Understanding Cancellation "Fees."
Updated: Mar 13
A chronic inequality that exists between childcare workers and parents is that a babysitter should be on time and reliable, however if a parent has to cancel a booking the babysitter is often not paid. If they are paid it's typically a nominal amount. When a childcare worker agrees to babysit for a family, they are basically just hoping that the sit will occur as planned and they will be paid.
One of the reasons we have a national shortage of well-qualified childcare workers is that people cannot pay their bills with hope. Childcare workers need the same financial cornerstones we all need: stable income and living wages. These trained workers have to leave the profession when childcare work isn't paying the bills. This creates a hole where under-qualified and unprofessional people enter the field: people who ghost, people who aren't vetted or even experienced enough to be supervising young children. This is a big reason parents are constantly recruiting for their sitter list.
One solution is that we pay childcare workers for the reservation of their time. At Babysitters Of Boulder we have a cancellation payment policy and the cancellation payment is not a penalty to the client. It is the babysitter's wages. 100% of a cancellation payment goes to the sitter.
The most common question I receive is, "Do I need to pay the babysitter if I am canceling because my child is sick? Isn't thinking of the sitter's health and canceling a nice courtesy?" It is courteous, yes, and there's a flip side to it that a parent understandably doesn't realize. When a child is sick and the parent offers the babysitter the "choice" of whether or not they want to come, that's actually not a choice. It's more like a one way ticket to lost income:
If the babysitter decides not to come, they lose wages.
If they do come and then get sick, they may have to cancel other upcoming babysitting work and they lose wages.
If they do come care for a sick child, it might be ethical to let their next client know. This is something like,"Hello, I cared for a child with a stomach flu today. I feel fine and am still planning to come to your house tomorrow for our booking, and I want to be transparent." Well, if that next client doesn't feel comfortable with that and cancels...the sitter loses wages.
The runner-up most common question I receive is, "Isn't rescheduling the same thing? The sitter will still get paid just at a later time." Again, I see the parent's point and I understand why they do not see it from the babysitter's perspective. It turns out that rescheduling is not an equal solution, because it means that the babysitter will reserve two different days of their time to earn one day of pay.
So what do we do?! Well, I always keep this in mind: you are counting on the babysitter to be reliable and the babysitter is counting on you, too.
When we book a babysitter or we hire a nanny, we are telling that person to reserve their time exclusively for our family and no one else. We need to pay for the reservation of that person's time, even when it turns out we cannot use it. This demonstrates mutual respect. How? It tells that provider, "I understand that your time is valuable just like my time is valuable."
Paying a babysitter for a canceled booking isn't money down the drain. Paying your nanny to stay home if your child has a very contagious illness isn't money down the drain. It is a purchase that maintains your professional working relationship with your childcare providers.
Our cancellation policy is publicly posted here with all the details and FAQs.
Founder, Babysitters Of Boulder