Q: I recently started working as a groom in a private showing yard with five horses and have ended up spending a lot of time with the family’s three children, all aged under 10, including giving them lessons. I am worried that during their school holidays I will end up being an unpaid babysitter. I have a prelim teaching cert, plus my stage two and groom’s certificate, but am not yet a BHSAI, and this was not a teaching post. What can I do?
THE equestrian industry, consisting of an estimated 6,000 businesses and currently employing more than 50,000 people directly, is being encouraged to focus on training employers in business and staff management skills.
The issue of job description and working conditions is one of the first stages of employment that should be agreed on.
Judy Prince of Nags’n’Nannies, a Europe-wide employment agency, says many roles combine equine and child/household duties.
“There are lots of jobs available combining horse care with other duties. Usually this is detailed when taking a position and, ideally, put down in writing in a contract,” she says.
“In this case, I suggest that you request some time to sit down with your employer when it is convenient to them and lay your cards on the table about your concerns. It is better to do this before the situation gets out of control and you end up, as you say, as an unpaid babysitter. Always keep the lines of dialogue open between yourself and the employer and bring up any issues as soon as they arise.
“If no mention was made of instruction at the time of the interview, you can point out that you are not happy to do any further teaching, as you are not yet fully qualified. You should also check if you are covered by any insurance policies to do this — the onus may be on you to obtain your own public liability insurance.
“Private employers should provide safe working conditions and if their children are involved, should make sure that the person in charge has the necessary qualifications and has been reference-checked for their suitability. The criteria for reference checking will also apply for any babysitting duties,” concludes Judy.
Lucy Katan of the British Grooms Association (BGA) agrees that it is best to clarify your employer’s expectations as soon as possible.
“You should talk to your employer to agree exactly what they expect from you,” she says.
“If there are parts of the job that concern you, it is best to be upfront at the start.
“Ideally, ask for a job description you can agree on. Make it clear that you’re happy to be flexible, but that your skills are best used as a professional groom.
“The BGA has been formed as a professional’s association. Make use of us if you have further concerns.”
British Grooms Association Tel: 0845 331 6039 www.britishgrooms.org.uk
Nags’n’Nannies Ltd Tel: 01248 602814 www.nagsandnannies.co.uk
This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (16 August, ’08)