual harassment confidential.
It’s not unusual to find the idea of signing a legal contract overwhelming, but the confidentiality agreement doesn’t have to be something that causes you stress. As long as the terms of the agreement are clear and you’re willing to communicate any questions or concerns you might have, getting the contract signed and out of the way should be a very quick, small step in the larger process of getting started with your new job.