Are there any situations when it’s fair for you to withhold or ‘dock’ your au pair’s pocket money?
We skirted around this issue in a previous conversation about when your au pair refuses to work, but never answered it directly. Now, we’ve got a topic request (on Skribit) with a very specific situation:
You AP has a car accident that was completely her fault, and costly car repairs must be made. Your insurance will cover all but the deductible, which is $500 (following the recommendation of your Au Pair Agency). However, despite the fact that you discussed car insurance and what would happen if there was an accident, your AP is refusing to contribute to the deductible. What do you do?
Let’s assume that, since the accident was due entirely to the Au Pair’s carelessness, you have asked her to pay the entire $500. (some readers might disagree with this, but go with me here…) She won’t pay.
You need to be completely confident that you covered all of the issues related to car accidents before this accident occured, preferably by having these points in your family handbook.
- The deductible is $500.
- If accident is caused by her, she pays all $500.
- If there is doubt about the cause, you pay $250 and she pays $250.
- Your au pair has a decent understanding of how car insurance works in the US.
- Also, she understands that the out of pocket cost for the deductible is only one part of the total cost of the accident… those costs included loss of use of the car, depreciation in the value of the car, and increased insurance rates (likely) for your family in the future.
In this case, you’ve eliminated issues about whether she understands her responsibility, and all that is left is a question of whether or not she’ll pony up her share of the costs.
Here are two options:
1. Withhold her pay/ garnish her pocket money.
Although I think it is likely against the ‘rules’ of most agencies to withhold part of the au pair’s pocket money, I would. I’d do it in a way that spread the repayments over time, maybe with $50/wk for 10 weeks. You’ll be making a trade-off between the time you have a potentially resentful au pair and a potentially awkward payday, and the amount of money that the au pair needs to do without each week. Keep in mind that 10 weeks of a grumpy au pair is a lot of time, and yet $50 is less than 1/3rd of a week’s pay.
Announce to the Au Pair that this is the fairest way to make sure she covers her responsibility while still having enough spending money, and that you both will keep a written record of deductions and payments.
[I like to write on the calendar on the day our au pair is paid, and how much, if it is something other than the usual pocket money. I ask our AP to initial this to acknowledge what she’s received.]
2. Rescind the privilege of personal use of the car (not possible in some areas, more possible in others).
Having a car at your disposal is a privilege, and if you can’t or won’t afford to live by the rules of the car, then you can’t use the car. You can try this to see if it pushes your au pair to take responsibility.
Keep in mind that any action you take that your au pair disagrees with will generate resentment and possibly spawn other problems. And, even if she does agree, she may still resent having to pay.
Those are the breaks, I think. The alternative, of letting your au pair get away with both damaging the car and not paying her fair share, takes too much advantage of you. And, it sets up a situation where you as host parent(s) are seen as making rules that you don’t follow… which does little to generate respect and appreciation.
That’s my opinion– what’s yours? Let’s hear it parents (and au pairs)!