Dear Au Pair Mom,
Today we received our monthly newsletter from our local area counselor. On the last page, it normally indicates year-end bonuses for the au pairs; however, now we see this:
“Bonuses: There has been a change to bonuses. Au pairs who arrived before December 31, 2010 will still be eligible to receive a bonus. After this date bonuses will no longer be offered.”
(I looked back and apparently this changed in April, but I hadn’t noticed the difference until today, with our May newsletter. Most likely due to reading the letter on my phone.)
Previously, our au pair would have received $700 at the end of the year ($200 for completing and $500 because we have a child under 2).
Our au pair is upset, obviously, and we’re a bit flabbergasted as to how they can change this after it had been advertised to the au pairs as a carrot to stay on, do their education requirement and attend cluster meetings.
I don’t see why an au pair who only wants to do a year would do the education requirement or attend cluster meetings. Our au pair then indicated that really there’s no reason to stay to do the year in the first place if something better comes up. We know she is looking for an apprenticeship when she returns home. So if she gets an offer, she would be better off going “now” than later, if that opportunity is better for her. She did say she understands how it affects the host families but her friends may not, especially since some are leaving and aren’t even looking for new families.
The end of year bonus may not motivate all au pairs, but I’m sure that for some it has encouraged them to see things through.
I also don’t see how this can be a good business decision, unless it wasn’t something that was keeping au pairs in families. Of course, then, they should change it for those who haven’t yet arrived or haven’t yet matched. To do so for those who are here, is actually a dis-incentive for them to stay. Now, if we push her in a way that she thinks is too hard, what’s keeping her?
Any other agencies have bonuses? Have they been revoked? Do they keep your au pair focused at the end of the year? Will families pay au pairs in lieu of classes if the classes are something that is an inconvenience to the family? I know our au pair was looking forwared to paying her income taxes with that money, but now… I am not sure what to do FOR her since she is upset with this. Thoughts?
Dear Broken-Promise Mom-
What an awful situation — a problem created by an agency, instead of one resolved by an agency.
If it’s true (and not some kind of weird misunderstanding) that the end-of-year payment has been revoked for some au pairs who joined the program expecting it, this decision will likely have many repercussions, none of them good. A promise to both the au pair and the family by the Agency has been broken, and for what? An indirect way to increase profits? And to keep from raising the advertised price?
We understand that Agencies find it hard to raise prices– not only is there price competition, but also they can only raise prices with each new contract; they can’t adjust the price mid-year, mid-contract. However, while I can appreciate that there may be cost increases that agencies might have to absorb — like the price of airline tickets as fuel costs rise– this seems like a strategy designed to punish those with the least power of all, the au pairs.
And, this decision should also give pause to all the host families with this Agency, since it appears to be in bad faith. When a business acts in bad faith with one partner, we no longer trust that they will act in good faith with us.
Badly done, Agency. Badly done.
If you want to do something for your au pair, calling the agency and asking to speak with someone in management is a good start. Kicking up a bit of a protest here won’t hurt either, since we don’t want other agencies to follow suit and break their promises to au pairs.
If any agencies decide to drop the end-of-year completion payment for new au pair contracts, then agencies need to put something else in place to motivate and reward au pairs who meet all their StateDept requirements and who fulfill their contracts. (These rewards wouldn’t need to be financial, but they would need to be meaningful in some way.)
Looks like a mess all around.
Parents and au pairs, what thoughts have you?
Image: Broken Promises from Fanboy30