Our Au Pair Wants More Vacation: How to handle?

by cv harquail on November 13, 2010

Every au pair gets two weeks paid vacation, and the convention is to have the host family choose one week, while the au pair chooses the other, subject to family agreement. The host family has slightly more ‘say’ about vacation scheduling, simply because the host parents need to arrange for childcare while the au pair is off, and that is not always easy to do at certain times of the year.


For some host families, the host parents’ schedules are flexible enough that there are more than two weeks when the host family can do without childcare and let their au pair take vacation time. However, the au pair will get only two weeks of pocket money as ‘vacation pay’.

If s/he takes off more than two weeks, s/he does not get paid for that additional time.[ Ruh-roh. Looks like there might be a question about this. See comments, below.] And, her or his 12 month stay does not get extended. Even if they take off 4 or 5 weeks, they are still contracted with the host family for only 52 weeks.

Mom210 writes with a particular question about her au pair taking additional time off:

I have an au pair who has been with my for 7 months. She has been good with the kids overall, but we have a few issues along the way also.

My au pair is now asking to take more than the allotted 2 weeks off as she wishes to go overseas. I have the flexibility to give her the time off.

The questions are:

  1. Do I pay her for more than 2 weeks of vacation?
  2. Is she allowed to be gone for more than 2 weeks?
  3. Can she be out of the country longer than her allotted vacation time?  [Does anyone know the answer to this?]

I know that other au pairs have been out of the country for 2 months with their host families. However, mine will not be with her host family, she will be visiting friends.

She is also being vague about her travel plans.

So, what do I do? Let her have the extra time with no pay, or tell her she cannot have the extra time?

Thank you for your advice! Mom210

Dear Mom210,

You can give your au pair more than two weeks vacation time, but you are only expected to pay her for two of these weeks.** see comments, below.  Can anyone confirm?? If you can afford to do without childcare for a while, and your au pair has something special to do, offering more unpaid vacation seems fine. Just don’t offer too much, or act like you don’t really need childcare at all, because that might leave you au pair to think she not needed, or even not wanted.

As for time restrictions on being out of the country, does anyone have information about that??


There is one red flag though– you felt you needed to mention that your au pair is rather vague about her plans. There are many reasons she could be vague, especially since she doesn’t know yet how much time she has to plan for!

But— I wonder if she might be considering ditching your family. Not that there’s anything wrong with your family, but au pairs have been know to take off on vacation to distant lands, and just never come back.

I could be crazy even to think of this, but here it is. cv

See Also:
Vacation – All she ever wanted?
Poll: How long, exactly, is “two weeks vacation”?
Advice Wanted: Au Pair changed her vacation… now what?

There’s a plane!  from
20000909 sapal from
Nico ze french


franzi November 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm

two questions: 1)how much more than the two weeks off is she asking for? to me it makes a difference if we are talking about 2 weeks +2days or 5 weeks.
2) has she mentioned previously that she would like to visit those friends? if she has not and it all seems too spontaneous it would be a red flag for me. if her friends live in a country she has always wanted to visit (which i reckon after 7 months with her you would have known) i would be less concerned that she’s planning to ditch your family.

to me, the question of ditching your family only comes to mind because every AP knows she has 2 weeks of vacation time. so to want more just begs for a valid reason (to me that is).

if you feel uncomfortable with her being away for more than two weeks then don’t give her off. regarding the visa regulations, she needs to have her absence signed by the agency so someone will notice that she is absent for more than two weeks. now if she gets the signature on her documents she is fine. so it depends on the agency if they would sign her papers.

Gianna November 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

This is extremely informative and helpful. I have been told that the family is only required to give 2 weeks vacation but can give more as a matter of choice. I have also been told that a family cannot force an aupair to take unpaid vacation even if they do not need her to work. I never thought about the agency needing to sign off on more than two weeks. It makes me think that some of those silly meetings that the aupairs all seem to resent so much have a very useful purpose. I also remember that an aupair of mine had a friend who flew off to go on interviews in California during her vacation. I guess that is her privelege but…

cv harquail November 15, 2010 at 10:10 am

G, you’re right that a host family cannot force an au pair to take unpaid vacation time.

Regulations aside, host parents should not put au pairs in a position where the au pair does not have the income/pocket money she is anticipating, because the host family has a change in plans.

Should be working November 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm

1. I didn’t know that vacation-without-pay was possible under the agency rules; I thought that HPs had to pay the AP even if they freely gave extra vacation time.

2. I think APs can be away from their HFs (but in the US) longer than 2 wks if everyone is ok with it.

3. How long she can be out of the country has to do with visa rules, not vacation time, which is a different set of rules. My understanding was that APs should not be out of the US, even with HFs on a working basis, for more than 30 days, or their visa status would no longer be valid and they risk being unable to enter again. But I have a feeling some others, including LCCs, will be along soon enough with more solid info.

PA AP mom November 14, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Vacation without pay is NEVER allowed under the CCAP contract. I know because I tried to do it last year and I got a stern warning from the agency that I could be dismissed from the program for withholding the AP’s stipend. They said my only alternative was to deny any additional vacation if I didn’t want to pay.

I am sure you could do it without telling your agency if you and the AP agree upon it, but just a warning that it isn’t allowed.

cv harquail November 15, 2010 at 10:11 am

PA AP Mom- thanks for the clarification from the CCAP contract.

Should be working November 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I don’t have enough info to make even a guess as to whether this is a setup to be ditched. Like Franzi, I find 16 days not a big deal, but extra WEEKS gone would be odd. But if she’s a hiker who wants to travel the Canadian Rockies, or a sun worshipper who wants 3 weeks in Barbados, I guess I could imagine that too. If she is planning an overseas trip to visit old friends in her home country that would tell me she is homesick. I think a suspicion of a ditch would merit a frank discussion with the LCC.

mom210 November 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm

My au pair has asked for an extra week plus a couple of days. The agency already signed her form. I really appreciate all the responses.

hOstCDmom November 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm

CV – I think you are incorrect on one point in the above –

State Dept. Regs are interpreted to mean that the AP program does NOT permit vacation without pay for an AP. Although the State Department clarified the regs in 1996 to make clear that an employer-employee relationship is established between HF and AP, and as such the stipend is regulated by minimum wage laws, the HF is obligated to pay the stipend (which is technically different from a salary, and stems from the fact that it is money paid to a participant in a legally sanctioned cultural exchange program) for 51 weeks of program participation. My understanding is that this requirement is not agency specific.

j) Wages and hours. Sponsors shall require that au pair participants:

(1) Are compensated at a weekly rate based upon 45 hours of child care services per week and paid in conformance with the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act as interpreted and implemented by the United States Department of Labor. EduCare participants shall be compensated at a weekly rate that is 75% of the weekly rate paid to non-EduCare participants;

(2) Do not provide more than 10 hours of child care per day, or more than 45 hours of child care in any one week. EduCare participants may not provide more than 10 hours of child care per day or more than 30 hours of child care in any one week;

(3) Receive a minimum of one and one half days off per week in addition to one complete weekend off each month; and

(4) Receive two weeks of paid vacation.

LINK to State Dept Regs:

hOstCDmom November 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Perhaps also relevant:

On November 18 and 19, 1996, the United States Information Agency
(1). provided all Au Pair Program Sponsors with a notice regarding payment of the weekly wage due to au pairs
(2). Please be advised specifically that:

1. The Department of Labor (DOL) determined in 1994 that an employer/employee relationship is established between the host family and the au pair. Accordingly, the wage (3) given an Au Pair must conform with minimum wage law and adjustments. The DoL, having sole jurisdiction regarding matters of minimum wage, determines the credit (room and board) to be applied against the weekly wage. A full discussion of this matter was set forth in the February 15, 1995 Federal Register notice announcing Au Pair program regulations.

2. Effective July 24, 2009, the weekly wage due to au pairs is $195.75 This amount is based upon the minimum wage payment currently in effect, and is calculated as follows.

45 hours @ $7.25 = $326.25
$326.25 less $130.50 per week, credit for room and board determined by the DoL
= $195.75, the weekly wage due Au Pair program participants

3. Effective August 17, 2001, the existing Au Pair program regulations were amended to create the EduCare program component. Au Pairs participating in the EduCare component are paid in accordance with the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, as a matter of administrative convenience for both Department-designated sponsors and participating host families, the weekly compensation for EduCare Au Pairs is calculated as 75 percent of the weekly wage currently paid to all Au Pair participants.

$195.75, the weekly wage due Au Pair program participants .75(195.75)
= $146.81, seventy-five percent of the weekly wage due Au Pair program participants.

4. In 1997, in response to a request for an advisory opinion on whether a $10 credit may be possible as an offset to the educational expenses paid by host families participating in the Au Pair program, the DoL (4) advised that host families may not take credit in meeting their minimum wage obligations for either tuition costs or medical insurance. The Au Pair program sponsors were notified on March 13, 1997, and a copy of the DOL advisory opinion was provided to them.

cv harquail November 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

Hi hOstCDmom–
If I am wrong about this one, that completely changes how I see “extra” vacation time! I have not heard the interpretation you offer, above, before — but of course, that’s the problem– the “rules” are interpreted from regulations, and the regulations are explained specifically enough to cover all the permutations we host parents find ourselves wondering about.

Is there any reader with more information?

For now, then, let’s consider that an au pair “must” be paid each of her/his 51 1weeks at your house… this would really change my advice, because I’m not sure that I’d want to pay an au pair to take vacation, especially if his or her vacation-taking disrupted host parents’ work or cost them additional money.

How about for other parents?

Jennifer November 15, 2010 at 11:04 am

I am with APIA and was told by my LCC that we are able to offer unpaid vacation. This would be where the AP does not receive her stipend.

hOstCDmom November 15, 2010 at 11:25 am

Interesting – we are with APIA also, and were told the exact opposite! I wonder if there is a written APIA policy (like the CCAP one mentioned above)….hmmmm

PA AP mom November 15, 2010 at 12:56 pm

CCAP told me that it is a dept of state regulation that the AP must be paid for 51 weeks and that the stipend can’t be withheld for ANY reason, including other vacation. That would not be agency specific. I wonder what the “Real” rule is. I’m confused now.

anonmom November 15, 2010 at 1:34 pm

PA AP mom, the state dept rules govern all the agencies. The REAL rule is that which is set forth by the State Dept. So- No, the host mom cannot withhold pay even if the AP takes extra week(s) of vacation.

On an aside, one of my AP’s needed to finish with my family two weeks earlier than her year was over, in order for her to travel on a trip before returning home at the end of her program year. She did not realize that she had to be at school at home in August, so she asked to leave two weeks early to take her trip. This was fine by me, as I just needed to get the next AP to come two weeks early. And, no, she was not paid for the two weeks, we only paid her for one of those two weeks- that was an agreement we reached when she insisted that she NOT take the money because she would not be here. So, we compromised and I told her that she needed money for travel, anyway.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 15, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I think the real “rule” lies in where an AP puts her foot down to get what she deserves and where she acknowledges she is getting extra time off and agrees to no stipend without a fuss. If you don’t tell the agency and neither does the AP, then they don’t know. Yes, they have to sign off on the form if your AP leaves the country, but in my experience no one asks, “Is this AP going to get paid for that 3-week holiday?”)

I tend to be extremely flexible with APs when they take their vacations while my kids are in school (I have school-age children and only need to take 1.5 hours off each day they are in school to cover PM care). I give my APs their birthday off. I give them a day when their parents visit. I give them a day when their friends join us on holiday. I’m actually pretty flexible, because I work 6:30-3:00 anyway, so I don’t have to take that much time off to give them an evening off. (And I learned a long time ago that, with The Camel, if you give an inch you gain a mile. Your experience is likely to vary widely.) I’m disinclined to be hard-nosed about anything if I’m already taking the day off, because if I’m home I’m likely to be caring for The Camel anyway.

On the other hand, I insist that they take at least 4 days of their vacation while both my kids are at sleep-away camp (they may have a 5th and the weekends on both ends) and the other 5-6 while the kids are in school. The truth is, I once paid a private driver $400 while an AP took a summer holiday – she wanted the hours she drove my typical child two and from his camps, but she also refused to take the job unless she picked up additional hours feeding The Camel dinner. Great for me personally, but the pocket book really hurt!

Yes, I have given APs unpaid extra weeks off. No, neither one of us told the LCC or reported it to the agency. Usually, I offer unpaid time if I had planned on having care when an AP requests extra time off (like an AP had said she would join me on a family holiday, so I had planned for adult evenings, and then she backed out OR when an AP wanted to go home for 3 weeks instead of 2).

Should be working November 16, 2010 at 4:14 am

[Way off topic: TaCL, I’m impressed that your daughter goes to sleepaway camp! They must have great infrastructure and staff training.]

Taking a Computer Lunch November 16, 2010 at 8:12 am

Easter Seals.

A Host Mom November 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Our au pairs only work 3 days a week (with an occasional few hours here or there, and the occasional date night). There was some confusion with our last au pair since she interpreted her vacation to be 10 days, whereby she thought she was entitled to more than 3 weeks vacation. We did work it out, but I honestly think that episode really soured our au pair after that (despite the fact that she had 2 working days off each week and rarely worked a weekend). To avoid confusion (and in strict compliance with our Host Family Handbook) we now ask au pairs to split their vacation time into 2-one week vacations.

David Raymonds January 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Question : We have had an Au pair for 3 months and in that time she has taken her 2 weeks vacation and has taken part of her $500 allowance for tuition. Now, 3 months into the year, she has decided she wants to leave us for a different host family in the same town as ours. We have been advised by our agency that when we get a new replacement Au Pair we must also pay them 2 weeks vacation and give them a $500 allowance – this is if they are a new Au Pair and havnt had any of those 2 items yet from a different family. This seems unfair to the host family – does this mean that an au pair can come and go as they please but we are still liable to pay them the holiday and tuition even if they dont stay the full year with us ? Doesnt it work like a regular employer relatinship where an employee earns vacation time for each week they have worked ?

Dorsi January 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm

My agency has a policy of no vacation the first 2 months and then one day accumulated per month for the last 10 months. I might alter that for an exceptional AP, or with the explicit and written understanding about what might happen if she were to leave early. I do think it might be reasonable to address this with your LCC — and trying to come up with a fair solution. In the future, it might be best not to allow 2 weeks of vacation in the first 1/4 of the year.

A Host Mom January 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm

The agency told you that? From my experience, that is incorrect. For both education and vacation, you only owe her the pro-rata portion based upon the time she is with you and you are entitled to a return of the excess funds you paid. “I think” that, if she goes to a new family, the new family owes you the money and, if she goes home, the au pair herself owes you the money.

Should be working January 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Never heard of HFs owing EACH OTHER money for fulfilling AP tuition and vacation obligations. I would be surprised to see this anywhere in any agency literature.

We had the opposite–a rematch AP came to us after several months with another family and had never taken vacation or a course. We got stuck giving her 2 wks’ vacation and paying more than our share of tuition benefit, although she would only have 6 months with us. And then on top of that, it didn’t work out and so we rematched and she left the program, all after only 4 months with us.

Can you make an au pair repay tuition benefit? I don’t think this is in the literature either.

David Raymonds January 28, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Seems like a great idea to me – Which agency are you with ?

Taking a Computer Lunch January 29, 2011 at 12:51 am

An AP who asks for vacation time within her first 3 months would be a red flag to me – even my APs who arrived in May did not ask for vacation time between June and August! For the last several years my APs have arrived in August, and I must say, it has been like pulling teeth to get them to take vacation time BEFORE summer (I have a policy that says no vacation time after the kids’ school year ends – after I spent $400 in one week on transportation to/from camp and childcare (having The Camel means at least $15 an hour).

If my AP asked for holiday time before she settled in with my family (and that is worth at least one month), I’d be questioning her motives.

I think APIA recommends no vacation in the first 3 months. But really, I have rarely had an AP (including #6 which currently lives with us) who has used more than 1 day in the first 5 months. In fact, I’ve experienced quite the opposite – I do my best to post the calendar for the next month by the 20th of the current month (e.g. posting February’s calendar by Jan. 20) and my APs book their trips to match weekends off. (Which leaves me to explain the policy in February — you have x months to use x days.)

azmom January 30, 2011 at 11:31 pm

We’re with interexchange – when our AP left it was based on # of weeks served. Since she was with us just 2 months, she wasn’t entitled yet to education benefits, so we didn’t have to pay a pro-rate amount. however, We did have to pay for I think 1 or 2 days of vacation for her, which we paid via check as outgoing. Had she taken more than her percentage earned, she would have owed us. There was a worksheet – the agency couldn’t “enforce” it but we signed it together.

Since we have a NEW au pair, we have a full 12 months so we have the entire amount. If we had a transition au pair then we would have had a prorated amount owed to her based on weeks. If she had taken all her vacation with her past family, then she would have owed them, but she’d still get prorated with us. This was my understanding though…

David Raymonds January 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Yes the agency told me that last night ……….

Jennifer January 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm

We were with APIA and they have a closure worksheet. Vacation and tuition is prorated per month. If they take more than what is allotted them for the time they are with you then they (the AP) would owe you $$ back.

HRHM January 29, 2011 at 4:03 am

Yes, your outgoing AP owes you the money for 9 days of vacation. At APC, they accrue one day of vacation each month, starting in the third month. If she completed her course, then she will get the second course paid for by the next family and you are just out that money. If she didn’t and her leaving is preventing her from completing the course, then I would say she owes that money as well, but some people would debate that (we pay APs for completed course, not ones they bail out on) Good luck, however, getting any money back for the excess vacation you allowed. That is almost 2 weeks stipend and unless she is great at saving money, she won’t have the excess and will not be amenable to paying you back. There is no way to “force” her to do the right thing. (ie you cannot withhold her pay)

As far as the new AP, while it might seem unfair to you (not to mention expensive!) you can’t (don’t want to) punish your new AP for the sins of the old. If she is new in country, she deserves all the benefits, even if you already gave away the farm to #1.

My advice is to chalk it up to a lesson learned.

Should be working January 29, 2011 at 6:05 am

So does this mean that the AP pays the tuition up front and you reimburse at the end of the course? Where does she get $500 or more at the beginning of her stay with you?

HRHM January 29, 2011 at 11:02 am

It depends on when she registers. Because we always match in February, most of the time she doesn’t take a class until the Fall (one took a summer class) so she has plenty of time to save up. The reality is that most of the time (there was one exception where the AP had already demonstrated a history of poor follow through) we will pay for tuition at the start of the class, but we make it clear that should she decide to bail out, we will expect her to reimburse us for the class.

I know of several APs in our cluster who have chosen not to take classes because they didn’t have a deposit to get back and they didn’t care about extending. In those cases, the family was not obligated to give them the 500. I see a failure to complete the course as a variation of that idea. If she doesn’t care enough to finish the class, why should I care enough to pay for it?

Host Mommy Dearest January 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm

On the topic of allowing your AP extra vacation time….. I agree that the official rule is that you can not withhold the stipend for any reason. I usually end up giving my AP an extra vaca day here and there, but I have not had an AP request an extra week. I’m sort of a rule follower so this post got me thinking – what if this were handled similar to the way you would handle if she owed you for a phone bill? In other words, make a deal with her that she will get her stipend, but the extra childcare cost will cost you – probably way more than the stipend, but if she wants the extra week she can pay you, oh, say, the amount of the stipend to help defer the costs to you? I agree withholding her stipend is illegal, but it is not illegal for you to pay her stipend and for her to reimburse you to cover costs you incur because of something you give her – provided she agrees to pay it. If she doesn’t agree that it is fair and that money is important to you, then she doesn’t get the extra vacation time.

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