Published Date: 07/23/20
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Teachers, tutors, and sitters are highly sought after in the current COVID-19 environment. With pods and microschools springing up across the country, parents are frantically searching for both childcare and ways to ensure their children progress academically.
High school students, college students, and experienced tutors and teachers are attempting to fill the gaps created by distance learning. It can be a lucrative role but educators need to go into each microschool or pod with eyes wide open and protect themselves financially and from liability.
Independent contractor vs Household employeeYour local laws will determine if you’re operating with a pod or microschool as an independent contract or household employee. In general, an independent contractor provides their own tools and controls how they perform the work. Some states, like California, have very specific rules regarding when someone is considered an independent contractor and you should research the laws in your state.
If you are an independent contractor, you are required to pay income tax and you may be required to pay a self-employment tax as well. Your employer will not be required to provide paid sick time, personal days, or vacation days.
If you are an employee, your employer will withhold income tax, Social Security, and Medicare. Your local laws will determine the number of sick days, personal days, and vacation days you are entitled to and if those days are paid.
Every tutor, teacher, or sitter who is an independent contractor should provide a contract when joining a pod or microschool. Contract terms will vary by situation but there are general components that should be included and it’s best to speak with a local attorney to ensure your contract terms are valid in your area. If you are an employee, your employer should provide you a contract addressing many of these points.
Deliverables & expectations
First and foremost, your contract should clearly outline your role and what specific services you will be performing. This should be done in collaboration with the pod or microschool you are working with. Pods and microschools will have different formats and different expectations as to the role of the facilitator. Your role should be clearly defined so you can ensure both parties are satisfied with the agreement.
COVID-19 is a constantly changing situation and we have no way of knowing what will happen next week, next month, or even next year. In addition, some cities, states, and school districts have a more aggressive approach to reopening schools for in-person learning than others. Decide in advance what timeframe you want to be contracted for in a pod or microschool, for example on a week-to-week basis, a monthly basis, or longer.
For any number of reasons, families may determine they want to terminate your employment in a pod or microschool. You can protect yourself by including a termination clause, ensuring parents must give you notice and paid properly should your relationship end. Your termination clause should align with your timeframe – e.g. if you are on a weekly contract it’s unreasonable to expect a month’s notice and pay for termination. You should also include what happens if you decide to terminate the contract and leave a pod or microschool.
Your pod or microschool contract should include your specific payment terms. For example, when you will be paid (i.e. daily, weekly, bi-monthly, etc.). It should also include the payments you accept, fees associated with those payments, and fees for late payments. As an independent contractor you may have to invoice families for their records and for yours. Check your local laws regarding fees – you may be able to accept credit cards but pass on processing fees. You may also find that there are caps on late payment fees. Enforce your terms from the beginning so you ensure you’re getting paid on time and compensated appropriately if you aren’t.
Your contract with each pod or microschool should specify what hours you are hired for. It should also include fees associated with working outside of those hours. For example, if you are providing childcare (i.e. no parents present), include fees associated with late pickups. If you are expected to prepare materials outside of being physically present in the pod or microschool, include if there are additional fees associated with that time.
In some situations, you may agree to supply specific materials for your pod or microschool. How reimbursements are handled should be included in our contract and this may be driven by if you’re an independent contract or household employee.
In most cases, multiple families will be involved in a pod or microschool. Each tutor or facilitator must decide how they want to handle payment responsibility. For example, one family may hire you and in essence subcontract you to other families. The hiring family will be responsible for collecting payments from the other families and paying you in full regardless of whether or not other families pay them. Or, you will have an individual contract with each family in the pod or microschool and are paid by each of them. Both are valid approaches and tutors should determine how they want the situation handled in advance. Depending on where you live, payment responsibility may have implications regarding your role as either an independent contractor or household employee.
Number of children in the pod or microschool
Your contract should state exactly how many children you are responsible for tutoring or caring for. It should also include terms as to what happens if an extra child is present (e.g. sibling comes for the day).
Payment by contract days/hours not pod or microschool attendance
To ensure you are paid properly for your time, your contract should include a clause that states payment is due whether or not a child attends each session.
Every tutor will have to agree with the families in the pod or microschool regarding what COVID-19 protocols will be enforced. Include specifics in your contract and as well as what happens if protocols are not being followed by one or all of the families involved. This may include temperature checks, social distancing, mask requirements, and periodic testing. If periodic COVID-19 testing is required, who pays for the associated costs may be determined by your status as an independent contractor or employee.
COVID-19 liability waiver
COVID-19 liability waivers have become popular in many businesses. How enforceable they are is determined by what state you are in. In some states, liability waivers offer little to no protection, while in others, they’re strongly enforced. It doesn’t hurt to have one but check your local laws regarding what protection it affords you.
In general, most tutors who are independent contractors don’t have insurance. However, COVID-19 and pods/microschools introduce complications into the situation. It’s wise to speak with an insurance agent to determine what, if any, insurance you should carry.
Forming an LLC
Tutors should consider creating an LLC before working with pods and microschools. An LLC is a limited liability corporation and establishes your business assets as separate from your personal assets in case of a lawsuit.
Childcare licensing laws
All pods and microschools should understand local laws regarding childcare. While some states allow legally unlicensed care, other states have strict laws regarding licensing. Be sure that the pod or microschool you are joining is adhering to all regulations.
The bottom lineTutoring within a pod or microschool can be a great way to earn income and provide a much-needed service. Creating formal agreements with the families in a pod or microschool can serve to protect you in all circumstance. You should work with a local attorney to ensure you follow all local laws and that your contract gives you the protection and coverage you need. Search and post pods, microschools, and tutors free now.
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