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Suppose we tell our babysitter to arrive at 8:00 pm, and she arrives at 7:30 pm.

This is extra half an hour, which is quite meaningful.

Are we expected to pay for this extra time that we never asked for? Or is it ethical and OK to not pay? I guess if the babysitter will ask directly we won't say "no", I'm talking more about whether this should come from us, as the employers, or not.

Note, the babysitter isn't doing it on purpose. It's due to traffic, which is usually heavy but sometimes it's not, and the "safety margins" taken to ensure arrival on time cause the early arrival.

More details:

  • We don't have a written contract with the babysitter.
  • We pay the babysitter per hour.
  • During the extra time (before the designated hour) the babysitter doesn't really "work", as we're still at home.
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Dec 23 '20 at 12:59
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and the "safety margins" taken to ensure arrival on time cause the early arrival.

That's clearly a sign of a responsible and reliable babysitter. These are in my experience very valuable and hard to find. While you are legally not required to pay her for the extra time, it would be stupid not to. The extra half hour is probably just a small fraction of your overall expense for the night.

Up leveling this to a workplace principle: If you want to keep good employees happy and stick around, don't try to cheap out on them. Consider doing the opposite: if you are really happy with the babysitter and there is significant driving involved, pay her from when she leaves her house, not when she arrives at yours.

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  • Quite similar to the answer by mxyzplk, with the added value of workplace principle, thanks. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 20 '20 at 16:08
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    I would add that babysitters, usually being young and/or doing an informal "pink-collar" job, will not assert themselves like a seasoned consultant billing time to a corporate client. The classy thing to do is to pay them generously to recognize that getting to the job on time is valuable. By the same token, someday when you are an hour late getting home, you will appreciate a babysitter who will stay until you arrive rather than leave at the "contracted" time. – teego1967 Dec 20 '20 at 16:53
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    If they are good and reliable you might want to pay them from the time they leave home until the time to get back! – Alan Dev Dec 20 '20 at 20:00
  • At the very least a generous present on occasion. But- and I hate to be the one that says this- also keep an eye on things to make sure that she's not working her way into your trust as part of a con job. – Mark Morgan Lloyd Dec 21 '20 at 9:53
  • @AlanDev well, we do pay extra to cover the cost of arriving to our house - be it by bus, or private car. It's a fixed extra payment for each arrival. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 26 '20 at 11:00
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If you are benefitting from the extra time (she’s watching the kids while you get ready; you get to leave earlier than you would have) then absolutely yes she should be paid for the time.

If it’s an truly inconvenience, then it’s “ethical” to have her wait (NOT caring for the kids) till 8.

But consider... Do you want to cheap out on the person caring for your children? Should she be doing the bare minimum with your house and kids or would you hope she would go the extra mile? Just like if you go out to a restaurant you should be planning to tip (yes yes, in the US) if you are making use of informal labor for child care you should perhaps model generosity and not cheapness. As the more relatively wealthy party it is generally considered to be in good taste not to be stingy.

And for good reason. Do you want her deciding to take less care to be on time so she won’t be super early but may be late? What standard do you hold yourself to when you’re home late, just “whoops here’s pay for the extra?”, does she feel free to just leave on time and leave your kids alone if time is up? If one of your kids says they feel ill should she just try to get them to sleep as she's not being aid to be a nurse? Do you expect her to be treating this job as transactionally as you want to? No one likes penny-pinching employers and you are leaving this employee alone in your house with your kids - don’t be penny wise but pound foolish.

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    Agree (exept for the tipping part, not true in many countries). Generosity is also a value to teach to the children. – guest Dec 20 '20 at 15:47
  • Well, during this time she usually just sit in front of TV and not watching the kids. It's not her "fault" as we bath the kids and put them to bed, neither of those are tasks she can really do. So it's kind of a corner case. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 20 '20 at 15:48
  • Note that it's not babysitting a baby.... we have three kids, ages 10, 7, and 3. Does it matter? Should I add the details to the question? – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 20 '20 at 15:50
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    Being cheap cuts both ways. You being cheap saves you couple bucks. The babysitter being cheap (leaving on time before you came home) can send you to jail. Just think about what the consequences are. – Nelson Dec 21 '20 at 3:29
  • Three kids, including a 3-year-old, is still a lot of responsibility! – Stephan Branczyk Dec 22 '20 at 6:12
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My suggestion: Just agree on the price for the evening, and take some of the time which it typically takes her to be there in time into account. Potentially agree on some price if the evening gets longer than expected, but for you the important thing is that the babysitter arrives always in time.

(I an a consultant, and depending on the nature of the customer we also bill travel expenses)

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    I dunno. If I was a teen/YA agreeing to babysit and the parent started talking about "set pay regardless of hours" or "contingency expenses for long hours" or such, I'd be wondering what way they'd be trying to screw me over. – Kevin Dec 22 '20 at 21:59
  • Good advice in general, but as @Kevin said, less relevant in such case. Also, we rarely know in advance for how long we're going, e.g. when meeting with friends it can be 2 hours and it can be 5 hours. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 26 '20 at 11:04
  • @ShadowWizardisEarForYou: in that case pay you babysitter for a reasonable percentile of the time. If he/she can not make plans for that evening, pay for all the time lost. And if one communicates it like: we appreciate that you are always on time and know that that your trip takes up to 1h; we would like to compensate you for half of your trip and since we dont know how log the evening will take we will always pay you for at least 4h, then the babysitter can do the math (increase the effective hourly rate). If you are incompetent in communication you may run into problems mentioned by Kevin – Sascha Dec 26 '20 at 13:04
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Hilmar already posted a good answer above, but I will suggest a modification that doesn't fit in a comment.

[Arriving early is] clearly a sign of a responsible and reliable babysitter. These are in my experience very valuable and hard to find. While you are legally not required to pay her for the extra time, it would be stupid, not to. The extra half hour is probably just a small fraction of your overall expense for the night.

Rather than "paying for the extra time", I would be inclined to frame this as an increase to the hourly rate: "We notice that you take trouble to make sure you're always here on time, even if that means leaving early, and as a sign of appreciation for your reliability we'd like to bump up your hourly rate."

If you like, you can make sure the raise works out equivalent to paying her for the extra time. For example, if she usually works for four hours, then instead of adding half an hour to the calculation you can add 12.5% to the rate. It's the same money either way, but I'd argue that it's better to do it as a change in rate.

Her showing up early isn't useful to you in itself; it's just a means to an end. The valuable part is knowing that she will be there by the time you need her. If you pay her for arriving early, you create an incentive to arrive even earlier, which again isn't helpful. But if you position it as a reward for a responsible, dependable attitude, you encourage responsibility and dependability, which are always desirable.

It's also better preparation for future work. Although there are some exceptions, employers don't usually pay for travel time.

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    "Although there are some exceptions, employers don't usually pay for travel time.". When I was a contractor, I always billed travel time. And where I live, when I call a handyman, they also bill travel time. – Polygnome Dec 21 '20 at 9:58
  • @Polygnome: Out of interest, where do you live that that’s the norm? In my fairly limited experience (from England), it’s not usual for handymen (and other tradespeople) to bill travel time. – PLL Dec 21 '20 at 11:38
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    @PLL It's called a callout charge. A builder who works at your home for five days won't charge it, an electrician who travels an hour and then takes five minutes to fix a fault will. – gnasher729 Dec 21 '20 at 12:19
  • @Polygnome Yeah, that was the main exception I had in mind. But most jobs don't pay travel time, AFAIK. – Geoffrey Brent Dec 21 '20 at 21:09
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Even taken as a strictly workplace question, the answer will depend upon several factors, how early are they, how late might you be, what value do you gain from them being early, how much control do they have over their arrival time, as well as the exact wording of the contract.

So, taking this as strictly a contractor issue, do you gain any benefit from the worker arriving early? I would say so, you are relieved of both the need to worry about whether they will be there and the need to take time to verify that they will be. You are asking a contractor to come on site, you need to budget in the risk of timing failures in one manner or another. So, while it may not be strictly required, it’s probably within the margin of error for the benefit.

Are there negative consequences for NOT paying? Does it damage your brand or increase your cost down the line? Again, I would say so, for one thing the contractor may just write you off as a high maintenance customer. Regardless, if you make it clear that work can’t start until X, then you are making it clear that it starts on or AFTER X. Do you want your service to start after X? Do you want to have to pay a premium to ensure that it starts when you want it too? Do you want a reputation as being cheap? Have you ever had a problem getting a contractor because of time constraints? These things can definitely happen.

While this could possibly be as much as 25% extra, you need to weigh this against no service or late service. In most cases, you should be somewhat flexible as to what you will pay.

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babysitter usually paid for time spend at the place. ever a preset time amount - "we are going out and need you for 4 hours 6-10"

or

for the amount actually spent with the client - "we are going to Christmas party and need you here by 6pm"

if in second case arrival at 5.30 and taking care of the baby while you finishing getting ready, imho, entitled for this time

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