If you have a little help around the house, it's important to know how insurance applies to your household employees.
While most of us can only dream about household employees of the kind (and number) that kept Downton Abbey running, a lot of us do pay people to work at our homes. For example, if you have a nanny, regular babysitter, gardener, landscaper, or another professional who works in or on your house, you may have “household employees.”
You probably already know that this matters when it comes time to do taxes. We’re here to tell you that it could also affect your insurance needs.
What is a domestic worker?
Household employees, often called domestic workers, are people hired to perform tasks around your home. Common examples of domestic workers include:
- Cleaning people.
- Yard workers.
In some cases, household employees may work for an agency. But many homeowners hire help, making them the domestic worker’s employer. That’s an important distinction to understand when it comes to your home insurance!
Why personal liability & medical expenses insurance don’t cover your nanny or gardener
If you’re familiar with the details of your homeowners insurance policy (or a follower of this blog), you know that the standard homeowners policy includes two types of coverage that can pay for injuries that happen to your guests:
- Personal liability insurance can cover the cost of a lawsuit if an injured guest decides to sue you because they think your negligence caused their injury.
- Medical payments coverage can pay the immediate medical costs associated with treating an injury (like an ambulance ride).
But here’s the kicker: household employees are NOT considered “guests.” If your nanny or gardener is injured at your home and you try to make a claim on your home insurance policy, there’s a good chance that that claim will be denied – meaning you’d be on the hook for all the costs.
So if you have a nanny, a babysitter who works consistent hours, or any other employee you hired directly (not through an agency), you may be required to get additional insurance to cover them while they’re working at your house.
This coverage is called workers’ compensation insurance. It works like a combination of personal liability and medical expenses coverage, but for employees who are injured on the job. While it’s designed to ensure that employees who are hurt at work don’t have to struggle to pay their medical bills or rehabilitation expenses, it also incentivizes employers to create a safe work environment.
Nearly every state requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance under certain circumstances. While some states (including Georgia) specifically lift this requirement for household employees, others (like California) explicitly require the coverage for households that employ nannies or long-term babysitters. Regardless of the law, though, experts often recommend carrying workers’ comp anyway to ensure you have access to funds in the event of an injury.
To figure out what you’re required to carry, take a look at this state-by-state breakdown of workers’ comp laws.
How to avoid needing workers’ compensation insurance for your nanny
We mentioned above that you may need insurance for household employees if you hire them independently. If you’re not keen on the idea of securing yet another insurance policy, consider hiring workers through an agency that provides this insurance.
Another benefit of working with agencies is that they often offer background checks, reference checks, and other services that can make your life easier (and give you peace of mind before welcoming someone into your home to work).
Keeping household employees safe
Whether you hire a domestic worker through an agency or not, you want to minimize their risk for injury as best you can. Here are some tips to help keep your household employees safe on the job:
- Tack down rugs. Avoid slip-and-falls by making sure your area rugs aren’t slipping or curling.
- Check your stair railings. Loose or poorly maintained railings can collapse and cause a dangerous fall.
- Promote safe work habits. This often means supplying your household employees with the right equipment, like a dolly for lifting heavy items.
Reducing the chance for accidents around your home is a good idea no matter what your situation is. Get more ideas in our home safety guide.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in August, 2018. It has been updated for accuracy.