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What We Are, What We Do, and Why We Are Here

Mar 26, 2021

Hi everyone! My name is Rachael and I am the founder of UNAnannies.

Today I'm speaking with Sarah Heward, former UNA co-owner and wanted to share with you in this blog a little bit of information on what we are, what we do, and why we are here to give you a better understanding of how UNA can help your family!

Sarah: Experiences really teach us the best lessons in life. Personally, back in 2017, I had a lot of work experience as a nanny to different families, before we I started working with Rachael. Previously, I had worked as a nanny with no contract provided, which was really scary. When I started working, I realised that everything that was described in the interview in terms of employment was not actually true at all. It was a huge wake-up call for me. All along I thought about how I had been working professionally as a nanny, but I realised that not all families are going to appreciate how I was working. It made me realise that they had not done any preparation to keep me safe and secure as a nanny. So I decided to move back home, and started looking for a job. Eventually, I received an email from Rachael to get me as a nanny for her kids.

Rachael: My life back then was very chaotic. I had so much on my plate. As a doctor, I had been working extra shifts to top up my wage. I actually went through a divorce, which of course was very challenging for me. In the midst of all that, I was using a nursery in addition to free support. It was still a hectic schedule on my part. My baby was almost going through a “pass the toddler” experience, from myself, my dad, and the nursery.

In 2000, I had my middle child, three months before I was going back to work. I looked at our options, and I was quite stressed about the thought of having one child in school, the other child is in the nursery, and me going to different places. I was really anxious about actually not being able to afford a full-time nanny because, in my head, that was like Mary Poppins. I thought that only really rich people did that, and we are a normal family. My husband and I both have reasonably paid jobs, but we are not made of money, and we have got other expenses, too. We have kids, a house with a mortgage, cars, et cetera. It is not like I have a lot of money to spare.

So next, I looked at au pairs. What I quickly realised when I started speaking to au pair agencies was that, because my middle child was so young, and because au pairs are not trained in childcare, reputable au pair agencies will not put an au pair with you if you have got a child under two years of age. So I was sort of stumped again. I kept coming back to this idea of a nanny. Even though I have got friends that use childminders, it is the same kind of issue as nurseries. You pay when they are not there. You pay when they are sick, and if they’re away or not available, you are still stuck.

So it seemed to me that the most flexible option was going to be a nanny. I did not really know what was going to cost it until I met and interviewed Sarah. By the end of the interview, I was hoping that she would like us. Otherwise, what were we going to do if she didn’t pick us?

Sarah: During my conversation with Rachael at that time, I clarified what my parameters of work were, and the same was done by Rachael. That for me, I think, is what settled our agreement to a path of success. We were able to establish very early whether it was going to work or not.

Rachael: I was lucky to have picked Sarah. She looked after my kids for years. It has been completely life-changing for us as a family. Eventually, she became my right-hand woman. She was almost like a PA/nanny. So that’s how we started and then obviously we came up with a business together after a couple of years of knowing each other. We thought of getting a little team together to pick up the work of nannies or au pairs. In fact, the more that Sarah and I worked, the more we realised the problems that we had solved with each other were problems that we could very easily solve for other people.

Flexibility is what we want to promote and develop in our business, especially since we didn’t have all the money in the world to spend on childcare. We wanted to be able to provide something that fits modern families’ lives. Someone who can start at half six in the morning if that's what is needed. Having someone in your home from whom you can get support, who can put a wash on for the kids’ clothes, get stuff sorted out if there's something going on. These are all important to my kids, and also to other kids out there.

Getting a nanny means having someone talk to your children every day, and to do things like sit and read with them too. I think a lot of parents feel very pressured into making the most of the time with their kids, but things like this can be hard to keep at the top of the list because you have your own separate jobs as well. Having someone to do that for you is extra helpful.

Sarah: Working with Rachael as a nanny to her kids made me understand the importance of the role. One thing that I enjoy is being totally submerged as a nanny. I felt that I was a part of your family from the day that I started until today. Personally, that is the fun of having a nanny. It is having somebody that is not just for your kids. The benefit should be for the whole family. It should be for the family home, including the pets. It should relieve pressure by having an extra pair of hands. It is by no means that having a nanny means a lavish lifestyle. It is about looking at how the cost of your childcare is best spent.

Now, if you do have two or more children, your money is best spent with a nanny. You get that kind of quality care where it is done on a one-to-one basis. Not only are you improving your kid's life chances in every possible way, but also your family life. I think that is what most people do not understand. People are so frazzled, just trying to get the day-to-day stuff that they need. They completely overlook how actually having that spare pair of hands around completely changes your life.

Rachael: Another added benefit for us was the free care that I had been getting, the support from my parents. If I wanted to go out, I could ask them to have the kids for a few hours. So I certainly got some support from my family, which before I wouldn't get because they would just help me cover the basics while I was working. So I was going out to work and there was zero extra support because when you are working a hundred hours a week and your kids are being palmed off, even if it's on the grandparents for that kind of time, then basically they are exhausted too.

As a doctor, I have ended up working insanely long hours. I regularly leave the house at half six in the morning, and get in at about half six or seven o'clock in the evening. That is on a normal working day. Also, because we are two medics, essentially my husband got on-calls, and I have gotten calls sometimes, and it clashed. I sometimes needed overnight childcare. Some weeks I needed weekend cover.

Some weeks I needed someone to be there extra early. I needed them to stay late, as I sometimes needed to be able to come in late from work. Also, if I was stuck in an operation, for example, I did not want to be clock-watching. With a nanny, none of these things are a problem anymore. I just make a phone call to get them picked up and get that weight lifted off me. I can't put a monetary figure on that, but that was so huge in terms of my psychological well-being.

Having a nanny has had a really big impact for my family. There are a lot of benefits that sometimes you cannot see, because you worry about the cost of your childcare. But after receiving the care that a nanny gives, you will understand that its benefits far outweigh any extra cost.

With UNA, unlike other au pair agencies, you pay for the bundle or package of care that you are getting, and that’s everything. Compare this to back when my kids went to nursery, and they used to go on a Monday and Tuesday, and I would call their au pair. But there was a time when my eldest was not able to go to school because it was closed. So I was paying for three to four days a year that I was not receiving. Also, when she had diarrhoea, I had to find care for her, and I was still paying for those days. You don’t get a refund. But what it meant for me as an individual was that I had to find emergency care somewhere else pretty often.

But with the business model that we have set up at UNA, you only pay for what you use. That makes us cheaper compared to other agencies. But what we really target here is flexibility. So I don't have to do school runs. I don't have to do nursery runs. I don't have to dash back from work. Basically, all of the things that you get stressed about as a parent of a very young child are now gone.

In addition, we have just recently got a homeschooling routine because the kids are off school. Because of that, now my daughter gets to play piano for half an hour a day. She goes out for at least 60 minutes for activities. She does her homework. She does her online zoom classes and she has time to play with others. That is because I have got a nanny.

If I was at home, my husband and I would try to tag-team this and somehow work it out. Or if we were using the help of our friends and family, we would not be able to dictate to the family how they should spend that day or what they should feed the kids. That is why having a nanny is the best solution. We consider it modern-day living.

So this is the company that we started. We decided to set up as a business and put that into some kind of cohesive format where we can then provide that as a service locally and soon nationally. Simply, you pay for what you use. 

Also, we make sure that these people that we are sending into your homes are being checked. They are vetted correctly to a standard that we set personally. They are trained and understand the latest curriculum. They understand how to implement that with your children. They have a DBS that is regularly checked for compliance. They have insurance and all the things that you should be looking for.

If you don't like the nanny that we have for you, then we can find you another through our matching process. We’re unlike other agencies, where there are so many hidden costs and risks to the extent that you will be the one to pay the nanny’s national insurance, or you need to pay into a pension for them. When you are responsible for their annualised salary, you are also responsible for paying for their holidays, which don't necessarily fit in with your holidays. So you might pay them to go on holiday, and then not have a nanny when you are needing one and have to pay again to get the extra help.

Imagine you’ve directly employed your nanny, and she then goes off for a year's maternity leave. That cost you anticipated will be completely different because you are still going to have to pay them for their maternity leave, and find another person to look after your kids, who you’ll also have to pay. When you’re their employer, there are many considerations. But if you opt for an UNA nanny, we deal with all of that for you, so having an UNA nanny simply means having quality childcare at your discretion. If you want to have a nanny for four hours a month, a day, or you actually want it full time, then we will provide you one, and that is all you will pay for.  

There are also other downsides to being employed directly as a nanny. It means that they would only work for that family. One thing that we want to eliminate is the idea of working for extra hours. You can't just approach the family that you work for and say that you need to work extra hours, especially if you are an employee working your contracted hours a week. It becomes really difficult to then pick up that extra work.

We pride ourselves on the flexibility for our nannies to work as much or as little as they want. If they are only looking for part-time work to work with a family and do the after-school pickup stuff, that is perfectly fine. We will find you a family that needs that and you can provide that to them. Likewise, if they are looking for full-time work and even weekend work, we can also arrange this. 

Also, we guarantee that our nannies are going to get paid fairly because we found that, when we were speaking to nannies, one of the problems that they have had was either they had been paid wrongly and unfairly, and felt that they couldn't bring that up with families. So we have lots of ways to protect our people. We act as an intermediary between the families and nannies to ensure the best outcome for everyone involved. So instead of me having to have a difficult conversation with my nanny, I can just bring it to the weekly feedback meeting. It is completely non-confrontational. It means that the relationship between the nanny and the family can remain at ease and no difficult conversations need to take place. We take the responsibility for managing that relationship and making sure that those needs are met in a secure home environment where the families get safe, good, and happy care provision on the other side of it.

The next thing I’d like to talk about would be where we see UNA going in the future. When we first started, we actually pivoted the business significantly. Initially, the first thought was to provide all of this stuff under an emergency care package. Then we eventually branched out into providing regular day-to-day type care and services. We have become a management company for your family's childcare. We focus on introducing innovation, not only to make things safer but actually to make them more enjoyable, especially in having a nanny. Through this, you are able to keep up to date with what is going on in the day-to-day, even if you are at work.

We also have an online training platform for nannies which they attend every month. We have built into our company supervision measures for nannies, particularly for their mental health. We provide an academic service and continued personal development training. This kind of support is not available for self-employed nannies that exist outside of our company, nor it is necessarily available to employed nannies because families are busy. Ultimately, we find work for them at no cost to them. We look after that relationship for them. If they need more hours, we find more hours than them. If they need fewer hours, we find fewer hours for them.

We are just basically looking after the nannies while respecting and treating them like professionals, because that is what they are. We value them. A lot of our nannies are very well-educated. They have got degrees. They could easily be on other career paths, but they have got a vocation towards children and helping a family in general, and we respect that. In our opinion, that’s what makes us exceptional compared to the alternatives!

Rachael Coates and Sarah Heward
UNA Nannies

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