Does Your Extension Au Pair Deserve a Raise?

by cv harquail on January 24, 2013

The experience of a happy au pair year is its own reward. And extending this positive experience is a great way to turn this reward into a bonus.

When an au pair and a host family extend their contract with each other for an additional 6, 9, or 12 months, everybody gets a bonus.

The bonus for the au pair is that s/he gets to stay in a family, situation and community where s/he is already comfortable and (one presumes) happy.

i love raise.jpg

The bonus for the host parents is that they get another year or so with an au pair they like. They don’t have to train a new au pair and use all that energy getting the new au pair up to speed. They don’t have to go through the anxiety of wondering whether their au pair will get along with kids, learn how to drive safely, or establish a happy social life.

For both au pair and host family, an extension should mean that you get to enjoy the fruits of all the work you put into establishing a good host family – au pair relationship.

These experienced-based bonuses, above, are the REAL value of extending with your au pair.

However, some people see only one part of that situation– the supposed financial bonus of an extension year. They see that the host family gets to pay a somewhat reduced fee to the agency for those additional 6-9-12 months.

[Note: Not every agency offers a reduced fee for administering the extension months. And, when they do, this reduction is often not very significant. The largest deduction I could find in my quick search was from $625 to $450 per month over 12 months, for about $40 per week.]

Some host families and some au pairs just see the extension period as a childcare bargain that saves host families money.

So, some au pairs expect and ask for a raise.

If you just look at the money involved, there’s an argument for giving the extension au pair a raise. If the host family has to pay less per week to an agency, there is some ‘extra’ money — money that had previously gone towards childcare expenses already. So why not just shift that payment from the agency to the au pair?

That sort of makes sense— except that it doesn’t.

An au pair should only get a raise in her/his stipend when s/he has earned it through outstanding job performance.

The reason to give an au pair a raise has nothing to do with whether the family is paying the same or less for the agency’s service during the extension months.

An au pair should only get a raise when the quality of her/his work with the children and within the family is exemplary.

We hope that an extenion au pair’s work with the children will be better, even exemplary, over the extension months because so much other stuff is ‘settled’. The au pair should have more time to focus on doing well by the kids. For example, if you already have a social life and some friends, an au pair can feel happier and more secure about her situation, and enjoy that positive energy during her/his on duty hours.

That said, no extension au pair should expect an automatic raise.

  • If you are a host family going into an extension, you should talk directly with your au pair about whether or not s/he will get an increase in pocket money above the $196 of the current weekly stipend.

Specifically, you should discuss with your aupair the circumstances under which you’d consider giving him/her a raise, and what amount of raise you’d consider.

It’s an especially good idea to discuss the possibility  your au pair a raise if/when s/he maintains a certain level of job performance if you are concerned that your au pair might ‘slack off‘ or take things for granted in her/his extension months. We know of au pairs who’ve taken advantage of their increased comfort inthe USA and host families’ increased flexibility & generousity with an au pair they’ve gotten to know and enjoy. It’s something to think about.

We have a really interesting request for advice from a host parent who’s facing this situation right now.

But before I post it (probably tomorrow…):

Let’s hear from you host parents who’ve had extension au pairs.

If you extended with your au pair, did you

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If you gave your extension au pair a raise, was it

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If you have a host parent friend or an au pair who’s considering an extension, help them anticipate this issue. Share this post with them, using the email, Facebook, or Twitter share buttons, below.


See also:

Au Pair Extension Fees: Why So High?
How can we tell our Au Pair we don’t want to extend?
Can Au Pairs shorten their Extension, once begun?
Deciding whether to extend: The Au Pair’s Point of View
She wants to extend, we’d rather not…
Extending with your current Au Pair: A Bad Idea?


Photo Credit: Shiau Kai via Compfight cc


Taking a Computer Lunch January 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm

It’s been a few years since we’ve had an AP willing to extend with us (or with whom we wanted to extend), but APIA built in an automatic raise for regular APs but not for extraordinnaires. We gave our extraordinnaires a raise that matched the raised dollar amount for regular APs, or, for one AP, paid the entire cost of her college education instead of giving her a stipend boost. The Web site doesn’t make it easy to check – as I recall the information about the raise was provided when we extended.

Personally, I think that if you extend with an AP it is because a) you like the job she is doing and b) she fits in with your family well. Is that not worth a little extra cash? I do recommend having a reset conversation at the start of the second year, especially if there are areas in which she does need improvement (or if you agreed to continue hosting so she could maintain her relationship with a boyfriend). If you choose to give a raise, tell your AP that you’re not required to give her a pay raise (unless your agency makes it part of the contractual agreement), but that because you like her level of performance and commitment to your family that she’s earned it (and you expect that she will maintain her effort).

EastCoastHM January 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm

We are also w/ APIA. While they used to specify a year two raise, they no longer specify a raise for extension APs – in fact, what they state is that the AP stipend for an AP in year 2 is the same as year 1, i.e. $195.75/week. (We are currently extending with our APIA au pair, so I know this is correct, at least for extension APs in the 2012/13 cycle.)

AFHostMom January 25, 2013 at 8:52 am

Us too–our extension year just started, and there will be no increased stipend. If we were getting a higher level of care, sure–but as stated above, the benefits to extending are mutual for us and her.

Should be working January 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

The agency sets the stipend, it’s what everyone signed on for, I don’t want to pay any more than that. Actually I wish this weren’t even posted here, because even asking this question seems to imply that a raise is something to consider, and I don’t want to feel like a Scrooge for not giving a great AP a raise, and I don’t want her to feel like she ‘should’ get one.

Our great APs get to travel to great places, we are really generous with gifts (like $200 for a birthday gift), they have a lot of perks. I consider that a constant ‘raise’ that rewards good performance. It’s not a job like other jobs, I don’t raises to become like tips, namely pretty-much-obligatory unless things are really bad.

One Thing at a Time January 24, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Our agency doesn’t require a raise when au pairs extend and I wouldn’t feel comfortable committing on my own to one for an entire year. But, we do offer thank yous throughout the year like helping out with travel expenses (like using our airline miles or hotel points as a thank you for an upcoming trip) or buying a gift card after an espeically crazy week when we’ve required a lot of flexibility. I naturally do this more often for an extending au pair since I’ve kept her around because she is doing a great job and like her around. But, if things start to slide I’ve still not committed to it.

HRHM January 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I will echo the previous HMs in that I would not committ to a permanent pay raise for an extending AP. I feel that we are both recieving benefits by the arrangement and that the stipend is set by the State Department. We offer our AP a great family life, a lot of flexibility, a pretty easy job (school aged kids, parents home in the evenings, cleaning service every other week) and she rarely works her full week, so I feel like she already makes more than stated because its for 30 hours instead of 45.

I also worry about performance slide in the second year and wouldn’t want to be paying for decreasing performance.

EastCoastHM January 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

We gave our current, extension year AP, a raise in an amount of 10% of the stipend (i.e. we pay the 110% of 195.75/week = $215.32/week).

We basically split the “savings” of extending with the AP – the savings was about $2k off the agency fee for the extension year, so our AP got a raise of ~20/week (=$1000 overall raise for the year) and we saved $1000 overall. If the agency fee hadn’t been reduced, I don’t know if we would have been so inclined to give a raise.

If we had taken a Year 2 au pair, I would not have offered such a raise both because we would not have received a savings off the agency fee, and because we would not have had the previous year’s track record (excellent!) which is the basis for the raise for our current AP.

NE mom January 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Is it true that for agency fees wouldn’t be reduced for a year 2 AP, “extending” with a different family? If so, that really stinks! The agency isn’t incurring much, if anything, extra in airfare and doesn’t have to pay for the AP’s training!

Seattle Mom January 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

It’s true.. we just got an extension au pair and we’re paying the usual fees.

EastCoastHM January 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I don’t know re other agencies, but we have been with both APIA and CCAP, and in both cases while we could have matched with a Year 2 AP (who had spend his/her year 1 with another family) if we had done so we would have had to pay the standard agency fee. The only way we saved money was extending with “our own” AP for her second year. I agree that it stinks!

Momma Gadget January 26, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Interexchange is the same. Only a discounted if your au pair extends with you.

Julie January 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm

With our agency, we save $950 to repeat, and if we extend a year, we save up to $2150. If a repeat family is repeating with a 2nd year au pair, they’d save the $950.

CA Host Mom January 24, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I agree with many of the above posts. We regularly give gifts of appreciation, occasional ‘extra spending money’ for a trip, give generous birthday and holiday gifts, do our best to accommodate her vacation requests (we’ve never said no) because we really want to show our AP how much we appreciate her. We take good care of her, she’s in a happy home with happy kids – works 45 hours a week (but never more), always has weekends off, has her own car … nothing incredibly extravagant – but all comfortable and nice.

I feel a lot better about that than I would about giving a typical ‘raise’ (we mutually decided to extend this week) … and would most certainly reject the idea of an agency mandated raise. We are with CC.

But on the other hand, there are likely HFs out there that milk it for all that they can while only paying the bare minimum and skimping on many of the other things. I understand why it would be a decent idea, but it would not work well for our family. I also strongly agree with the statement in the original post about any kind of raise being directly related to exemplary performance. That is the only reason I would get a raise at work.

While we love our AP to pieces, I sometimes wonder about a decline in performance too (we have noticed a bit of a drop off in the first year) – but I don’t want to come off too harsh in conversation. I’d love to hear recommendations on how some of you veterans have facilitated these conversations.

The things I notice are small like:
– missing a day of tidying the playroom before her shift is over a couple times a week (she has a 3 y/o and 10 m/o … hands full most of the day)
– sometimes leaving a few dishes in the sink at the end of her shift (always does the majority of days dishes from lunch, snacks, etc. though)
– not doing an outstanding job of picking up after herself (shoes left in living room, jackets lying on couch for days at a time, sun lotion left out which 3 y/o used as hand lotion – that’ll teach her :) …)
– being on personal calls a little bit more frequently (and for longer) than we would like during working hours. (I will do a better job addressing this in our Family Handbook for the next AP)
– leaving the kids laundry til it’s overflowing at the end of the week and we run out of clean PJs – (to be fair – only happened once)

Nothing really major, so I feel like centering a reset conversation around those things might seem like overkill …? And potentially create some resentment? Open to suggestions on this topic – and I am going to go search the blog to see if it has been addressed in a previous post. Thanks.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Time for a reset conversation, because you don’t want to wait until you get so irked that you snap. But if you have a 10 m/o, then her working situation has significantly changed in the course of her first year with her. Could it be that your infant takes shorter naps and demands more of her time and attention? Part of that reset conversation should involve listening to her tell you how her work day has changed and you helping her to prioritize what she can accomplish.

BTDT with stuff all over the house. The longer they live with us, the more AP’s belonging intermingle with ours, and that’s okay with us, because we’re clean but not tidy people. If everything has it’s place in your home, the time to remind her is now.

American AP in Europe January 25, 2013 at 10:59 am

It is irritating to read some host parents are upset that this conversation is even posted. Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but many host families do offer raises. For 45 hours per week of (often difficult and exhausting) work, I think it’s silly to even refer to the money as a “stipend” but I guess that is what the government program calls it.

All that said- if I were an AP in the US, I think I would appreciate a large(ish) resigning bonus and another bonus upon completion of my second year.

The country I am in now does not really have au pair guidelines, but my host family told me they will pay my flight home if I stay for a year or more, and a 750€ bonus for staying two or more years (plus the flight). I am staying for 14 months (am 7 months into my contract now) and I appreciate the gesture. It shows they value and appreciate me, and not only that, don’t think that simply being in their country and taking care of their children are enough of rewards in themselves. It’s especially nice that the bonuses are tax-free.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 25, 2013 at 11:34 am

We don’t offer a bonus to our APs at the end of their year. For our exceptional APs, we have given a Christmas bonus (and since that’s the halfway point in their year, it offers the opportunity to pay for part of their education credits or to take a special trip). We do, on the other hand, give a sizable box to all of our outgoing APs to ship some of their belongings home. The wise ship books and other heavy objects which would otherwise weigh their suitcases down. For our APs who have gone above and beyond, we have given extra days off – for those who have pushed against us every inch of the way, and barely met the guidelines of our handbook, we don’t.

CA Host Mom January 26, 2013 at 12:04 am

Thanks for the thoughtful advice! I will do both (talk and listen) and I am re-vamping our handbook since the kids are both older and I have decided to clarify a few things in there too. She was a re-match AP so she has only been with us for 4 months now, but still … several things have changed since she started. Regardless, we love her to bits and are thrilled that she wants to stay longer.

gianna January 24, 2013 at 4:51 pm

If you pay your aupair more than the required stipend , how does that affect her tax situation ? I think it would be a good idea to sit down and guesstimate how an increase in the stipend would affect the bottom line. I realize that many aupairs are adamantly opposed to paying taxes or even filing returns and I wonder if giving her more money is going to complicate that situation. Does that mean that the extra money is off the books ? That is something I would not favor getting involved in .

EastCoastHM January 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm

IRS says au pair stipend is taxable wages. Once AP makes more than $X in a given tax year, she will be liable for taxes on the stipend for that tax year. So, just like the rest of us, if AP makes more per week, she will both cross that threshold sooner and will have a greater income in a given tax year; and, thus, will presumably owe more taxes.

The amount we pay our AP is not “off the books” – we report it in the sense that we take the childcare deduction and as our supporting documentation use a signed register and various other certification forms that the AP must sign attesting to the exact amount she was paid by us during the tax year. (This is true whether we pay the standard $195.75 or a higher “raise” amount of $215.33)

If the AP isn’t going to file a return (as she is legally obligated to do so) then I wouldn’t imagine that making more money will cause her to do so/not do so. I always tell our APs that we take childcare deductions based on their tax ID number, and thus the IRS has a record that their taxpayer ID is associated with earnings. If they don’t file a return, they risk being unable to get a visa to come to the USA in the future. (Sometimes, when one applies for a work visa, a cross check is done with the IRS re unpaid tax penalties….not always…but sometimes…and my point to the APs is “why risk it for ~$600 (the amount of tax an AP will likely owe if she worked the full tax year).

Momma Gadget January 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm

We have not given our extending au pair a raise… He recieved a substantial Christmas bonus (in addition to gifts). His Birthday and one year anniversary with us fall in the same week…so he was given a nice chunk of change then also.
Personally I feel that a larger lump sum is more appreciated and less likely to be taken for granted than a few extra dollars every week.
We know our au pair is saving to purchase some pricey electronics that are exorbitantly expensive in his country- I think a bonus shows more tangible progress towards his goal. We do throw in a lot of extra’s through out the year- whenever we pick up something for our kids like a t shirt etc we pick up one for him too.

Julie January 30, 2013 at 4:24 pm

I totally agree with you. The $10 extra seems like just what they deserve, whereas extra gifts, travel and special things would be more appreciated.

Momma Gadget January 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I forgot to mention that as his time to leave gets closer, he seems to have become even more helpful… He was out shoveling the snow from the driveway last week before we even got up!

CA Host Mom January 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Our first AP was that way as well which delighted me after hearing from everyone, LCC included, to be prepared to deal with/have discussions about a decline in performance towards the end. It was really wonderful and definitely confirmed our decision to send her home with a nice bonus (surprise to her) and pay to ship some of her things home.

BTW, Momma Gadget, you have me seriously considering a male AP for my 2 boys next time around. :)

Momma Gadget January 26, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Did I mention- I love my bro-pair! It is definitely the right choice for us at this time in our boys development.
Happy matching to you!
In keeping with this topic-Our second au pair just really clicked with our family. When it came time for au pair of the year nominations for our agency- we sent in a letter about her-She won! She was awarded a weekend in NYC at a nice hotel for her and a friend. They even sent a stretch limo to pick them up at our home. Perhaps I am naive- but she seemed to appreciate that I took the time (during crunch time at work) to write and submit the letter than her prize.

Skny January 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Between you and another poster we are also interviewing some bros

Momma Gadget January 26, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Which ever way you go, I hope you find a great match for your family!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Because my APs care for a special needs child with medical issues and the need for complete care, I almost always feel that they deserve to be AP of the year. I agree with Momma Gadget that even when they haven’t won, knowing that I have taken the time to nominate them makes them feel appreciated for what they do and helps give them confidence in their place in our family.

oranje_mama January 24, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Agree with Should Be Working – I wish this weren’t even posted here. This post is essentially based on the premise that the amount you pay an extending Y2 AP is up for negotiation (subject to the agency/State Dept floor). So why would Y1 be any different? The “stipend” is simply the floor for the negotiation and then HFs compete for APs based on what they pay above the stipend? Maybe this is already happening, who knows.

I look at the AP program as a cultural, educational program. That’s why it’s called a “stipend” (and not a “salary”) and why there are certain educational requirements to be met, etc. I don’t think the stipend should be up for negotiation.

That said, I agree with all of the PPs that talk about providing outstanding APs with special perks, small or more lavish gifts, etc. This is also more consistent with “being part of the family” versus being simply an employee.

cv harquail January 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Just let me be clear here– what I’m saying in the original post is
— Extension au pairs should not expect an increase in stipend simply becuase they extend
— Au Pairs should not expect that host parents save money on an extension– they often dont
— No au pair should get a raise in stipend unless s/he earns it through outstanding performance.

The unfortunate reality is that many extension au pairs assume that they will get a raise in stipend, and then they get offended when they don’t get a raise. As you’ll see in the next post… so stay tuned.


Should be working January 24, 2013 at 7:24 pm

I am indeed staying tuned. I really hope we aren’t going to secretly offend our AP by not giving the raise. Do they really expect one??

American AP in Europe January 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Sorry it makes you uncomfortable, but apparently many host parents and APs want to talk about it.

Posie January 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Sounds like I’m in the minority here but I think that if an Au Pair is “good enough” to extend with the family for another year, she deserves a little more money (perhaps after a casual performance review”) as she would receive in a professional setting. And if she is a TRULY great AP, I’d be tempted to give an even higher raise. If the AP is an extension from another family I wouldn’t say the same because her performance for that particular job with the new family is still unknown.

We have a really great AP this year and have given her generous birthday and Christmas gifts. We’ve also given her thank you gift cards to movies, etc. just as a random “thank you for being so awesome”.

I don’t think our AP will extend, sadly, but I know she is close with a group of APs who are extending and who I know from speaking with the Host Moms that they plan to give a raise. I could see how it would be very, very tricky to give a raise to an extending AP because what if I would give a 10% raise but they are getting a 15% raise…that just seems to breed resentment (but I still really think that anyone doing a really fab job for a year should make more money in year 2!) I wish the agency would provide some guidance on this. I think they say that you can pay more if you wish. It might be nice to say something to the effect of “we recommend an 8% raise for APs who extend with the same family”.

To the point that we don’t pay much less for our own extension APs: TRUE. In strict monetary terms, yes. But in terms of frustration, time off from work? Training someone new? Etc? It is worth it to me to pay an extra $100/month or so to put all of that off for another 6 months to a year!

Anna January 25, 2013 at 6:22 am

Am I getting a raise this year? No, I am a federal worker and because of a higher tax I am actually getting a cut, with an additional perspective of unpaid furloughs this year.
Can I afford to give my au pair a raise? No.

I am a stickler to the rules. This is a big part of why I have an au pair, I need to be clean in terms of legality of my caregivers, and my own tax responsibilities.

I pay the exact stipend. I will pay the exact stipend. Is stipend amount now part of the “arms race” between host families trying to nab the best au pair?

I am happy to see most parents here agree with me. Au pair is not a job, it is not a career path. It doesn’t fall into the same compensation rules. I don’t hire au pairs for whom it is a career path – I am looking for college-educated role models for my kids who have ambitions and plans for next year. I never extended (yet) so this is a moot point, but I don’t want the stipend amount to even be on the table for negotiations.

Seattle Au pair! January 25, 2013 at 7:35 am

Since I have been an au pair I would tell you to not give a raise to the au pair, why…
a) If she agreed to extend with you its because she likes the family and/or she wants to stay in that city, because she has a boyfriend or wants to be close to her friends, so she is probably happy that she is staying.
b) If she is not as enthusiastic in her second year then you will be resentful of given her a raise and she is not doing a great job.( so naturally you expect the au pair to do great)
Of course that does not apply for everyone.
But I think that thank you cards or little helps, extra day off ( if possible) or little extra for a trip here and there would be much more appreciated and would help her/him not lack on performance
The raise is soon forgotten since she/he will get it every week. The au pair can´t be upset if she doesn´t get a raise on her second year because that is not on her contract she knows the weekly stiped.
That is my opinion.

Amelie January 25, 2013 at 8:12 am

I’ve never heard of any au pairs who got a raise during their second year. I did not extend with my HF, even though they were awesome, because I wanted to return to my home country and work on my career. But even while I was considering this possibility, I never expected a raise.

I made more than the official stipend because I worked extra hours, and received very generous gifts throughout my AP year, even being a 1st year au pair.

I agree with a previous poster… 15/20 extra dollars each week are soon forgotten… Giving an extra on a difficult week, an extra day off, or a nice birthday/christmas/farewell gift, for example, would be a great way of showing appreciation, and wouldn’t be something the AP takes for granted.

Posie January 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm

So full disclosure: I am a less experienced host mom, being only on our second AP…but I truly cannot fathom not giving either of them a raise if they had decided to stay on. My children are young (currently 2 and 3) and very close together in age. Most weeks our AP works all 45 hours and with both of the young women we have hosted they have been incredibly patient, loving, creative, and hard working. So much more so than the “professional nanny” that we hired previously, who wanted to charge us $20/hr and be on facebook messenger on her phone all day, never (EVER!) clean up after herself and the kids, and pressured us into joining multiple expensive playgroups and lessons so that she didn’t have to spend as much time entertaining them. (But that is obviously another story….)

At least for our first AP, this was her first real job (I would recommend against this in the future, but it worked out fine for us). I think providing honest evaluation and feedback on her performance along the way and giving a raise if she had decided to stay would be a great life experience for her. Sure it’s a cultural exchange…it’s also a hard ass job!

We have loved both of our APs so much that we HAVE given large (2 week’s salary) Christmas bonuses as well as generous gifts for Xmas and birthdays.

I can express over and over again to them how grateful I am in words but it feels wrong to me to NOT reward them with things they really want and need (like CASH!) for taking such loving care of the most precious people in my life. They did not ever behave entitled to these things but I think they knew how much we appreciated them when they got them. I’m not saying by not giving a raise you are not appreciative because I’m sure that you are…I personally just cannot fathom not doing it. Maybe my psychology is money=appreciation :)

Now…if I had a more mediocre AP who caused me grief and made my life harder vs. easier, I wouldn’t extend with her so it would be a moot point, but I also would be a lot less generous with the other things.

I do think it’s problematic that different families give different wages and bonuses because I KNOW all of the girls talk and compare these things….

BTW….I work for a State agency and in our state we have had a wage increase freeze for the past FIVE years due to budgetary shortfalls…so no raise for me since 2008….but that’s not my Au Pair’s problem… :)

EU.AP January 25, 2013 at 12:50 pm

A traditional employer would offer a raise for a few reasons. The couple reasons I’ve experienced if my previous job was 1) to promote longevity of employment since the hiring and training process is costly, and 2) seasoned employees are more efficient, and shoulder more responsibilities.

Is your family going to save money by extending? Are her responsibilities or hours going to increase significantly? Is she the superior choice over bringing in a brand new au pair?

All families have different ways of showing appreciation, and a raise in the second year is just one option. If an au pair feels undervalued and unappreciated, it’s unlikely she would agree to extend, and if she was really outstanding then this is the family’s loss.

EU.AP January 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Just to clarify, I don’t think that a raise is necessary for an au pair to feel appreciated. I think there’s also been so many other great options that have also been mentioned.

CAmom22 January 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I’m really surprised this is even a topic for conversation! Maybe I, like someone else mentioned above, am just a real stickler for the rules, but it would never occur to me to deviate from the State Dept mandated weekly stipend. In fact I would be uncomfortable doing so. That does not mean I don’t give all sorts of other bonuses for great performance. I do. We are very generous with the extras, particularly for outstanding AP’s. We give many paid extra days off, cash / gift card “bonuses,” etc to acknowledge extra efforts, birthdays, time-based milestones and great performance. We are very generous and flexible with excellent APs (more so than with so-so APs). But I would not get into a discussion of adjusting the State Dept weekly stipend no matter the quality of the work.

EastCoastHM January 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

State Dept mandated stipend is a mandated MINIMUM. It isn’t breaking the rules to offer more (but, of course, IS breaking the rules to pay less or withhold for any reason.)

Gianna January 25, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Thanks for pointing that out, East Coast HM. I know of at least one host family who pays above the minimum all year but does not give a raise if that aupair extends. I also heard about another aupair who asked her family for a raise after a couple of months . To tell the truth, that little story spooked me since I would not want to be approached for an increase if I was following the rules in the first place. But, if other families want to give increases to extension aupairs or pay above the minimum all along , I don’t have issues. It is just a fact of life. Every family offers different perks and advantages and there are drawbacks to every situation. I do think , though, that LCCs should tell aupairs not to approach families for an increase mid-year or periodically based on performance or cost of living or anything else. It is hard to say no and it creates an uncomfortable situation if a family feels it necessary to decline.

CAmom22 January 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Well that’s interesting; I realized I had never questioned that so I just went looking but couldn’t find consistent references. The J-1 visa website does refer to a “minimum” in the bullet point summary section but the actual regulation itself (sec 62.31) does not (only regulation on point I found in short search). In any case I imagine you’re right the real issue the State Dept should be concerned with is whether some pays less, not more. Though presumably the IRS has an interest in knowing whether more is paid!

EastCoastHM January 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Yes, the interplay of sec. 62.31, the State Dept J-1 website and the Dept of Labor website does get a bit hairy. But, if you look at the FLSA you can see the interpretation of minimum wage on which the J-1 compensation is based can calculated. I agree – IRS indeed does have an interest in knowing whether more was paid, and it is incumbent upon the AP to declare what she was paid. To that end, I explicitly tell our APs that $X.oo is the amount I will be reporting to the IRS as having been paid (and explicitly walk them through the calculation, have them sign a receipt of amount paid etc. for *my* tax records). I tell them that the amount they state as their income should be the same :)

FWIW – we pay the state dept mandated minimum stipend in year one ($195.76 – exactly (via direct deposit), and have only once extended (currently) and did offer this AP an increased stipend as I noted in another post, but I completely agree that this is discretionary and that the program paramaters do not dictate any mandatory raise for year 2 (although some agencies might do so))

HRHM January 28, 2013 at 11:01 am

Just curious, how far into the second year are you and do you feel like there has been any performance slide or burnout? Do you still feel like she’s earning the increased stipend? Thanks for sharing.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Having tried to sponsor an AP as an employer (it took too long for the Dept. of Labor to look at her application, which was required before moving it forward to Homeland Security), I know that the stipend is calculated on minimum wage minus room & board by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. I always emphasize to APs that food is part of their salary (because in reality, it is) so that they feel comfortable eating and asking for things they like.

I think that if an AP came to me asking for a raise, I would point out all the facets of her salary – her bedroom, the food she eats in our home (or the lunch that she packs to go), the car she drives, the cel phone she uses, the education stipend (which barely covers 3 credits these days), and the family supports. I would then point out that their friends who work as nannies and live in apartments may make more but have more expenses. I would think that an AP that went into rematch over salary would not find much sympathy with potential HF. (Also, in my experience, the APs that have chafed the most about salaries were those sending money home.)

Skny January 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm

We tried the same but after evaluation I was given a rate of $15 an hour and I was told I would not be allowed to discount for room and board. So we only went as far as getting the certificate with the proposed expected pay for the job.
Too much more money.
Did you get a similar certification? Did yours allowed discounting room and board. We would love to bring back a person who no longer qualifies as Au pair.

Skny January 26, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Can’t remember the name of the paper you get from work force with what is considered competitive pay base

Taking a Computer Lunch January 26, 2013 at 5:06 pm

We had a lawyer who did the work pro-bono for us. In 2001, when we initiated the project (at a time when APs could only stay for one year), the U.S. Dept. of Labor told us that we could pay $7.75 plus room & board. We had to advertise in a local newspaper (not the nationally ranked local newspaper) for one week, but by making the requirements direct experience with people with special needs and a U.S. driving license, we had no takers. We then submitted our application for sponsorship to the U.S. Dept of Labor for review. By the time it rose to the top of their queue, in 2005, the AP had moved out of our household and we canceled the application. The AP had the right to stay in the country and work while her application was being reviewed, but she could not exit and return. We put her on a student visa, paying 100% of her education expenses (hard the first year because it was double the agency stipend for the first calendar year, but easy after that when the college gave her an in-county rate). Even after she left our family, we continued to sponsor her at the community college, although we did not pay her tuition. After three years, when she refused to get a letter from the counselor telling us how many more credits she needed to graduate (and had amassed over 110 credits) we suspended that relationship (we were not on good terms with her by then). She had, before she left, hinted that she wanted the $15 an hour salary her live-out nanny friends had. I pointed out that between her salary, her room & board, her tuition, and full access to a car that we maintained, she made far more than her friends, but she didn’t want to hear it.

Momma Gadget January 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm

CV- I am glad you posted this. I am the only HP in my circle of friends, family and co workers. I wouldn’t even know about this potential issue, had you not.
Our AP’s, hangout mostly with other APs… many with families of “significant means”. It is great to place where these issues “pop Up” so that we are not blind sided. ( Many Thanks!)
We have learned to be clear with our au pairs, during our interviews that we are just a middle class family. The Kardashians we are not, though we are caring, easygoing, generous ( where we can be)and fair.
I have had a couple of au pairs that came to us though extension, or transition- who have come from abusive and illegal situations… they have been so appreciative to be treated as part of the family and never complained about other APs having a better situation or more perks.

AP-to-be January 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm

I am not even an AP yet but hope to be this summer. This is probably a difficult question for me to answer, since I don’t know if staying for a 2nd year would be in my interest but figured I could still share my opinion, since extending is an idea I’m not opposed to, if under the right circumstances.
Anyway, I would never expect a raise, I mean it’s not like this is a regular 9-5 office job. I also very much agree, that the $20 dollars extra a week would be lovely to receive but after a while you forget that and might not keep reminding yourself of that extra $20 for going an extra mile.
On the other hand, I would feel so appreciated if my HM-to-be came home with my favorite magazine or picked up a coffee for me on the way home. To me, that would bring joy each time and actually feel like she/they cared.
That’s probably how I look at it but I also wouldn’t feel comfortable receiving something every single time a situation came up, because then it would feel like my HF felt obligated to do so..

American host mom in Europe January 26, 2013 at 4:28 am

I think it interesting that no one has mentioned that outside of the US it isn’t regulated in the same way, so the issue is different. I have had one AP extend beyond the agreed year and another who we made an offer to extend but didn’t. In both cases we offered more money per month. We felt their experience warranted it; with one year’s experience in the position, why pay them the same as a new inexperienced person? Plus our costs were lower as we didn’t continue to pay for local language lessons in the second year.

Momma Gadget January 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm

FYI- American HF pay an education stipend the second year also.

American AP in Europe January 26, 2013 at 8:50 am

CV- I wish that more host parents were aware of the fact that the $196 per week is calculated based on MINIMUM WAGE, and that it is not breaking any rules to pay an AP more than that. It is breaking rules to pay them less or pay them late. Perhaps a post could be done on this subject?

Momma Gadget January 26, 2013 at 2:37 pm

This is not a traditional “JOB”. If some one wants to come to the US, work and earn more- then go through the proper channels get a work visa and green card… good luck with that!
There are many costs to the host families that just looking at the stipend alone ignores. Most Minimum wage Jobs do not include plane ticket, visas, training for a week in NYC (included in agency fees), room, board, a car, meals, cell phone, and in our case a gym membership, the choice to join us (or not)on fully paid vacations,or join the kids in fun activities like ski lessons, zip lining, waterparks to name a few.
This program allows young people to come here to the US and stay for up to 2 years ( usually in some very nice areas) with basic necessities covered, health insurance, the opportunity to learn about another culture, and improve their English skills. For parents it offers an affordable reliable childcare and the opportunity to learn about another country.
We make a considerable effort to give our au pair the American experience… I admit I am bristly about that comparison of the stipend to minimum wage.
Each HF need to follow their heart as far as raises/ bonuses…

American AP in Europe January 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I am simply making a point that accurate information should be spread. A “job” or not, 45 hours of hard work per week is 45 hours of hard work per week.

Momma Gadget January 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Yes I agree with you,taking care of children is hard work! It is a point it seems that is often forget (or lead to forget) despite the childcare experience listed in dossiers.
But don’t forget room and board, car insurance, cell phones etc are not cheap- all these costs add up… there is no way someone working a minimum wage job for 45 hrs a week would be able to afford to live in our area- never mind have any left over pocket money.

EastCoast HM January 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Yes, but most “minimum wage jobs” don’t come with room, board, utilities, cable, Internet, “company car”, health insurance, car Insurance, mobile phone/text plan, laundry facilities, paid holiday trips, gas money, gym memberships, education stipend, etc.

Au Pairs receive such benefits and don’t pay for them. They have $196 of discretionary spending money each week….

Taking a Computer Lunch January 26, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Actually, most APs pay for a portion of their health insurance, especially if they want to cover sports injuries. They also put up a subvention that they will return home – the fee varies from country to country.

This is no different from anyone else on a temporary J-1 visa, although at the sleep-away camp that my special needs child attends, the temporary J-1 employees barely break even.

Some of the APs I have hosted have returned home with money (one thrifty AP went home with $800, only to be sorely disappointed when it was converted to Euros). A couple have toured the country for three or more weeks of their travel months, and including luxury destinations. I have also had a couple of APs support family members back home on a portion of their weekly stipend. And of course, I have hosted several that have spent every dime of their stipend within a week.

It may be a minimum wage job, but it does come with far more of a cushion than the majority of minimum wage earners in America. I do think some of the APs mistake their situation for being able to survive in the U.S. as childcare workers on a small salary (which is what $15 an hour becomes if one has to pay rent, utilities, transportation and food).

au pair January 26, 2013 at 10:39 am

My hf gave me a raise without even telling me. I did not notice it until 2 months into my second year. I said, hey, i dont know if you noticed, but you pay me $30 more per week. They said, of course we do, you are now more experienced as any other new au pair, you deserved a raise. We feel bad its only $30 but we cant aford more. If was like, WOW you dont have to do that, but THANK YOU! They said, that it is very important to them, that their kids have stable childcare, and therefore they are willing to pay more than normal.

Momma Gadget January 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm

What ever happened to agency bonuses,they used to give au pairs after the successful completion of the program? My first au pairs received one, but my current AP says they don’t do that any more. Is it that true with all the other agencies?

AuPair123 January 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm

With APIA – for au pairs who came in 2011 or before they get a $200 bonus at the end of their first year but have to pay fuel surcharges on their flights home – which vary according to where you depart and where you hope to land, for example, a flight from DC to London costs an au pair $231 fuel surcharge (If they stay a full 2years then this doesnt apply). If an au pair came in 2012 or later they no longer get the end of year bonus but also dont have to pay fuel surcharges even if they dont stay a full 2 years.

HRHM January 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

According to my last 3 APs, CC and APC don’t give bonuses, or charge the “refundable fee” that they used to. My first AP (if she was to be believed) had to pay a couple thousand dollars that she would get back if she completed the year. None of the others have had to do this.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Yes, APs living in high-risk countries pay a higher subvention fee than those APs living in countries where the majority of J-1 visa recipients return home at the end of their term of employment. It has been my experience that many of the APs living in countries with higher subvention fees cobble the money from family members and friends and are expected to pay it back. I have had a couple of APs who did not really have money to spend on themselves for several months into their year.

American AP in Europe January 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

That is horrible. The more I learn about the US au pair scheme, the more ridiculous I think it is.

Should be working January 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Well, here is an insight I just had about USA vs. European au pair programs about a surprising paradox:

The US program is actually more “European” in the way it works: It is highly regulated; insurance is included in the program (built into fees paid on both sides); you can’t simply hire OR fire someone without going through due process, which is sometimes onerous; participants (on both sides) who are not really suited to the program are often given a second (or third) chance; the total number of work hours is limited (not to say rules aren’t broken); the au pair is in principle not to be exploited and her/his duties are fairly narrowly prescribed by rules; there is a lot of administration that to the participants might seem superfluous; that does translate into rules and protections for both sides that are sometimes not transparent when a difficulty arises.

The European AP program is more ‘American’ in the liberal (not left-liberal, but classic free-market liberal) sense: Matching is done on a more ad hoc, individual basis with lots of different agencies and individuals operating largely unregulated; the arrangement is more ‘at will’, and often more short-term, on both sides; payments are more ‘pay-as-you-go’ and less up front costs (agency, insurance); the basic wage is much lower; APs can earn much more if they are willing to work more; their duties are less narrowly prescribed and they can find themselves working as domestic workers despite the representation of the matching HF; there is far less institutional recourse for anyone to take in a bad situation; ‘member of the family’ inclusion on family benefits (e.g. vacations) is far less the norm.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm

American AP in Europe – the subvention fees are not part of the “AP scheme” but are applied to any J-1 visa. There are literally thousands of young adults who work in summer camps, Disneyland, hotels, summer resorts, on J-1 visas. Their visas may be limited to the summer months, but they still must put up subvention money and pay visa fees.

I had a former AP who wanted to return to the U.S. to work for a charity to meet the qualifications of her European university degree, but the $1,000 visa fee put working for the charity out of her market.

A Host Mom January 28, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I’m not quite sure why you are so resistant to acknowledging the value of room, board and car usage, as well as airfare, health insurance and agency. It is unlikely that many “minimum wage workers” would enjoy all of these along with $800 of pocket money a month. Also, while European au pairs may earn additional money, the American program provide the au pairs with protections and safeguards that individual “au pair” contracts do not provide. From many posts I have read here, when a European au pair relationship goes wrong, the host family can just kick the au pair out of their home with little or no repercussions. However, in the American “scheme,” the au pair cannot be kicked out and will either be placed elsewhere or put on a plane home. So, there are pro’s and con’s to each system. If my daughter were to choose between more money or a better support system, I would recommend the latter.

Posie January 28, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I find the word “scheme” pretty offensive in this context. I personally am operating legally and think we (and our APs) have had a mutually great experience.

American AP in Europe January 28, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Scheme, as in a “system”, not “marked by cleverness or trickery”.

oranje_mama January 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm

The Brits use the word “scheme” the way we Americans use the word “plan.” Brits participate in “pension schemes” (not “pension plans”). But PP purported to be an American AP in Europe. So who knows ;)

American AP in Europe January 28, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I want to preface this statement by saying that I am 24 years old and finished my undergrad in the US before coming to Europe to Au Pair. I nannied part time all through college and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way.

The reason why I have a problem with the AP Scheme in the US is exactly why Should Be Working pointed out- the hiring and firing in the US is not really an option. I think this negatively impacts the host family/au pair relationship because in so many instances a host family complains about an au pair’s attitude and behavior- in a regular employment situation, the employee would get warnings to change their behavior and then eventually be let go. I see advice posted on here that is just short of manipulation and crosses so many personal boundaries.

The au pair that kept forgetting to give the baby a night time diaper? People were saying to wake her up in the middle of the night. The au pair who wouldn’t swim on her period? People were suggesting to put limitations on it- “You can not swim for the first 3 days of your period, but that’s it!”

[cv notes: Not all “people” were suggesting that waking the au pair was a good idea. Also, in the situation of the au pair who wouldn’t swim during her period, swimming was a job expectation discussed during matching since it was critical to the family. In this situation, the au pair was going back on her earlier agreement.]

If those instances were for nannies, the choices would be simple- do the job, or find another job. But because of the agency component- often an au pair’s boundaries are stepped on in order for a family to get what they want.

Another thing I have a problem with is that host parents are unwilling to raise their au pair’s wages, but rather give “gifts” and “thank you”‘s . These things are nice, but they are not stable. As a few posts back about “disciplining an au pair”, many people said they would take away a car, for example, in order to get an au pair to change her behavior. Whereas again, for a traditional employee, she should be given a warning and then dismissed. The power dynamic is unbalanced. I know that host families rely on the au pair, but I don’t think that enough thought is given to how vulnerable the au pair is living in someone else’s house, driving their car, using their cell phone. Parents like to flaunt these as “perks” but are also quick to point out that they can be taken away for naughty behavior.

My employer gives incentives to stay longer at the 12 month and 24 month marks, but in the hiring process I asked her, “Will [my plane ticket home] be based on your satisfaction in performance or simply completion?”

I realize my perspective comes from age and work experience as a nanny beforehand, but it just makes me realize how many girls are really taken advantage of. The relationship is delicate. I don’t think all, but certainly MANY host parents on this blog have au pairs because they want cheap child care, and they know they are in a better position to get what they want from a 19-year-old au pair than a 30-year-old nanny or even a 19-year-old nanny who did not rely on the family for housing. It’s really sad and angering to me, and makes me grateful for my boss and experience in Europe.

That’s just my $0.02. I know what I’m saying is falling on deaf ears, but I figured I’d share it nonetheless.

Anna January 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I, for one, have “fired” au pairs when I found that they cannot do their job to my satisfaction, if I could not work with them.

Here host parents are supposed to play a parental role of sorts, “host parents”, and care about the au pair beyond what one would care for an employee. That is why before going into rematch most would prefer to make it work. I think your POV is biased because you are an au pair yourself and what you read here is colored by your perception. You only note negative things in your post; from my POV there are many many more positive ones, and most host parents here sincerely care about their au pairs and help them out to make it work.

JJ Host Mom January 28, 2013 at 10:39 pm

The support system that prevents au pairs from being fired with no notice and no warning actually benefits the au pair, not the host family. If I can’t trust an au pair to take care of my children, I definitely don’t want her hanging around any longer than necessary. For this reason I’ve also rematched. I think it’s fair to say that most host parents try to work with the au pair for the benefit of the au pair. This is definitely not a power trip thing.

Also, we’ve gone over and over this here, but having an au pair almost always costs as much or more as any other type of childcare.

You talk about deaf ears, but you’re not listening to what the host parents, not to mention other au pairs, are saying here. I’d kindly request that if you want to post here and be part of the conversation, please actually converse – listen, consider other opinions and viewpoints, and respond with respect.

Host Mom in the City February 1, 2013 at 9:47 am

“I realize my perspective comes from age and work experience as a nanny beforehand, but it just makes me realize how many girls are really taken advantage of. The relationship is delicate. I don’t think all, but certainly MANY host parents on this blog have au pairs because they want cheap child care, and they know they are in a better position to get what they want from a 19-year-old au pair than a 30-year-old nanny or even a 19-year-old nanny who did not rely on the family for housing. It’s really sad and angering to me, and makes me grateful for my boss and experience in Europe.

That’s just my $0.02. I know what I’m saying is falling on deaf ears, but I figured I’d share it nonetheless.”

APIE, it’s not that your comments are falling on deaf ears, it’s that the way you put things is offensive or just plain wrong, so it’s difficult to respond. I don’t understand where you get the opinion that “many” host parents on this site just want cheap childcare and get young au pairs because they want to take advantage of someone. I mean, how many times have we gone over the fact that it’s not cheap to have an au pair?

For us, it’s actually about $1,000 more a month than having the kids in before/after care and only about $3,000 less than having a nanny for the hours we need. And that’s just talking cash outlay – not to mention the hours of time I spend helping our au pair throughout the year and the “inconvenience” of having someone live in our house and giving up a room. It’s simply not cheap, so you’ve lost me right there. It’s not that I’m not listening to you, it’s that what you’ve said there is plain and simple wrong, and I’m not sure what I could say to convince you of that. Even though it’s more expensive to have an au pair, we do it anyway because we love the benefits, love the relationships we’ve had with our two, and truly enjoy it.

It’s “sad and angering” to ME that I spend tons of time thinking about how to have a good relationship with our au pairs and how to make sure they have the year they dreamed of when they signed up including tons of time reading through this site, interacting with other host parents, getting ideas and opinions – and then to come on and read that someone who isn’t even an au pair in the American system thinks I’m “taking advantage” of our au pairs simply because I’m cheaping out on childcare.

It’s not that I’m ignoring you, it’s not that I’m oversensitive about internet posts. This site is generally populated by people who have a give and take – we certainly have disagreements, but we are all here in the spirit of learning and getting input from others. There have been many times that I’ve posted one way and then been convinced to think about it a different way. And all along we acknowledge that everyone’s experience and wants are different. So it’s frustrating that you don’t seem to have the same spirit of openness – you obviously think you’re right and that’s that. It’s not possible to have a healthy conversational debate with someone who has completely closed their mind to other thoughts or opinions.

Host Mom in the City February 1, 2013 at 10:53 am

Just reading over this again and to clarify – it’s $1,000 a month more to have an au pair than it would be to do before/after care and about $3,000 more A YEAR to have a nanny. Sorry!

American AP in Europe January 28, 2013 at 7:44 pm

As for when things go wrong in Europe and the host families just kick the AP out of their home- I agree that is a huge downside. However (again, I think it’s because of my age), when I came to Europe, I had enough cash in my bank account and a limit on my credit card that would allow me to pay for a few weeks in a hostel and then buy a flight home. Many au pairs would not think about this and be left vulnerable.

Should be working January 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm

What would happen if an AP went into rematch, were deemed non-rematchable by the agency, and had no credit card or money? How would s/he get home? The agency doesn’t pay the return flight in some of the non-rematchable situations.

American AP in Europe January 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I agree that’s a huge downside, however my AP friends here mostly come from EU countries and fly back several times per year to visit, so it’s not as far or costly as to another continent.

Tired Host Mom January 28, 2013 at 11:30 pm

To American AP in Europe, Au pair childcare is anything but cheap. It’s not just the stipend and the fees. All the other things really add up. The true cost is about $2,000 / month, at least in my geographic region. I think i figured out once that the true cost is $11-12 / hour. And if the family doesn’t use the 45 permitted hours per week, that true hourly rate is higher still. Far less expensive options exist. So, just consider that families in the US may genuinely wish to create a cross-cultural experience for their children. And that ‘cheap’ is probably not the driving factor in most cases.

American AP in Europe January 31, 2013 at 12:59 am

The childcare options are: Au pair, nanny, nanny share, daycare.

Considering a full time nanny can run at about 40k a year, the AP program is cheap, in the sense that your children get individual attention and you get the luxury of short notice availability for a fraction of the cost of a nanny.

I agree it isn’t “cheap” but for what you’re getting, it’s a great value. A family I used to nanny for (back in the US) paid me $18/hour to babysit. Now they have an au pair…

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