How To Count Au Pair Vacation Days

by cv harquail on December 6, 2015

Please note: Check your Agency’s contract for their interpretation of vacation policies. These may vary from one Au Pair Agency to another. Here’s AuPairMom’s best shot at explaining the logic of vacation days… I’m being sensible, but not necessarily following the specifics of your Agency’s contract.

There’s often confusion about how to count the number of paid vacation days an Au Pair has earned at any given point in her or his year.

The US State Depart Regulations for the Au Pair Program provide for “two weeks” of paid vacation during the twelve months of an Au Pair’s year. How these paid vacation days are earned and counted varies with each Agency.

One dilemma that pops up is how to count a “week” of vacation days.  

jon mitchellIn a world where people work Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday off from work, a “week” of vacation means 5 days, to be taken off sometime between Monday and Friday. Obviously, if you don’t work regularly on Saturdays, then having a Saturday ‘vacation day’ doesn’t make sense. Essentially, we expect to take the same days of the week “off” for vacation as we typically work.

Au Pairs on a Five Day Work Week

For Au Pairs who work Monday-Friday, counting up a week of vacation days is easy– it’s 5 days in number, and Monday through Friday on the calendar.   Some Au Pairs work 5 day weeks Tues-Sat, or some other 5-calendar-day-in-a-row combo. For these Au Pairs, vacation days are 5 in number, and the same days of the week as s/he’s normally scheduled.

If an Au Pair wants to take these days a week at a time, you’d make sure s/he was off duty all 5 of her or his regular work days as well as being off the two calendar days that s/he is normally off.

If an Au Pair wants to take a week’s vacation one day at a time*, s/he should take off the same calendar days as s/he normally works. For example, an Au Pair who normally works M-F would take one Monday here, one Wednesday there, etc. according to her or his agreement with the Host Family.  Similarly, the Au Pair working Tues-Sat would take a Sat here, a Weds. there, and so on.

(*Note that this kind of day-at-a-time vacationing wreaks havoc on the average working Host Parents’ life, and is not to be assumed as the best way to go.)

Au Pairs on a Six Day Work Week

For Au Pairs who regularly work a more extended schedule of 6 days — such as M-F as well as a regular Saturday afternoon or evening — counting vacation days gets a little weirder.

If you wanted to give this Au Pair an entire week off, this Au Pair would need to be off duty from M-F, as well as the Saturday s/he might normally work, and also not be scheduled to work on the Sunday.

The weird part of this is, as we all know, that an Au Pair will never be scheduled to work 6 days a week, every week, month after month, because s/he gets a full weekend off once a month.

That means that– at most– an Au Pair could work on 6 days (including a Saturday or a Sunday) only 3 weeks a month, with the fourth week working 5 weekdays, and neither Saturday nor Sunday.

If an Au Pair on a 6 day work week wants to take vacation a week at a time, this is still pretty simple.  S/he gets a 7 calendar day span off duty– whether that is from Sunday-Sat, or from Weds -Tues.

If an Au Pair on a 6 day work week wants to take vacation one day at a time* (aka a la carte), that’s when things get especially tricky.  Generally, the days of the week when an Au Pair takes a vacation day should be the same days of the week that the Au Pair typically works. Typically, as in 3 weeks out of 4.

In this case, the Host Parents and the Au Pair need to talk.

Does the Au Pair work 6 days a week three weeks out of four, or only once a month?  If it’s three weeks out of four, or perhaps even just two out of four, then the Host Parents should consider giving the Au Pair one Sat or Sun night off, whichever one the Au Pair often works, in addition to the 5 days during the week.

An Au Pair with a 6 day work week should also not expect to take more than one of her or his a la carte vacation days on a Saturday or Sunday.  For example, an Au Pair shouldn’t expect to use her or his vacation days to make sure s/he doesn’t work any Saturday nights at all in a particular 4 week period, when s/he would normally expect to work on two or three of those Saturdays.

An Au Pair should not expect to take *7* individual days ‘off duty’, if all of those days are typically the days of the week that s/he works.    

A “week” is not 7 days, but the number of days per seven day period that an Au Pair is normally scheduled. 

For example, an Au Pair should not expect to take off 7 different Mondays. Neither should the Au Pair expect to take off 7 different Saturday afternoons when the Au Pair’s Host Parents would normally need the Au Pair to be on duty. Instead that Au Pair should expect to take 5 vacation days on a M, T, W, Th, or Fri, and maybe a Saturday.

Apples and Oranges

Think of Mondays through Fridays as apples, and Saturday & Sunday as oranges. If the Au Pair is usually on duty for apple days, s/he gets apple days on vacation. Plus the two orange days s/he usually gets off.

If an Au Pair is usually on duty for 5 apple days and one orange day, those are the days of vacation they can can take, plus the additional orange day s/he’s already off duty.  What should NOT happen is for an Au Pair to expect to take off a different proportion of apples and organes than s/he normally works.

There’s always a situation where it isn’t clear how to follow the rules.

In these situations, talk about the Six Vacation Scheduling Principles, below, to come up with your Host Family-Au Pair solution.

Six Vacation Scheduling Principles

Principle 1:  The actual days when an Au Pair will take vacation should be agreed upon in advance by the Host Parents and the Au Pair.

Typically, Host Parents aim to choose one week to be taken at their convenience, with the second week being chosen by the Au Pair.

Principle 2: Au Pairs shouldn’t expect to take a day off on short notice, because a Host Parent needs to be able to make alternative child care arrangements.

Principle 3: Au Pairs need legitimate time off– time when they don’t have to be in the house or on call. They also need to be able to plan these vacation days in advance so that they can be spent truly relaxing, or traveling, or shopping, or whatever.

This means that a Host Parent should never tell an Au Pair “Oh, and I decided that tomorrow will be a vacation day for you.” No.

Principle 4:  Ultimately, whether or not a vacation day can be taken is the discretion of the Host Family.

No Host Family wants to be jerky and deny and Au Pair her or his earned vacation. However, Host Parents have real needs for safe childcare while they are working — an important reason for having an Au Pair — and these needs need to be respected.

Principle 5:  Vacation days are earned.

Typically, an Au Pair earns (actually, accrues) one vacation day for each month s/he works. An Au Pair shouldn’t expect to take an a la carte vacation day during her/his first month with a family.  Similarly, an Au Pair shouldn’t expect to take more than a week’s vacation within the first half of his/her year, unless the vacation corresponds with some Host Family schedule.

Principle 6: A “week” is not seven days of being off duty on calendar days that the Au Pair would normally be on duty.  A “week” is the number of days per seven day period that an Au Pair is normally scheduled.    A ‘week’ of vacation is the same days of the week as the Au Pair usually works.

Technically, a “week” will not be 7 days, because an Au Pair always has one and one/half days off each seven day period. But, when an Au Pair works a half-day (e.g., less than 8 or 10 hours), we cannot count that as a vacation day.  A vacation ‘day’ has to be the whole 24 hours of no work expected.

By the same logic, for an Au Pair who was taking one week off at a time, a Host Family should never expect to schedule that Au Pair to be off-duty for five days and on duty for the other two days of a seven-day span.

 These principles aren’t set in stone by State Department Regulations– they are based in the customary vacation practices of US workplaces as well as the experience of this Host Mom and others.  Which is to say, I’ve articulated these because they make sense. They seem to be at the heart of the whole vacation idea.

  • Have I missed any principles that have been important for you Host Parents?
  • Au Pairs, do you have principles you’d like to have added to this list?

Let us know in the comments what you think should be part of the Vacation Scheduling Principles.

And, here’s the email that prompted this post:

…  The US rule says that APs are to be provided with 2 weeks paid vacation.  However, it is not clear how many days that equate to.  I’ve seen interpretation that 2 weeks paid vacation means 14 days and others are 10 days.  

In theory, I see it as 90 hours of paid vacation time since it is max. 45 hours per week that the AP can work, but the math becomes inconsistent depending on how many days that really is based on how a HF distributes those hours in a week.  

For example, if I use the AP 5 days in a typical week for a total of 45 hours, then 2 weeks paid vacation means the AP would get off and be paid for the otherwise 10 work days, because the AP has off already on other 2 days that week.  

But, CCAP, the agency that I am with, says the AP gets 14 days, which means an additional 4 paid days**, double counting the remaining 2 days each week that the AP already does not work.  

(**cv’s note: I think there’s an  error in this interpretation of CCAP’s rules…. any LCs want to weigh in on this?)

This 10 versus 14 days calculation seems to be more of an issue when an AP takes one day off at a time versus one week off at a time.   I would like to hear others’ interpretation or agency rules on what “2 weeks paid vacation” equals to. 




Old China Hand December 6, 2015 at 7:28 pm

We have a typical 5 day work week for Au pairs but when they combine holidays (thanksgiving, Christmas, for example) with vacation, things get tricky. I usually figure they get 90 hours of vacation at 9 hrs per day, since that is their normal schedule.

That being said, I used to require that our aps took vacation when the college was not in session to make child care easier. Then I was resentful that I was missing work because our ap got a vacation. Pretty much as a professor I have as much vacation time as I want and can use nearly none of it. So theoretically I could cover that tie but actually it was a huge issue to lose research time with classes not in session. So, we now require that aps take their vacation time when we are also on vacation. We give them a bunch of dates when we match and are upfront about all of this. We will make exceptions for not to be missed special opportunities, but generally expect that we take more than 2 full weeks vacation a year, based on my husband’s vacation days, and don’t need the ap. That is the best time for them to go on vacation and not completely wreck my schedule. When our kids are older, we may reconsider but with two at home all day (except for a few hours of preschool for one), it’s not possible right now. Also, when I am tenured things will be different too.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 6, 2015 at 11:21 pm

I have learned, in 14 3/4 years of hosting, to be generous in spirit when it comes to vacation, but also to be practical. AP #4 never had any money, never scheduled a vacation, and when she took a week off during the summer because that was her mind-set (after all, she had been a student, not an employee, up to that summer), I got burned paying for a young student to drive child #2 to and from summer camps, and because that wasn’t enough hours to make her take the job, feeding child #1 dinner. Like, twice the AP salary burned. When AP #5 hadn’t scheduled a week off at the 8-month mark, I threatened to assign her a week off before the school year ended – she quickly found a week.

Bottom line – let the AP pick one week (within your parameters) – whether it comes in one chunk or a bunch of 3-4 day weekends. You get to pick the other week. For the fantastic AP, let her have time off when you are traveling and she really doesn’t want to join you. For the mediocre AP, give her a bunch of child-related cleaning assignments while you are on vacation and she’s not (if your experience is like mine, she’ll just agree to take her vacation while you’re on yours rather than do the child-related cleaning assignments).

To be truly generous, if the AP asks for a M-F vacation, give her both weekends off on either said (your schedule permitting). That’s what I mean by generosity of spirit. I remember my first job – when the weeks seemed endless. I do my best to be as flexible as I am able, because there are time when my boss springs a last minute work assignment on me that requires flexibility on my AP’s part.

Oh, and I’ll be right up front. The best of the best got three weeks or more off without a bat of an eye. The APs that constantly pushed back got resentment. My advice to APs whose HP ask for flexibility – as long as your HF follows the rules – no more than 10 hours per day, no more than 45 hours per week, lie through your teeth and say you don’t mind, when they apologize. Because if they’re like me, and truly grateful, when you ask to attend a mid-week concert, or want to join your friends on a last-minute trip to New York, you’ll have earned their gratitude and willingness to bend over backwards for you!

spanishaupair December 7, 2015 at 11:17 am

Thats how i worked with my HF. I was very flexible and went the extra mile when needed and never complained of last minute changes and extra hours or days. As treward i got 3 weeks of paid hollidays instead of the two they must gave me, plus extra week off unpaid for christmas, and extra days off when i wanted to travel or even weeks when on my second year I needed to go he for exams, I was in europe so easy to travel home.

I think both sides must be flexible in lots of ways. About topic i got the days on full week. One week i chose, that was over Christmas and anyway my HD wasnt working over the hollidays, and the other was when family went on hollidays

HMwithQuestion December 7, 2015 at 12:01 am

Hi – This is the OP here. Just to follow up about the reference to the CCAP rules that cv commented about … the actual sentence in the contract agreement that I signed is “The au pair will also receive two (2) calendar weeks (14 days) of paid vacation, to be taken at mutually agreed upon times.” My remark was related to thinking that in the a la carte situation, someone could insist and argue on literally interpreting “14 days” to mean taking “14 apples” one at a time instead of recognizing 14 days is a combination of apples and oranges. Part of my comment is also based on au pair transition reports which CCAP gives HF access to. The reports always mention how many vacation days out of 14 days are left without differentiating between apple and orange days. Definitely, for a rock star AP, I would be generous and gladly give additional days without a second thought but for a lackluster AP, I would stick to the rules and that’s all. By the way, I love the use of “apples” and “oranges” to describe this!

Mimi December 7, 2015 at 9:01 am

Our LCC (CCAP) did give us the formula for calculating time when AP#6 requested to cut her year short to deal with an academic issue jeopardizing her degree, but I can’t find it in my email.

We use a M-F schedule so we’ve always given 2 schedule cycles off. We’re usually able to cover time that’s not summer or our vacation time with a combination of arrangements. None of our APs have ever taken two weeks back to back, and that would be pushing what we can cover so we’d have to negotiate that.

Like TACL, were more flexible when the AP merits it. Extra days here and there if we can are usually offered, especially when we’ve had periods of stressful activity or it’s worth it to help her out with travel plans (like leaving early on a Friday to miss traffic when a bunch of APs are traveling to NYC).

Mimi December 7, 2015 at 4:30 pm

We memo our electronic stipend payments for a full week, even though the AP is only working 5 of them so that even though the AP worked 11/30-12/4 (M-F), the payment reflects the whole week 11/29-12/5 (Su-Sa).

TexasHM December 7, 2015 at 10:18 am

We are with CCAP and they are misunderstanding. CCAP does say 14 days but it aligns exactly with what CV has explained above. I’ve had someone from CCAP explain that for those 14 days you can take a piece of paper and write Sunday Monday… through 14 days and then the AP takes those days off.

Meaning if they work Mon-Fri full time and want to take a week off then they also need to take off whatever corresponding weekend days otherwise they could be scheduled for them. Just like on weeks where perhaps we tweak for a class and they are off Thursday night so have a half day on Sunday night instead, they need to take all the days off they need otherwise they could be scheduled but they too advise aps to take their normal schedule off in vacation days.

I actually think this could be less generous if you made AP count both weekends on the ends of her first week taken for example because then she’d only be left with mon-fri for the second week and could be scheduled on the surrounding weekends but as CV noted it’s almost impossible to make a hard and fast rule on this due to the nature of the role.

In the summer ours are mon-fri, during the school year it’s sun-fri. As TACL said, when we have a good match (we’ve been blessed with 4/5) vacation is an area where you generally have some opportunity to be more generous/flexible.

We do like OCH and tell APs upfront that we really need them to take vacation when we have it. We only have so many days and we travel exactly when is convenient for us so it makes sense for them to either come along (yes, big trips count for them in our household) or plan their own alternate trip. I don’t think any of our APs have gotten less than 3.5 weeks off by the time it was all said and done because we too take advantage of stacking weekends on both ends into our trips and using holidays we aren’t working. Current AP I think is already at 3-3.5 weeks and we are planning another 9 day spring break trip and she ends in May so between that and holidays she’ll likely end up around 5 weeks off total for the year and she’s elated and not only jumps at the chance to help last minute if things pop up but offers to do extra (we decline).

I think every family has the capacity to be flexible/generous in some area and this may or may not be yours. We are stricter on perks (car curfew, driving radius) but more generous with vacation and our time – we invest a lot in our APs (helping them book cheaper travel deals, finding activities they are interested in, going with them and coaching them for drivers license, SSN, bank account etc).

So for us, if an AP loves to travel and truly wants to be a family member and have that relationship then we are a great match. This is why an employee relationship would not work in our house because I’d invest and then feel used. On the same token, if you can’t be generous with additional vacation then DONT. Explain your situation in matching. Many APs have no idea how few vacation/sick days Americans get (it’s explained in our handbook) and you are getting an AP in part for that reason! I’ve watched families bend over backwards to accommodate an AP vacation request only to resent it and then find out the AP didn’t care that much or could’ve taken another time that would have been great for the host family!

We now tell the APs right before or after matching (if they have no vacation plans then I wait until after matching) what our rough plans are for the coming year so they can start thinking about going with or planning their own alternate trip. Like everything else in the AP program communication is critically important and I believe that’s why we’ve had zero issues so far on this topic in our 5 years of hosting.

HRHM December 8, 2015 at 11:30 pm

I could have written this. It’s exactly how we operate as well. So far so good.

Julie Dye December 7, 2015 at 11:33 am

CCAP LCC and host mom here. We say 2 calendar weeks, 14 days–10 weekdays and 2 weekends. The reason, I believe, we include weekends is that many families do have their au pairs work weekends and we want to be clear that they do get that time off. Vacation is “mutually agreed upon,” meaning that it must work for both parties. I’ve seen other agencies say au pairs earn a vacation day each month–we don’t add that requirement, but do recommend it’s taken a week at a time and it can be best to have one week in the first 6 months and one week in the second, but the reality is, it doesn’t always work that way. There are road trips over extended weekends, natural family visits and families have their own plans.

As an LCC, I can’t tell you how many times vacation becomes an issue. It does get more complicated if au pairs take vacation as days and not weeks. I recommend that every family write down the 14 days with the au pair and make sure that everyone is in agreement that those are the minimum days. I tell host families to err on the side of generosity and remember, there is never any unpaid vacation!

I’m here if anyone has questions…

New to This December 8, 2015 at 10:32 pm

I wonder how much easier it would be for APs and HFs if no materials ever used the phrase “14 days,” but always spelled it out like you do above…

HRHM December 8, 2015 at 11:32 pm

So if the AP is taking it a day at a time in a family where she typically only works week days, then it’s only 10 days, correct?

Julie December 10, 2015 at 11:14 pm

Well, she can take 10 week days then, yes (and if she wants to make sure she has a specific weekend off–then she has 4 of those.) It’s often so much more complicated than it should be!

New to This December 7, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Not quite on-topic here, but we just ran into a tricky time-off situation–we’d scheduled the AP for a weekend off, but to accommodate a friend’s schedule, she asked for Friday-Saturday instead of Saturday-Sunday. Not a problem for us, but also clearly not what’s specified by the program rules. So our choice was to embrace the spirit of the “weekend off” while violating the letter, charge her a vacation day, or underutilize her for the week and call it our loss. I ended up feeling most comfortable with the third, but frustrated at the lack of a better solution. And then it all turned out to be moot due to a change in her friend’s schedule — but for future reference, I’m wondering, do others feel it’s okay to be flexible with the “weekend” concept to satisfy AP requests? And if so, where do you draw the line between rules that can bend if it makes everyone happy, and those that you adhere to firmly? (I don’t think I’d consider, for example, letting an AP work a 12-hour day in order to take off early the next day…)

WarmStateMomma December 7, 2015 at 2:06 pm

In my book – it’s ok to violate the scheduling rules to accommodate the AP’s plans because the scheduling rules are in place to ensure that APs have an opportunity to have their own experiences here. Being flexible about her schedule is something the State Department does not require but benefits everyone if you can make it happen (your flexibility will be repaid by a good AP).

New to This December 7, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Thanks for the reassurance! I agree 100% in principle, but especially since it’s early in the year, I worry about the potential for misunderstandings that lead to mismatched expectations…for example, if the AP asks for Friday instead of Sunday off and I assume that counts as a weekend off, but she still expects Saturday/Sunday sometime during the month… Obviously, where I recognize the potential for confusion, I can explicitly confirm that we’re on the same page (at least, with as much clarity as language barriers permit), but I also realize that any time we veer away from the letter of the rules, it creates more potential for misunderstandings that I might NOT anticipate.

On the other hand, the AP is so far an absolute rock star, so just giving her the extra day really wouldn’t have been a big deal anyway. I just didn’t like feeling hemmed into it for bureaucratic reasons — I’d rather give her a bonus 3-day weekend sometime when she’s actually interested in having all three days off!

TexasHM December 7, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Uptight rule follower here. There are lots of fuzzy areas in the State Dept rules but the weekend off clearly states what it includes: “Give the au pair one complete weekend off each month (Friday evening to Monday morning)” so that is what we do.

I agree with you, in that situation it stinks because its actually at the request of the AP but again, APs could also request to work for more hours for more pay and that’s not ok per the State Dept either so we just end up taking it on the chin for those situations. (Either have to tell her we can’t do it or give her all 3 days off so we are still within DOS guidelines.)

There are lots of rules that are agency specific and not DOS standards but this is not one of them and your note about the potential for misunderstandings is dead on and if you were to go into rematch and AP pointed out that you didn’t follow the DOS rules and could prove it then you may not have to worry about hosting at all! It’s much harder to kick a family out for an agency specific rule than a DOS rule – and agencies that don’t report DOS violations can get in their own hot water so just do yourself a favor and avoid all the worry and drama. :)

New to This December 8, 2015 at 7:17 pm

I do see one important difference with the extra-hours-for-extra-pay case, which is that that regulation isn’t just about protecting the au pair — it’s part of a bigger scheme of immigration regulation that carefully limits the amount of labor we import, so as to contain the impacts on the US labor market. Hiring someone to work hours beyond what their visa covers is essentially equivalent to bringing in a fraction of an extra worker beyond what the law has authorized and planned for — which, if enough people do it, has potential economic impacts beyond the individuals agreeing to it.

That said, even where a rule is more clearly about protecting the au pair, I can see why the law doesn’t include an “or as requested” proviso, just because once you go down that road, it can get very tricky in a lot of situations to iron out who really initiated the request, and what kind of pressures (real or perceived) were involved. A no-exceptions rule provides an extra level of protection to au pairs that I can’t really grudge them, all things considered.

The other more difficult gray area that we’ve been running into so far is around her interaction with the baby when she’s not on the clock — is she asking to hold him or play with him because he’s fun and adorable, because “pitching in” is part of belonging to the family for her, because she’s trying to make a good impression on us, because she thinks we expect her to do extra work…? The only 100% careful approach would be to insist on a strict hands-off policy during her off hours, but of course that creates its own kind of hostile environment for her. So there’s not really much choice but to navigate that gray area as well as we can, and keep our fingers crossed that there are no catastrophic miscommunications.

(And meanwhile, I think she has some similar worries about me when I’m working from home and I give myself a break to visit with the baby — do I just miss him, am I trying to be nice and ease her workload, or do I think she’s not doing a good enough job? I try to make it clear that I’m there because I want to be — and also try not to hover unreasonably, although what is reasonable varies a lot with one’s personal parenting style — but it’s always hard to be sure what someone else is thinking, even when you’ve got more language in common… Hopefully we’ll get each other figured out a little better in time, anyway!)

CapitolHostMom December 7, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Related question— how do you all “track” the au pair’s vacation time? I really struggle to remember (or write down) what days are vacation. 3 au pairs in and I still can’t find a method that sticks. Any pro-tips are greatly appreciated!

Taking a Computer Lunch December 7, 2015 at 3:13 pm

I use a plain wall calendar with great big squares. When the AP is off on one day of vacation I write a number and circle it (because very few of my APs have taken off 5 days in a row). I only count weekdays in that count, because while I schedule APs for 2-3 weekend half-days every month, if they ask for the Friday, then the Saturday/Sunday is their State Dept. mandated weekend off (personally, I’d never charge an AP for a vacation day on a Saturday). I count to 10, because I feel like the 4 extra days are weekend days and don’t count. But, for the record, I give most of the federal holidays off, and don’t count those either.

NBHostMom December 7, 2015 at 3:35 pm

We schedule and track our AP’s hours in an appointment book (like this: I put in both work hours and kids’ activities the AP is responsible for.

Now, to answer your question more specifically: For vacation it is clearly marked in the planner on the calendar date(s) AND I keep a running list of taken vacation days inside the front cover of the planner so I can’t do a quick count of days taken / remaining without flipping through the months.

TexasHM December 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

We use CCAPs spiral planner. I mark the schedule in it every week and it has a monthly calendar page each 5 pages and I write VACAY across the days that she gets and mark them on the weekly schedules as well. This way if we needed to we could count them up and give exact dates taken at any time. I do mark the “oranges” too (Saturdays and Sundays) for reference just in case but again, we usually end up giving far more than the allotted so it’s never mattered.

Mimi December 7, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Is this the new book? The daily schedule for this doesn’t work for me so I made my own sheets based on the old book.

WestMom December 7, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Since we use Google calendar to share schedule with AP, I just drop it in there, Easy to track historically.

Host Mom in the City December 15, 2015 at 12:26 pm

This is what we do. We scheduled our au pairs with google calendar, so when she requested a vacation day, I would write “Vacation Day (#X)” on the day requested and then count down to zero. This way they could also see that they got more vacation days then they were required to get – we’re very generous with the good ones.

WarmStateMomma December 7, 2015 at 2:36 pm

We count the vacation as 10 weekdays since we don’t have our AP work much on the weekends (just 1-2 date nights/month). In reality, only one AP of three has attempted to maximize her vacation time. I told current AP that I’d put her “on vacation” at the end of her first year if she didn’t come up with a vacation plan before then. We don’t want the agency to think we didn’t provide 2 weeks of vacation during the initial 12 months…. She ended up booking a pretty awesome trip through AuPair Adventures so she doesn’t have to find travel buddies, rely on anyone else to pay their share, etc.

Long weekends (up to 5 days) are easy for me to work around, but trips that last the whole workweek are much tougher and cost me money (to fly in a grandma). The good APs get a lot of flexibility from me about long weekends and we don’t count that as vacation time.

Rural host mom December 7, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Our AP showed up expecting to take 14 work days (M-F) off. We told her it would be 2 weeks sat-fri and she could combine them with her full weekend off to get 9 days.
We are otherwise flexible and generous – once every two months we give her a three day weekend and have her work a weekend day on the other end. It lets her take smaller trips to nearby cities without taking a vacation day. (We obviously have free back-up coverage that makes this possible).

MN Host Dad December 7, 2015 at 7:40 pm

We had the same situation – needless to say, it caused a bit of tension as this was only found out after she had already taken one week (a 9 day trip out west) and wanted to take two more weeks to do a east coast trip.

SeattleHD December 15, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Hey, another HD ;)
(sorry about the Vikings-Seahawks game, well, not really…;)

Yeah, combine this with the “What, I don’t get Columbus Day/Veteran’s Day/Memorial Day/Christmas Day/etc. off?” and you can end up with a bit of a nightmare.

We’ve talked to our LCCs at length about this, and they swear it’s brought up at orientation, but it’s obviously something au pairs choose to ignore, or it’s presented in too low-key a way, or they just flat out can’t believe they don’t get a million national holidays like at home (and the US has the skimpiest National holiday schedule in the world…).

(“Hey, er, by the way, you, um, don’t get any holidays off… Next Thing!!”)

Seattle Mom December 15, 2015 at 7:01 pm

I love it when they expect to get holidays off for free (not vacation) that I DON’T EVEN GET OFF!! And I work for the federal government!! They assume that if my kids have no school they must have no work. HAHAHAHAHAAAA… why do you think I still have an au pair?

Taking a Computer Lunch December 15, 2015 at 11:15 pm

I now put it up front, in my handbook, before we match that I work through the holidays – because Europeans are accustomed to workplaces being closed between Christmas and New Years’ (sorry, mine is not, and I’m expected to work). I also warn ahead of time for those years during which Easter is not close to Passover (like 2016) that they will be expected to work full time during school holidays.

My advice – be pro-active. Reach out to your AP 30-60 days before a holiday, summer vacation, or a family trip, and tell her “You might not realize this, but…” It decreases the hard feelings caused by what she thinks is the last-minute rejection if you beat her to her “ask.” While her feelings might still be hurt when you reject her request to travel with friends, she will better understand that you are not being mean “just because” but that you really aren’t permitted to take time off from work. (When it comes to holidays, it’s useful to tell au pairs up front not only “You will need to work” but also to set expectations for how the day will flow, because every family’s celebrations differ so greatly.) This is really important at Christmas, because up to now her only experience has been with her own family.

After 14 years I’ve learned that APs don’t ask enough questions, so it’s really important to reach out and explain as much as you are able ahead of time. It saves a lot of hurt feelings. Also, this time of the year is really stressful for everyone – it will be the time of year your AP misses her family and her traditions the most. You’ll earn extra HP points if you ask her to bake her favorite Christmas cookies with the children or to cook a favorite Christmas dish to accompany your dinner. Having something familiar will make her less homesick. (We encourage our AP to bring up her laptop while Skyping with her family, so we may say hello, but also so she may show off our home and our holiday decorations to her family.)

As someone who has lived abroad for holidays, I’ll tell you, this is a Christmas that will stand out – because it is so different. I went to Moscow just before Christmas the year I lived in Dublin, Ireland. I was never so happy to return “home” and eat a green pea in my life! But also, my Irish host family’s celebration was so different from anything that I had ever experienced before that I’ll never forget it! The magic was in the unexpected differences.

Former AP Now HM December 16, 2015 at 11:28 am

I can imagine how frustrating this must be for you, but I do think that this is one area which you need to address right from the beginning (before they arrive, even). A lot of APs come from a world where everyone gets holidays off, separately to vacation, and unless you’re a doctor or similar they won’t know to ask, but they won’t have any idea that America is different. They don’t necessarily know that you don’t get those holidays off. It’s not their fault for not anticipating cultural differences, even if it is naive (and, as I said, incredibly irritating for you).

This isn’t a problem that we have with our APs (not based in the US, and we specify in their contract that they get holidays off, which they love and we encourage them to make the most of), but we do have similar annoyances. Sometimes it can be that they were expecting a holiday which doesn’t exist in the country we’re living in, and sometimes it’s an assumption that, as they don’t normally work when the small ones are at playgroup (which is free for us), they also don’t need to work if small one is ill and can’t go. It is annoying, and shows a lack of forethought (where am I going to do with sick child apart from give them to AP??), but it isn’t malicious. I’ve learnt to spell it out in matching and that seems to work better.

cv harquail December 16, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Be sure to tell your Au Pair about this post:
10 Days of Work that Might Surprise Your Au Pair

oranje_mama December 7, 2015 at 3:50 pm

I think it’s perfectly fair for the HP to choose the vacation weeks – if this is made clear upfront when matching and also if the HP allows for some flexibility for long weekends and family/friend visits. For several years, we’ve taken a 2 week family vacation in the summer, and AP has those weeks off. We don’t specifically allow AP to pick another week (or 45 hours) of her own choosing. But we have typically accommodated long weekend travel (giving her an extra Friday or Monday off) or other additional time off when visitors are in town & it works with HP schedules.

Rural host mom December 7, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Related to this, I’m now wondering about the full weekend off. I’ve been telling her a month in advance which one she can have. Once I had two to choose from, but most times there’s only one that works for us, so she doesn’t have any say. Can it be the weekend she has the au pair meetings?

Taking a Computer Lunch December 7, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Picking the weekend that she has AP meetings gives her two choices, doesn’t it? Not to travel, because she feels obligated to attend the meetings, or to travel and skip them. Now your AP will have a minimum of 12 months with you. Personally, I’d say if her weekend off coincided with an AP meeting once or twice, then so be it – but if you make it a regular practice, then it puts her in a rough spot.

On my wall calendar I circle events that are out-of-the-ordinary, so my AP knows that she may be locked into working her schedule for that particular day. It could be a party we’re hosting or attending, or theater tickets, in which we won’t be flexible, or a visit from a family member, when we would. On the 20th of the month, I look at the calendar, and for the Saturday nights that have no circled events, I ask the AP if there is a particular one she would like to have off. (She also knows it’s okay to start planning to travel on those weekends, as long as she confirms with me before she purchases her tickets.

For long-term happiness (and because APs like to travel with friends), be as flexible as possible without being a pushover – because during the 12 months you will want to call in the favor, believe me!

Rural host mom December 8, 2015 at 7:57 am

I guess that’s the spirit we’re after. Our life seems so chaotic to me now that I have to explain our calendar to the au pair every month (but I do remind her that if it weren’t that way she wouldn’t have a job!)
Ours is too frugal to travel on weekends off. So frugal we worry she’s missing out, but I’m guessing she’s saving for her travel month.

AuPair Paris December 8, 2015 at 7:48 am

This topic has made me really take account of the fact that I’ve had about six weeks more paid vacation than is actually specified in my contract, because my HF just gives me most of their holidays off – and we live in France. I really have the best job!

(I’m sorry this added nothing to the discussion…)

AuPair Paris December 8, 2015 at 7:52 am

(On the plus side for the HF I suppose, I’ve never, ever taken time off when I’m supposed to be working – so none of my own choice. And I’ve only taken one and a half sick days – when I had the (real) flu, and couldn’t get out of bed. And even then, I managed to have most of it during a long weekend, and after seeing a doctor who said I was probably not contagious, managed to drag myself to pick the kids up so the HF didn’t have to leave work. Though I didn’t really engage with them or cook dinner or do anything other than throw up and collapse into bed right after… Does that make up for it? Maybe not!)

DowntownMom December 8, 2015 at 11:12 pm

Yes, it does! :) That is the sort of thing that would be eternally appreciated and repaid at every opportunity!

NJ Mom December 8, 2015 at 10:58 am

This issue did come up when we were researching different agencies.

CCAP is 14 calendar days (others posted the exact policy).

InterExchange stated 11 working days as their agency vacation policy. When I explained to them that we do M-F work weeks, and that 2 weeks of vacation is really 10 working days because we don’t schedule 1/2 day weekends, they still said it would be 11 working days, so 2 weeks + 1 additional day. It wasn’t a deal breaker because their “AP cannot give HK any medication” rule was our deal breaker.

And yes, when the AP has vacation scheduled, they would still have their normal non-working days as non-working days. Regardless or the agency policy of the 2 weeks, we tend to exceed the 2 weeks anyways. We do 2 weeks at the AP’s choosing (prearranged and timing approved by us) + family vacations + some holidays. Also, once the 2 weeks is “exhausted”, we have done some rearranging of working days at the AP’s request for longer weekend/Friday afternoon off to start a weekend trip, or time off during a normal workday to accommodate special things.

When AP1 had a family emergency and was distraught over not only the emergency but also that she had no vacation time to return home for the event (her vacation was already scheduled and trip paid for the week after), We ended up flying her home for a week and changing her flight to go straight from home to vacation. It was a rough 2 weeks for us, but the right thing to do. AP2 wanted to take a 2 week (consecutive) vacation, so that one we required that it has to coincide with our vacation. We are fortunate that we have flexible workplaces and backup care options.

hOstCDmom December 8, 2015 at 11:29 am

wow – that med rule could really be a deal breaker. We don’t have any kids to take regular/daily meds, and the rare occasions when they are sick I handle the one-off meds (I am WAHM) — BUT I could see this being a real issue for many families. The child that needs to take a daily med with breakfast or dinner, when the AP is in charge; of the “sort of sick” child who has a low fever and can’t go to school, or a really bad bout of seasonal allergies, but isn’t sick enough to need a parent at home, but does need a few doses of children’s Tylenol/motrin/benadryl etc. (in fact, having an AP who can care for the child with a cold/low grade fever/diarrhea is why many chose an AP over daycare, who would not permit that child to attend!)

NoVA Twin Mom December 8, 2015 at 12:08 pm

That’s one of the big reasons we’re in the au pair program too! And our au pairs have regularly given my daughter her “morning” dose of her asthma inhaler because the kids often wake up after we leave for work (one of the OTHER big reasons we’re in the au pair program).

Nearly all of our au pairs have also given doses of ibuprofen when our kids have have had fevers, and one of them wasn’t too sure what it would do, but went ahead and gave it to her. (I talked her through finding the bottle and the dosage over the phone from work, then said I wanted to wait to see what happened when it kicked in before coming home mid-day.) She was astounded at the difference it made and used it appropriately for the rest of her year.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 8, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Grateful that APIA doesn’t have that rule, as The Camel receives not only medication, but all liquids through a g-tube (directly into her stomach). While DH and I routinely change the g-tube, several APs have experienced it coming out (and having to insert a new one while we talk her through it over the phone!). On the other hand, child #2 has been giving himself medicine since he was 7 (and decided he only wanted to take pills – which freaked the pediatrician out because he was so small for his age).

Seattle Mom December 8, 2015 at 7:56 pm

I didn’t know that IEX doesn’t allow APs to give any medication, and I’ve been with IEX for nearly a year! My kids don’t take any regular meds, and we’ve been lucky so far not to need prescription meds of any kind this year (knock on wood), but I’m pretty sure I had our AP give my daughter ibuprofen once.. and it never occurred to either of us that she wasn’t supposed to! Weird!

NJ Mom December 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

My guess is that this is a little known rule and it’s more of a legal protection of the agency than something that HP follow in practice. When I asked IEX to clarify the rule (before I signed the HF agreement), the person on the phone didn’t even know about it and had to inquire further and get back to me. Not only was IEX unaware of the rule, she was surprised that is was even in the agreement. After checking around, she said that the AP cannot give the HK medication except in an emergency situation. We didn’t have an explicit need for AP to administer medication, but to be restricted from the option was a deal breaker.

Seattle Mom December 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Maybe this means I need to read that agreement a little more closely :)

FirstTimeHM December 10, 2015 at 7:02 am

It would be a deal breaker for me. I’ve got two girls with asthma who need to take their medication daily. If the youngest would need the not-daily medication, she would need a bit of assistence and a lot of comforting (and a cool-headed AP who would call me immediately).
When the kids were younger they sometimes had an ear-infection that required antibiotics, I wouldn’t give up workdays for that.

My stand on this is if it’s something every doctor routinely leaves to parents without extra training or instruction, you should be able to leave it to an AP (probably with instruction to avoid language issues).

WarmStateMomma December 10, 2015 at 11:50 am

Antibiotics are a 7-10 day round of fun a few times a year in my house. I cannot imagine not having the AP give the kids oral medication, especially when they aren’t sick. This rule would be a deal breaker for my family as well.

It sounds like the agency had a bad experience and added CYA language to their contract to mitigate future liability.

NJ Mama December 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I had no idea about the medicine rule until AFTER I had my first au pair — this was with APC years ago. APC looks the other way with a lot of stuff, and my AD at the time just told me to make sure the au pair was comfortable administering medicine and if she was it was no big deal. I honestly had read right past that when I first joined the program. And I honestly haven’t thought about it since.

My girls are now old enough to give themselves their inhalers. And right now I just ask that the AP make sure they do it (so the AP is in charge or reminding the girls to use their inhalers while the girls are responsible for doing it themselves). I still have au pairs give the girls antibiotics when needed or the occasional Advil.

I am usually a very rule abiding host mom. but to me having the au pair giving the occasional antibiotic or Advil is akin to the once or twice a year you go over the 10-hour daily limit because the kids got out of school early for a snow day and your bus is stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel. If you’re kid is spiking a fever and your two hours away, do you make the kid wait two hours until you get home before giving the meds? Or if your kid had her braces adjusted before school and she comes home from school in a ton of pain, do you tell her to suck it up until you get home at 8 pm? I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to have the AP give the kids medicine in these cases.

I am with CCAP now, and although I do like the agency I also find some of the rules onerous. This 14-day vs 10-day vacation thing is really poorly written. I had to re-read the post several times, and I can see why an au pair would think she has 14 days. If it’s really 10 days of vacation they should say that. If they want to encourage families to include the weekends on top of those 10 days, then they should state that in plain English.

Another annoying CCAP rule is that they don’t allow you to break up the day-and-a-half off a week. So if you usually give your au pair the weekend off but want to go out on the occasional Saturday night, you wouldn’t be able to do this unless you gave her off on Friday or Monday morning. Our au pairs have most weekends off anyway so for us this rule is really just onerous and impractical.

And one more: if you go into rematch, CCAP encourages you to have your AP’s last day be on a Friday. If her last day is on a Tuesday you are expected to pay her for the full week. With all the stress and cost of a rematch, this again just seems really unnecessary and punitive to host families. I am not at all out to shortchange an au pair. In the times I’ve rematched we’ve always compensated them for their time. In fact we did have one au pair leave on a Tuesday, and instead of adding up the hours she worked we just handed her $100. She worked about five hours that week. We had another leave on a Thursday morning and we paid her for the whole week. But to have this other layer added on – to be forced to shell out $200 or rearrange the last day — is really too much.

OK enough cranky posts from me today!

New to This December 10, 2015 at 3:04 pm

It just hit me that sunblock is technically an OTC medication, at least per FDA rules. The agency really can’t have thought this through. A rule that it has to expect will be routinely violated in small ways provides neither useful guidance to parents and au pairs where the bigger stuff is concerned, nor a very robust liability shield in the event of a conflict involving a more significant violation…

AuPair in The Netherlands December 11, 2015 at 12:49 am

I think it is for liability and safety reasons. For example what if an au pair who’s english is not great was put in charge of a younger child with the flu and she accidentally grabs the adult medication instead of the child medication because she had trouble reading the label. This could result in the child getting very sick or even dying and then the agency could get in trouble.

Interexchange is the agency that I am (kind of not really it is complicated) with and the only reason I knew of this rule is because I read through the rules multiple times. It was not something I was told directly (but then again I do not go through orientation) and because of that I do believe it is not a very enforced rule and only there for legal reasons. I also highly doubt that they include sunscreen in the rule unless it is some special heavily medicated prescription sunscreen :)

TexasHM December 11, 2015 at 1:48 am

Per usual NJmama I’m in your camp. CCAP does a lot of things really really well but there are a couple simple things that would really benefit (often both sides!) that they staunchly enforce. The consecutive rule is one and when I have to on occasion give my AP Monday am off to have her cover Sat night for a few hours (she works maybe 30 hours total a week during the school year) SHE gets annoyed and wakes up and tries to help anyway! She reminds me she (her words) gets a full weekend off per month already per DOS rules, we are generous about scheduling around special events for her and that she works under 30 hours a week and honestly, what is she going to do on a Monday am anyway?

Another that thankfully (knock on wood) I haven’t been impacted by yet is the lack of transition worksheets. (Worksheet that calculates education and vacation and prorated it based on time in household so that it aligns with term). I figured every agency did this! It only makes sense. If anything I think it’s more advantageous to the AP because 1 – if their first host family didn’t let them take classes or have time off and had the AP half the year or sometimes even more, they should have to compensate the AP. Instead at CCAP that burden is put on the AP and second host! So if an AP is with a family 9 mos and isn’t allowed classes or vacation and ends up in rematch (I interviewed two candidates from CCAP in EXACTLY this situation) then the new host family needs to pay $500 toward education and give AP two weeks of vacation even though they have 3 months left on their term! You can imagine how unattractive this makes those candidates. So then they get sent home (with zero education and vacation) whereas at least if there was a transition doc they’d be paid for the vacation and education making them more likely to match or – worst case – they get compensated for it before leaving. (In this scenario that’s $669!!). The agency can and should deduct it from agency fee refunds of that host family if they don’t settle up during transition. Ok, off the soapbox!

I had forgotten actually about the IEX medication rule! Now that you mention it I remember asking them to clarify and thinking we could make it work since I work from home often and husband has a ton of sick days he never uses but that’s an excellent point. Our first AP (APIA) called LC on us when I had to run to a meeting (was gone 1.5 hours total) and left her with sleeping kid (ear infection, on antibiotics and on the mend) because she refused to watch a sick kid. LC told her that was the whole point of having an AP! AP said ok I’m not giving kid medication and LC said “you’ll do whatever she asks you to do to help or you will likely be in rematch without a recommendation from anyone” (she’d been difficult and LC had encouraged us to bail several times). AP never gave me resistance but LC did call to warn me about the conversation so I would guess Apia is ok with it.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 11, 2015 at 8:08 am

APIA does not have a no-medication rule – and good thing, because that would be a game-ender for us. We do provide a significant amount of training, and supervise the APs when they first start to give the medication. All of my APs end their year with significant skills that translate immediately into jobs working with children who have special needs in both residential facilities and schools. We do have one emergency medication that has to be injected. Fortunately in 14 years I’m the only one who has had to give it. We do tell our APs that they may call 911 and the EMT crew will inject it (the Camel must be transported to the hospital anyway if so sick that the medication has been injected).

I’ve never had an AP complain about giving the medication – and all knew up front that it was part of the routine. First AP had been a pediatric intensive care nurse in her native country, so she flinched at nothing (including the 4 1/2 months The Camel wore halo traction after neck surgery). Several APs had had significant training in giving medication by g-tube (directly into the stomach) and have taught DH and I a few tricks over the years.

I only had two APs complain about the job. One was surprised that she had to get into The Camel’s personal space (I don’t know what she thought when she read diapering – but I think she was so happy about being close to her favorite garage band that she didn’t really read the caregiving description all that well). The second ended in rematch quickly.

NoVA Twin Mom December 11, 2015 at 11:17 am

AuPair in The Netherlands – at least at my house, BECAUSE the au pair will give medication, all adult medicine is stored in a different place than the kid medicine. I circle the dose and the timing on every bottle. We then do a “group text” between our au pair, my husband, and myself to track when medication was last given. If she texts at 2 PM to say she gave one of my girls medicine, I text back to the group “OK, next dose can’t be before 8 PM.”

The daily asthma medicine is so much a part of our routine that if she tried to give it “wrong” my five year olds would notice and would not hesitate to point it out.

There are ways to make it less difficult for an au pair to give medication.

AlwaysHopeful HM December 11, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Before we had au pairs, we had grandparents. To ensure proper dosage, i wrote the dosage and time span on the bottles in Sharpie. I kept it up after au pairs started, because it’s helpful to me, too to not have to filter through all of the other stuff on the bottle to figure out how much to administer. Maybe wouldn’t be so helpful with multiple kids, but it works well for us.

ExAupairNowHM December 8, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Vacation can be super tricky especially as we add another layer of complication by our au pairs only working Mo-Thurs. We learned the hard way that it all depends on if and how it is communicated. We make a point to already talk about it during the interview so there are no surprises (if they are listening).

Thankfully, we have not had any issues with any au pair until the most recent one (#5) who thought that she was entitled to 14 calendar days/10 weekdays off and that after taking two full weeks of vacation (actually each time Fri to the following Sun, so in all reality 20 days off) she still had two days left since each week only included 4 workdays each. While I can understand while she thought that, I was not super happy with her request (hello, she already had 20 days off, we gave every holiday off we get and tried to accommodate times when she asked to be off early for a special occasion) and we told her that two weeks off are two weeks off (or 90 hours total). Needless to say this was not our best au pair experience (especially since there were other entitlement issues).

We have now moved on to au pair #6 and have stated clearly that vacation time means two weeks/8 work days off (in reality 20 calnedar days for her) and that we pick one full week, and she picks the other. Fingers crossed this time around it will be issue free.

NewAPMom December 8, 2015 at 1:53 pm

We ran into this issue last year b/c our AP took a week vacation (and we let her leave early so it was Friday-Sunday, 10 days), and then said she wanted to take random days here and there. Since she typically worked M-F, that meant 5 days. That didn’t work with my schedule nor my husband’s, so she ended up screwing herself because we ended up counting holidays (which she probably would have had off anyway) as vacation days, as well as time off for her school trip. She was a mediocre AP–if she were a rock star we probably wouldn’t have counted those days. But she left us no choice really. With our current AP we told her that we just need several months advance notice so we can adjust our schedules, and it needs to be 2 separate full weeks. She’s a rock star, so she gets off holidays if we can give them off and don’t count them as vacation time. She goes the extra mile for us so she’s been rewarded in several ways, including coming with us on a few vacations as well.

Seattle Mom December 8, 2015 at 8:11 pm

I strongly prefer to give my au pairs two separate one-week vacations, where they can take both weekends on either end of the week if they wish- so they could leave Friday night and come back a week and two days later. Most of my au pairs have taken their vacation that way.

I will allow a couple of random Fridays or Mondays for long weekend travel, if it’s possible to do it without taking a whole day off of work (possible if they are in school/camp and I can telework that day).

And I generally allow my au pairs to take the bank holidays off without charging them for vacation if they are going somewhere. If they are staying home I usually schedule them for a few hours (<5) in the morning so I can get a workout in or do some shopping.

Some au pairs have gotten extra vacation because we took more vacation than 2 weeks… and others have gotten the bare minimum. It's luck of the draw.

I've only had an issue with vacation this year, when I felt like my au pair was pushing the envelope and trying to turn 2 weeks vacation into 3.. not only that but she didn't give me nearly enough notice for her request (months after I had kept reminding her to tell me when she would take vacation). She wanted to take the 3 days before thanksgiving as vacation, and combine it with Thanksgiving & the day after not counting as vacation, and then also take 5 more days (M-F) a different week, and count those as 8 days = 1 week. Um, NO. First of all, I actually had to work the day after Thanksgiving, and second of all, one week is 5 weekdays plus whatever contiguous weekend days you want (in my book). You don't get to turn that into 8 separate weekdays! Thankfully when I declined her request she didn't push the issue. In the end I did give her Thanksgiving + the day after as freebies but she had to work the days before Thanksgiving. She's taking a separate week as her week of vacation. She is a very good AP- I give her extras, but not extras that require huge sacrifice. And anyway I did not like the way she phrased her request, as if she was asking me for something that was completely within the bounds of the AP vacation allowance. If she had phrased it as asking for a favor I might have been more amenable.

My first AP was a rock star, and to this day I wish I had been able to give her more vacation- she got the minimum, because that was the most I could give at the time. I was in a new job and hadn't accrued much vacation, plus we were so poor back then.

CAmom22 December 9, 2015 at 2:40 pm

My last AP was in the habit of asking for hours here and there. Which normally I don’t have a problem with but with this AP it got out of hand. I normally give my APs 5-6 weeks vacation, but some of it comes without a ton of notice. So I normally let them choose 2 weeks and then I just give them the extra as a bonus when I can. But this AP kept asking to get off a few hours early so often that I ended up telling him that these were going to count against his 2 weeks. I talked to the LCC first about how to figure it out and what we landed on is that if, for example, he was scheduled for 3-4 hours in the afternoon (typical) and asked to get off 2 to 2.5 hours early I would just give him the entire afternoon off and call it a 1/2 vacation day. It was surprisingly difficult for him to understand the concept that if he was scheduled to work but he didn’t want to work and I agree that he could take the time off that meant he was choosing to take a vacation. LCC did say that there really is no part-day policy but she agreed that I could either say ‘no’ full stop or allow him to take the time off but force him to use his vacation days for it. She agreed that since he worked morning and afternoon shifts, taking a shift off should equate to 1/2 vacation day.

A Host Mom December 14, 2015 at 4:04 pm

We ran into an issue with one of our au pairs regarding vacation. At the time, I worked 3 days a week. My au pair assumed she was ala carte, which caused her to believe she was entitled to 3+ weeks of vacation. It worked itself out but that au pair was quite disgruntled afterwards. So prevent this from happening again, we have our au pairs use their vacations in 2 separate one-week blocks. We discuss this during our interviews so there is no ambiguity when they arrived. None of our au spits have had a problem with it.

MGHostMom December 14, 2015 at 9:59 pm

“(*Note that this kind of day-at-a-time vacationing wreaks havoc on the average working Host Parents’ life, and is not to be assumed as the best way to go.)”

You do say average, so I guess we’re weird. It is much easier for us to cover day-at-a-time vacations than whole weeks. I can stay at home one day and make up a half day over the course of the week, meaning I only have to take a half day of vacation myself. A whole week is 5 lost vacation days… But this is just because my littlest has severe stranger anxiety right now, and so I can’t get a sitter. (Tried that in August when the last au pair took a vacation. It was a nightmare. The baby wouldn’t willingly separate from me for weeks afterwards.)

It had also never occurred to me to require “earning” leave month by month. I get a lump sum of leave every year to take when I see fit. Seems a bit contradictory to ask for a week off in the first half of the year, but also only provide a day per month. For a M-F au pair, that leaves only the sixth month to take a week off!

Taking a Computer Lunch December 14, 2015 at 11:24 pm

The one-day-a-month only comes up in separating worksheets when you’re in rematch. My first counselor gave advice – the first week (or 5 weekdays) she picks, the second week you pick. That being said, if your preference is for your APs to have 10 long weekends during the course of the year, then smart women doing the math realize that they’ll come out ahead. Rarely have any of my APs asked for time off within the first six months (partially because they’ve come out of that school calendar in which vacation is for the summer). If you’re heading toward month six and your AP has not asked for a day off, then it’s time to ask her if she’s made any plans to use her vacation time.

I will say that APs generally want to travel with friends. (Me, I always found it too frustrating when I was their age, and preferred the kismet of meeting people in youth hostels, but so be it. I get it.) Be flexible enough to give them long weekends off when they can find companions with whom they want to travel – but be up front in your handbook that long weekends are your preference.

If you’re having a family trip (my line – “If you’re taking the kids, it’s not a vacation, it’s a trip.”) and your AP has indicated that she does not wish to accompany you, then you have a few options. Here are 2 quick and easy ones: 1) she uses her vacation time while you’re away and does whatever she wants or 2) she does not want to use her vacation time, so you assign her a list of kid duties that probably won’t equal all the hours you’d typically use, but when you return your childrens’ bedrooms and playroom will be a lot cleaner (tip of the hat to the HM who suggested option #2 – because, quite frankly, nothing will get your AP out of the house and headed on a vacation than to give her option #2). If your AP joins you on the family trip, then be clear to make it clear – it’s a trip, not a vacation.

I remember the days from when my kids were little and every hour of leave counted (of course, The Camel was capable of sucking both my sick time and vacation time out from underneath me with her endless doctors’ visits). Your life will change, and as your children start going to preschool and school, you’ll find yourself more flexible. (Me, amazingly enough – I’m awash in vacation time, to the point that I now demand overtime for short-term projects with deadlines that impinge on the rest of my work. I routinely give away leave to friends in care-giving situations because I have walked that walk.

Bottom line – don’t think of AP’s vacation as a month-to-month thing. Do have check-in conversations frequently during the course of the year if she hasn’t made requests to have time off! I usually have a check-in conversation during the month of April to make it clear that I’m not going to offer time off during the summer, unless the Camel is in summer camp!!! Don’t assume prior knowledge – give your AP a month or two’s warning to reset her expectations!

NoVA Twin Mom December 15, 2015 at 12:43 pm

The other reason the “one day a month” rule would be useful is to not have an au pair expect to take a two week vacation three months into her year. It gives the host family the flexibility to, for instance, say that she can’t take both weeks at the same time, or can’t take vacation immediately after her arrival.

Nearly everything can be negotiated, so if an au pair wanted five days of “leave” before working for five months, the host family would have the ability to LET her, but wouldn’t be required to. On the flip side, if the host family is somehow denying the au pair vacation time, she can argue (with the LCC’s help) that she’s “earned” it.

Returning HM December 17, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Another vacation question: AP has been with us for four months. Tomorrow he leaves for a two-week vacation at home. Naturally, he has not “earned” this full two weeks yet – nor does he really “have” two more weeks left since he has already taken a few days (fine with us).

My question is when to pay him for these two weeks of vacation. I feel confident that he is going to return to us, especially because he is bringing a friend from home back with him for a week. But just because we once had an AP go home for Christmas and not come, I’m sort of feeling gun-shy about laying out for the two weeks’ vacation in advance. Is it OK for me to pay him one week ahead – next week – and then pay for the second week off retroactively, when he gets back?

Thanks for input.

TexasHM December 26, 2015 at 3:30 pm

We auto pay for this reason and many others. It avoids advance conversations, makes sure they are paid on time and consistently and with record of transactions. If I wasn’t doing that and was in your shoes then I would probably pay on your regular pay days. Did he ask for an advance? If not then I wouldn’t advance it just for the sake of advancing it. If you pay on Fridays then I would pay the Friday he is there and and then each Friday leave an envelope in his room or whatever.
Before we did autopay we once went on a family vacation and AP joined us. In that case I gave it all to her upfront because 1 – I didn’t want to forget to pay her and end up giving to her late and feeling bad, 2 – so she could use it for souvenir shopping, excursions, etc and 3 – I didn’t want to carry the additional money around and be responsible for it.
I think you do what you are comfortable with within the rules of the program. It’s not your responsibility to get pay to an AP on vacation but it is your responsibility to have the money available for them on payday.

NES December 22, 2015 at 4:02 pm

I always did a day off was 9 hours, since the work week was 45 hours. That way, when my au pair wanted to take three days off, I scheduled her other two days for 9 hours each day. If I had done 10 each day, I felt that would have been unfair.

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