Family life

How to safely hire a babysitter during the COVID-19 pandemic

Finding and vetting the right babysitter at any time is tough—and doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic makes it that much tougher. Here's some help.

It’s been a long, difficult few months of taking care of the kids without any help whatsoever, but you’ve finally decided on hiring a babysitter during coronavirus. Support is on its way!

The first step is to find a potential sitter. Recommendations from friends and neighbours are always a solid lead, and if that doesn’t work out, you can consider spreading the word a little further, either in a local Facebook group, or perhaps by using a third-party company.

But once you have some potential candidates for the job, you’ll need to interview them. And the questions you’d ask them in these unprecedented times of coronavirus will be a little different than the typical questions you might ask. After all, despite the reopening of most cities, the COVID-19 virus is still around, so many parents will want to make sure their babysitter has been and will continue to take the necessary precautions, or as many as possible.

Here are some questions to ask a babysitter during coronavirus. Some of them overlap, so they won’t all be necessary. Also, there really isn’t a correct answer for each question. The goal is to learn as much as you can about the candidate so you can make an informed decision.

1. Generally speaking, what kinds of social distancing have you been practising?

Here, you’re trying to get an overall view of how informed the babysitter is about best practices for avoiding the virus. Do they mention wearing a mask at the grocery store? How about grocery shopping—are they doing delivery or curb-side pickup, or do they shop in person multiple times per week? If they’re hanging out with friends, are they doing so outside from six feet away?

2. Do you live with anyone who puts you at greater risk for contracting coronavirus?

Though you shouldn’t directly ask who your candidate lives with, you may want to ask if the babysitter feels they’ve been doing a good job following the rules around the house, especially with masks and social distancing.

3. Have you worked outside the home recently?

Try to get an idea if your potential babysitter has been exposed to others, and if so, whether they have been socially distancing and/or wearing masks.

4. What have you been doing for fun?

Again, you’re trying to determine if the babysitter has been cautious or if they’ve been taking risks.

5. If you get this job, do you plan on also finding a secondary job?

If you’re looking for a part-time babysitter, the person you hire might be planning to take on a secondary job to earn extra money. Nothing wrong with that, but if that’s the case, it would be good information to be aware of. Find out what type of job it might be: For example, will it be with another family, or at a store, or a restaurant?

5. If you take public transit, what precautions are you taking?

Taking public transit exposes people to some extra risk, although it’s reduced greatly if social distancing is adhered to, and masks are worn. Taking the bus doesn’t need to be a deal breaker—after all, not everyone has a car and bike riding isn’t always possible—but it’s good information to know.

If they do share that they’d take public transit to your home, some parents may be more comfortable driving the babysitter back and forth instead.

6. How many people are in your social bubble? Do you feel they’re doing a good job following the rules set out by public health officials?

Now that people can form bubbles of close friends and family members, it’s a little more complicated than just your family and the babysitter being responsible. To maintain the candidate’s privacy, don’t ask who specifically is in their bubble. Instead, ask if they feel confident everyone’s being as safe as possible. 

7. What will your expectations of my kids be?

For example, some babysitters might request that the kids they take care of wear masks. That might not be OK with you, or you might feel it’s simply not possible (for example, if you have a toddler who will not wear a mask).

Other babysitters might let you know that they intend to stay six feet away from your kids. If your children are older, that might be OK with you, but younger kids will need diaper changes and more hands-on help.

8. Are you willing to check your temperature each day before arriving?

If you expect your babysitter do this, you should check first to see if they are willing. And ask yourself if you expect them to do so in front of you, or if they can do so at home before they arrive at your place.

There are many, many other questions you could ask to ascertain the level of risk you are introducing with the babysitter, but hopefully this gives you a good start. Note: Human rights codes may prohibit you from asking job candidates certain questions. The questions in this article have been vetted by an HR expert* and have been deemed acceptable, but ultimately it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to you when hiring a babysitter during coronavirus.

*Therese Van Es is a Human Resources Executive and Chief People Leader at Ladder HR Solutions, a full service HR consultancy.