As of this writing, there are no babysitting laws within the UK or the US, unlike other children’s jobs, such as a newspaper route or shop work, which are covered under the Health and Safety (Young Persons) regulations 1997. Babysitting does not fall within these laws. There is no minimum age in law for a young person to babysit for a minor, however, there is a clear definition as to who is responsible for the child under care. If the babysitter is under 16 years old and something happens to the child, the responsibility rests with the parents. If the babysitter is over 16 years of age, the law states that a person is guilty of neglect if the person neglected is under 16 years.
The NSPCC and RoSPA recommend that no one under the age of 16 years should be left in the care of an infant. The British Red Cross will not let young people taking their babysitters training programme have their final assessment until they have reached their 14th birthday.
There are circumstances where parents can be prosecuted and fined if they leave their children in a circumstance which might be deemed as neglectful.
Parents should give serious consideration to completing a risk assessment before leaving their child or children in the hands of someone else, particularly if they are under 16 years old. They may wish to give consideration to the babysitter having a valid and current basic 1st Aid certificate and attended courses on child care. Parents should also be prepared to take responsibility for the care and safety of the babysitter. This includes ensuring that the babysitter has a safe passage home if they are not being collected.
Being a babysitter carries with it tremendous responsibility for someone else’s life, and therefore it is also advisable for any prospective babysitter to be well-prepared for any eventuality. The sitter should be aware and know correct procedures in cases of emergency. Having a basic 1st Aid certificate should alleviate any feelings of inadequacy. The sitter should ensure that contact numbers of an adult, including the parents, are quickly to hand.
It is advisable to remember that there are no definite babysitting laws. Therefore both babysitter and parents need to work together closely to ensure positive outcomes for all parties, most especially the child.