What’s a pod? Should you start one? With delayed school openings and many classrooms taking on distance learning again this Fall, many families are trying to find supplemental education and care for their children. We’ve referred to GTM, our preferred household payroll service, to help answer your most common questions.
WHAT IS A LEARNING POD?
A learning pod is a private, share care set-up between a small group, usually 2-3 families, who have Preschool-age children. As more and more day cares and preschools postpone opening, they are becoming a popular choice among Bay Area families looking for a safe alternative.
Within the pod, a private educator or nanny with an educational background is hired to work in one of the family’s homes. The children’s ages are typically the same, and one family provides a designated “classroom” area for consistency.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A POD AND A NANNY SHARE?
A learning pod is similar to a nanny share when considering childcare options. The difference is the role of the caregiver. In a nanny share, a professional caregiver looks after the children to ensure they are safe and engaged throughout the day. There may be some basic level of education in a nanny share but not to the extent and structure of a learning pod. A nanny will also assist with more child-related responsibilities such as children’s laundry, cooking, light tidying, occasional errands, etc.
In a learning pod, a professional educator oversees the children. Their skill set will be different than that of a nanny as they will focus on education typical of a preschool or child learning center. Parents will have some input on the daily schedule and what is taught to their children.
ARE LEARNING PODS SAFER THAN OTHER CHILDCARE OPTIONS?
Forming a learning pod with one or two other families may be safer than a traditional daycare or school setting as you’re limiting the number of people your child interacts with during the day. Research has shown that a common way for the coronavirus to spread is through close contact with others. In-home learning will not prevent your child from catching or spreading the virus, but it could reduce their chances of getting sick.
Even in a learning pod, you may want your child and their instructor to wear masks. This can greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Make sure everyone is following personal hygiene guidelines (washing hands and avoiding face touching) and that the host family is cleaning and disinfecting their home on a frequent basis.
IS THE LEARNING POD INSTRUCTOR MY EMPLOYEE?
This is not as clear cut as hiring a nanny. A private, in-home caregiver is almost always your employee (or in the case of a nanny share, an employee of each family). You control their schedule, provide the tools and equipment to do the job, and dictate how care is to be provided for your child.
A pod teacher will likely be your employee if you and your partner families are providing the guidelines for instruction and setting the hours and days the instructor will work. A part-time tutor for school-aged kids will also be your employee.
If you plan to provide your instructor with benefits like vacation time and sick days, you will need to treat them as an employee.
COULD MY POD INSTRUCTOR BE AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR?
Your teacher could be considered an independent contractor if they have set up their own business and have multiple learning pods as clients. You would need to work around their availability and have little input into the curriculum and daily schedule of your children. The instructor would provide everything they need for the care and learning of your children.
If you are in doubt about the employment status of your educator, it is best to treat them as an employee. You could also file Form SS-8 with the IRS to have a decision made for you.