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.
In 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.