When does an au pair actually ‘stop’ being on the clock?
Is it when the kids are off with someone else, or when the au pair is back at ‘home base’?
Before we even address this substance of the question, I need to point out =>
If you have to count minutes down to the wire, then you are probably pushing the limit of your 45 hour/week, 10 hour/day guidelines.
Do whatever you can to give yourself a little leeway.
A host mom writes for some perspective on how other host families deal with schedules and drop-offs:
If she leaves the house alone at 11am to pick up my son from school at 11:30am (i.e. she is traveling without my son to pick him up), should I count her working time starting from 11am (when she leaves the house) or from 11:30am (when she has my son with her)?
If she drops off my son at school at 9am and then can go anywhere she wants to because her break starts as soon as my son is in school, do I count her working time until 9am or until 9:30am when she gets back home?
My own guiding question is always– is the au pair completely free to do what s/he wants, or is this time ‘claimed’ by the childcare need?
With regard to picking kids up (and I know this is going to sound crazy but–) I have always guestimated the number of minutes it takes to get from home base to the pick-up location, and built those minutes into the au pair’s schedule.
— If the ballet class is 20 minutes away, the au pair is on duty 20 minutes before the end of class– no matter where or how far away she is coming from. I imagine that she’s coming from our house (aka home base) and driving sensibly to the ballet studio.
— If the au pair chooses to come from the library or the mall (both further away than ballet) it’s up to her to depart earlier and use her personal time to make up the extra minutes.
— If she’s coming from Starbucks (down the block) and only has to leave 4 minutes before class ends, that’s fine. I hope she enjoys the extra 10 minutes or so to relax!
On Drop-off I’ve done the same thing— assumed that our au pair was going back ato the house and needing all 20 minutes, even if she was going to Starbucks instead. Again, it’s all about the time it takes to get back to home base.
The principle is the same — the Au Pair is on duty for the time it takes her/him to execute the childcare activity from our home base.
One extra benefit of this scheduling strategy is that it leaves a little cushion if the au pair is tempted to schedule herself too tightly— she should plan to meet her pals at Starbucks at 0:20, and depart by 0:40… not rush crazily to or from an appointment.
Remember, too, that the au pair needs a good chunk of time between drop off and pick up if you are going to count this time as being ‘off duty’. In the case of school, where the duration of the activity is clearly long enough for an au pair to make good use of this ‘off duty’ time, that’s not a worry.
But, if you are thinking about how to count that 1 hour space during which the child is in ballet class? It counts as ‘on duty’, since 1 hour is not a ‘meaningful‘ break.
Parents– Have you managed drop-off scheduling using a principle like mine, or do you have another one you recommend?
What rationale works best for you?
See our earlier post on: