How Soon To Schedule Au Pair’s First Day Off?

by cv harquail on April 24, 2016

Venturing into the grey areas of Au Pair regulations and scheduling, a First Time Host Mom asks– how many days might a brand new au pair work before she must be given a day off?  5590750750_7fc145fd3d_m

(I phrased it differently in the headline of this post, but essentially it’s the same question).  She’s thinking about the first 8 days, total, of her Au Pair’s arrival.

Her details are below, and here’s my take:

I’m a big believer in following the rules to a T, especially at the start.  A day off in this time period makes sense conceptually, but also it’s probably what the rules require.  Remember that your Au Pair arrives at your house already having been “On duty” and working at her Agency’s training & orientation session… so what you might really be looking at is a 10.5-day stretch of being “On duty”.

  • Consider one less day or half day of training, and give your Au Pair this time off.  If you’re already considering a light training schedule for some of these days, it might be worth it to concretely schedule one of those as day off.
  • If training requires you taking days off, and then not having any days off to stay home while your Au Pair gets a break, try giving your au pair a half day of work — just 4 hours — so that she can have a half-day off. Between yourself and your spouse, you might be able to have one of you take a half day yourself.
  • Alternatively, this is a good time to hire a babysitter.  Presumably/ I hope for you that, you’ve had someone available to help with childcare so far.  If you could engage this person for a half day (while the Au Pair works a half day), you could cover the day.

It’s overwhelming for everyone the first few days.  You might need some time off from training, too!

Reading between the lines here, you sound like a family who really wants this to work out — being around for 4.5 days for training is a lot of commitment– and maybe too much?


Wise host families, please help!

We’re brand new to this process, and will be welcoming our first au pair in 8 days for our one son, 18 months old.

Here’s my question – Host Dad and I rearranged our schedules so that one of us will be with AP at all times in the first 4.5 days so that we can train – but because of that, we need her to start work the afternoon of day 5, and work on her own days 6-8 (half days are a possibility if necessary).

How do the rules work with days off? Do we have to give her one right away? We’re planning on only a few hours of training each day so that she has time to unpack, settle in, and see friends if she wants, but she won’t technically have a full day off until her 9th day with us.

I should note, I’ve asked this question to my LCC but she has yet to get back to me. Do the rules cover this?

Image: Cherry Blossoms, US Embassy Tokyo, on Flickr


Taking a Computer Lunch April 24, 2016 at 9:01 pm

My understanding is that the 3 days in which a HP is required to be present are training days and don’t count. My AP arrives late on Thursday, and therefore starts training on Friday-Sunday. However, in my experience, most of my APs only needed us to be present for their first day at work, and when asked if they were ready, invariably said “Yes.” on the Tuesday. Did most make mistakes? Sure, but non of them life-threatening.

Nevertheless, I usually only have my AP work a half-day on the (2nd) Saturday and give her the second Sunday off (and almost always Sundays off – it’s just easier). I don’t think it matter when you give your AP her first 1.5 days off – just follow your agency’s rules about it – some require contiguous 1.5 days, others don’t. Do follow the rules about time off – it might come back to haunt you if you don’t!

I was nervous with my first AP, too, but by the arrival of the 2nd AP, I was ready to trust her to do her job and to be honest when she felt over her head (our concession – DH was prepared to stay a little later in the AM and I take a little time off in the PM). My advice. Let her take the lead on Monday – be around and available to help, but don’t “watch.” The more you make it “her shift” from the start, the more she’ll own the job.

I’m such a stickler, that if DH and I need more than 5 hours on a Saturday (even though our AP rarely works 25 hours Mon-Fri), that we’ll give her a half day off during the week.

Should be working April 24, 2016 at 9:30 pm

I would want to hear more about the 4.5 days of training. It sounds like a lot to me. The most time-consuming part of training for us is teaching the AP the various routes she needs to drive. Maybe you could scaffold the training over a few weekends if it needs so much time–like during the first week, while settling in, give the AP a pass on doing any laundry, so you don’t need to train her on laundry until the second weekend.

If the main task is playing with and occupying smaller kids, I would think 3 days’ training might be good enough to get through the first week, and then add more training bit by bit. Driving various routes takes more training. Certain household chores take more training, depending also on how much the AP knows about housekeeping and whether her culture has our kinds of appliances.

WarmStateMomma April 25, 2016 at 7:44 am

Our APs arrive late on Thursday nights and we don’t consider them to be working until Monday. However, Friday to Sunday they are getting to know our family, how everything works with kids/house/etc., and doing lots of training. We try to do something on Sunday – like the zoo – where the AP can see firsthand how to handle an outing with the kids. I stay home on Monday so AP can shadow me. Then she flies solo for three days and I’m home on Friday. At nap time, we chat about how things are going and what needs to be modified. ***Manage her expectations by telling her in advance that you will have this conversation so any feedback comes across more as constructive redirection than criticism.***

The second weekend (the one after her first week of work) she has both days off.

Emerald City HM April 25, 2016 at 11:07 am

This is pretty much what we do also.

TexasHM April 25, 2016 at 11:53 am

This is what we do as well. I do build out a schedule but I highlight green the times she needs to be available for some kind of onboarding activity (bank account, DMV run, driving assessment, etc) and I make sure there are breaks after each one and that she can sleep in the day after arrival. We take it easy the first weekend – as others said hanging out, bonding and then peppering in those errands I mentioned but otherwise we make it very clear what is optional (tagging along to kids baseball game), free time and time we need her to be available even though its not working (green activities). Monday she shadows and Tuesday we or outgoing AP shadows and ideally by the end of that week we are ready to take driving test and have most everything mastered. We do like the others and AP has regular off time that second weekend (for us during the school year that means Sat off and Sun off until 4-9pm and then 9pm is always our weekly AP meeting). We have done this with every AP and it never occurred to me to schedule them off the weekend they arrive because technically they aren’t working as they can’t be left alone anyway. We do take it easy as they will be exhausted but their first officially scheduled working day for us is that Monday and our weekly schedules go Mon-Sun anyway so their first 1.5 days off is that following Sat/Sun. So I guess by the logic of the OP above, our AP arrives Fri night and if you count that as day one she would get her first official day off with us on day 9 as well – the following Saturday so OP if that is your timing as well then I think you’ll be fine.

2 kids and a cat April 25, 2016 at 9:11 am

During your training, are you taking her to the bank, giving a tour of the town, having a family outing? Can you consolidate those things plus a half day of down time so that it’s her off time for the week? Color code non-childcare hours in your training schedule so she knows it’s not “work” time and feels you are following all the rules.

Mimi April 25, 2016 at 12:50 pm

Our APs arrive on Friday afternoon and have the weekend to socialize and acclimate. We send our handbook in advance which has the daily routine and info listed and we do very little actual training except for that first Monday. Tuesday I come home for lunch and do a recap of the day’s events when I get home along with reviewing the daily log book (CCAP). Wednesday-Friday phone call during lunch/nap and recap when I get home with a sit down on Friday to talk about how things are going and how she’s doing/feeling.

The next weekend we usually have a family outing and/or local tour followed by specific outings planned for the bank, SS administration, etc. Weekends are off days for us and the following Monday, they’re on their own with daily recaps (never really end, only get shorter) and weekly sit downs (that move to monthly).

The AP is home all day with HK#4 (20 mos). What I go over with her are safety items and the few things I like done a particular way (nap time sched, pls pre-treat stains, do a 10 minute tidy before I get home). The rest is up to her. It does occur to me that my older kids (12, 7, 7) do some training of their own in that they have chores to do after school which are pretty regular and they will often walk the AP through them when they do them. They also make their own snacks (with her supervision) and are pretty independent otherwise.

Dorsi April 25, 2016 at 12:54 pm

I’ve always considered Monday after arrival the first day of work. We don’t pay until the Friday after arrival either. It is often not hard for us to give a half or full day off mid week, but I wouldn’t feel any guilt about scheduling an Au Pair for 45 hours before she had her day off — especially as many of those first 45 hours involve working with me. I feel I am fully in compliance with the letter and spirit of the law.

The first few weeks are hard and stressful no matter how you do it. However, I want the Au Pair to feel like she has walked into a hurricane, and it only gets easier and easier day by day. Our really good LCC spent a lot of time at the intro meetings explaining that the first month is really, really hard. Setting that expectation was very helpful.

I’m a little curious what it means to be with the AP “at all times” during the first 4.5 days. Does that mean you have a schedule of 10h x 4d and 5h x 1d and you are with her the entire time she is working? That seems like a mistake. It is somewhat reasonable, though overkill and maybe awkward, to have a parent in the home for the first week, working in a separate room. Unless you have a job where you are very difficult to get a hold of or work very far from home (or have tons of discretionary time off), I would not be in the house for the first full week.

Seattle Mom April 26, 2016 at 4:14 pm

I’m the same, except that we haven’t been scheduling many 45 hour weeks for a couple of years now, with both kids in school every day. 35-40 hours is more common.

Also I build in a lot of time for the AP to sleep & do whatever they need to do their first weekend. It’s true that it’s not exactly “off” time because we need to have some scheduled training, but I try to keep it short and stick to the stuff they really need to know. During the week I get into more details. I had one AP who spent a lot of time her first weekend hanging out with friends- she had AP friends already in town. It turned out that she was amazing with the kids and very hard working and didn’t take direction well anyway (partly a language issue) so it was all for the best.

So I keep the weekend fairly light, let them have input in planning the training schedule, tell them when it’s optional to tag along, and don’t consider it work until Monday morning when they are left on their own. I mean, I work from home on Monday and accompany the AP for school drop-off/pick-up, but I work in my office and let them do everything without me. Then when the kids are at school I may spend some time talking to the AP and giving them guidance if they seem to need it. I pretty much did it this way even when I did schedule the AP for 45 hours, but it has been about 2 years since I regularly needed 45 hours per week.

NBHostMom April 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm

4.5 days of training are a lot! One thing I truly believe with APs is to start based on how you intend to continue. Our au pairs get thrown in the deep end and generally step up to the challenge. I actually think it helps an au pairs confidence and transition if they are asked to own the job from day 1. Training for me includes a lot of lists and schedules because I know they won’t remember 90% of what they’re told in the first few weeks. They get daily schedules created for them for the first few weeks until they see the pattern of the routines, they get lists of what foods to prepare for the kids, they get a list of negotiable rules l. they’re given written instructions tapped to the washing machine and dishwasher. It is an absolute pain for me to prepare, but it does allow the au pair to own her job. She has a reference ready and doesn’t need to wonder what happened next or how to do something. I also give our au pairs a notebook the first day of training. I ask them to make notes for themselves in their mother tongue. Our last au pair took pictures of everything with her iPhone to help jog her memory.

With all these “helpers”, I essentially work from home for the majority of training. I’m there if needed but I given AP tons of tools to be successful. I keep an ear on what’s going on in the house and then will give a recap of “tips and tricks” at the end of the day to help her better bond with the kids and manage their behavior.

As I tend to “dump and run” during the training, I do try to give our au pair an extra .5 day off mid-week to mentally recover and have a chance to explore on her own a bit. This isn’t required, but I think it helps her make it through the exhausting first week.

Should be working April 29, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Yoo hoo! CV and other spring helpers! I’m here and willing to create/curate/fabricate a post! Or to set up an open thread, if anyone knows how!

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