Nanny Background Checks, References and Police Record Checks

March 10, 2010

Recently, we got an email from a nanny asking if it is appropriate for nannies to ask for references and a police record check of the parents that are interviewing them.

Martha Scully, owner of and Joni Gilmour, recruitment manager at were discussing this and found they couldn't agree; Martha being an employer and Joni being an employee. Read the discussion they had and weigh in on your thoughts!

Martha : As a nanny, you are the employee of the parent. It is appropriate, and generally regarded as required, for the parent to ask for references and a police record check / nanny background check , because the nanny is dealing with their children and working in their home. It is common practice for parents, church groups, child care centres, girl guides, coaches, etc to ask for this information.

Joni : Yes, it is obvious why parents should ask the potential nanny for this. However, the nanny is working in the home of the parent, and could be putting themselves at risk. There are a lot of great nannies out there that will come out clean in these nanny background checks, and some that won’t, which is why you really should ask for this. However, among all the wonderful families there can also be parents out there that aren't great and the nanny could be putting themselves at risk if they don’t look out for themselves.

Martha : From an interview, it is impossible to determine if a child will be “safe” under the care of this individual. The best way to determine the abilities of the nanny is to do screening from the beginning, to ensure the person you are hiring is the right person.

Joni : Similarly, it is impossible to tell if there are any ‘skeletons in the closet’ of the parents. It’s hard to tell if the nanny will be safe in the family’s home. What if there is a history of abuse – verbally, emotionally, physically – towards nannies working in the home? What if the parent has an aggressive nature that’s only revealed in times of high stress, or perhaps when accelerated by certain activities? If a nanny is living in the home, this could be a potential risk for them, as they reside with the family all the time.

Martha : As an employer, I would reconsider the decision to hire the nanny, or employee, if they asked me for a reference and police record check.

Joni : Doesn't this show that the nanny has some sense to look out for dangers, and that they will then look out for the child with just as much caution? The parent’s are looking out for the safety of their family, both themselves and their children. So by the nanny doing the same thing, it shows they have the same concern for safety.

Martha : The odd time a parent will offer a reference of a past nanny to the nanny they are interviewing. At that time, it would be acceptable to speak to the past nanny. A police record check may show things that do not relate to the nanny’s employment, and therefore isn't the business of the nanny.

Joni : But the police record may show things that are also not relevant to the job, but it could still affect the chances of getting hired.

Martha : The nanny can ask some questions of the parent(s) during the interview to get a sense for the type of family they are, but it should remain professional. If there is something that makes the nanny feel at ease with the family, therefore feeling the need to “check them out”, they should politely decline the position and continue searching for the right family for them.

Joni : Similarly, the parent should look for these cues when they are interviewing the nanny. I agree that a reference check and police record check should still be done for employment, but if something is giving you the “no feeling”, it’s not the right fit.

It seems that Martha and Joni have come to some sort of agreement, but the question still remains, is it appropriate for the nanny to ask for this of the parent? What do you think? Leave your comments here!

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