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Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter

Nannies and babysitters – a lot of people use these terms interchangeably, but they in fact are quite different. While it is true that both provide similar services – taking care of children in a parent’s absence – there are some important reasons why there are significant differences between a nanny and a babysitter.

What is a babysitter?

A babysitter provides custodial care for children on a casual, on-call basis while the parents are gone. Their primary job is to supervise them and keep them safe. Babysitters are generally hired on a short-term basis, like once a week or once a month for a few hours at a time, and they may play with the kids or assist them with meals.  Babysitters’ primary job: to stand in for adults and provide basic supervisory care.

What is a nanny?

The role of a nanny is more involved than a babysitter’s role. Nannies usually provide long term regular care and they are focused on not only caring for the children but establishing a relationship with them as well as the family. Nannies focus on building a connection with the child and can even help with child rearing. A nanny works with the parents as part of a child caregiving team, and helps advance the child's physical, mental and emotional development. A nanny is seamlessly integrated into the routines of the family. Professional nannies sometimes have the option of living with the family and engaging with the children in the same way as a parent does with emotional or educational development, and they oftentimes have professional training or certifications to supplement their work history. Many professional nannies document their practical knowledge of child care by voluntarily sitting for the International Nanny Association's Nanny Credential Exam. 

Babysitters, because of their age and intermittent work, are often exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, and may not be covered by regulations that cover wage, overtime, or workman’s compensation. However, nannies that are hired on a full time or part time basis are considered household employees. Generally speaking, payroll tax obligations are governed by the age of the caregiver and the amount they are paid in a year, NOT by the label you place on them. That means that families that choose to work with nannies are now employers and are required to pay appropriate payroll taxes (often called the "nanny taxes") and are generally required to obtain workers' compensation insurance.

If you are not sure how paying nanny taxes works, don’t fret. Our experienced team at HomeWork Solutions specializes in helping household employers prepare for tax compliance, so you can be sure there are no hidden surprises when it comes to tax time. Contact us today for more information!

Posted with permission from HomeWork Solutions (

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