Does Your Au Pair Get Paid A Stipend When S/he’s Sick?

by cv harquail on January 26, 2015

soo zzzz When your au pair gets sick for more than a few days, questions about substitute childcare, sick days, and additional costs can put pressure on the balancing act between “part of the family” and “employee”.

Every family needs a backup plan for the occasional day or two (or three) when an Au Pair is laid low with a bad cold,  poison ivy, or a debilitating hangover.

A few paid sick days over the course of an entire au pair year is not too much for a host parent to bear. (heh heh heh. You got the joke, right?) Even when the physical ailment has a predictable end time — like 6 weeks for a broken arm to heal, or the (real) flu that takes a week to ten days — host families, LCCs and the Au Pair can hack together some kind of plan. What causes the most confusion are the illnesses that you think will be short but that become protracted.

Take the situation of HostMomNightingale:  

Our au pair, who’d only been with us for 3 months, got sick and was laid up at home for 3 days. Then, she went to the hospital for a full week, and when she came home she needed IV antibiotics via PICC line for 10 additional days. She was ill and ‘off duty’ for three weeks.      

Of course, we took care of her during this period ( she did not work). Her bills were covered by her insurance.

We were told by the LCC that we did not need to pay her stipend for 2 of the 3 weeks she was out.  But, after last week’s monthly Au Pair meeting, where our Au Pair complained to the LCC that she hadn’t been paid, the LCC called me to say that she (the LCC) was wrong– we needed to pay our Au Pair for the full three 3 weeks that she was sick.

The problem is, of course, that we had to pay for back-up childcare for all three of these weeks, since my spouse and I both work outside the house and could not take days off ourselves.   This was a significant extra expense for us — an additional $1500.  Not to mention, managing new babysitters and making sure our Au Pair was comfortable added a lot to our plate.

It definitely feels like ‘no good deed goes unpunished’.  Should we have been expected to pay our au pair’s stipend for all three weeks? What’s the official policy?   We want to do the ‘right thing’ and also to be kind, but we feel overburdened by this all.

Thank you in advance for your input.

Host Parents– what’s your sense of what’s fair? How many sick days can you imagine giving an au pair, before you felt tapped out?


LCs/LARs — is there an official sick day policy, or an unofficial one? How do you advise parents?


See also: Medical Care for your Au Pair: Your responsibility? (Poll)
We Can’t Afford Alternative Childcare While Our Au Pair’s Broken Arm Mends. What to do?



SKNY January 26, 2015 at 7:24 am

Can you count as vacation time? At least one of those 2 weeks?

used2bap January 26, 2015 at 7:50 am

Here’s what I found when I googled for “J-1 visa regulations sick day”:

U.S. organizations are not legally required to offer their employees any leave with pay, including vacation and sick time. Therefore, U.S. organizations are not legally required to offer J-1 participants any type of leave with pay. Participants are subject to the leave policies of their specific host organizations. In most cases, participants must “earn” paid vacation and sick time. That is, participants will be eligible for paid leave only after spending a certain period of time with the host organization.

Now, as a northern European who gets paid leave 5 weeks per year (plus paid sick leave) it seems a bit harsh for me to be left without a paycheck. But then again, the three weeks AP was sick, she still got a free room+board and didn’t have any expences during that time that she would’ve had to pay herself, right?

So I think legally you may not be required to pay her, and rather than trusting your LCC you should check with the State Dept. and/or agency.

AnAmericanAuPairInGermany January 26, 2015 at 7:51 am

My opinion is she shouldn’t have complained about not getting paid since she was sick 3/4 weeks out of the month. Yes, she was sick, but it’s not like she had to work. I don’t think it’s fair to count it as vacation time, either, since she was sick and couldn’t do anything fun. These things happen.

That said, you took care of her while she was sick. I think if you explain to her (and the LCC) the extra efforts and expenses you had to take care of while she was out of commission, it should make sense why she won’t be getting paid for those three weeks. She shouldn’t get paid for time she didn’t work. However, if there are ongoing fees (such as cell phones or a gym membership or something like that) that need to be paid every month, maybe you should pay those for her since she depends on her income to pay those herself, but she couldn’t. She should get paid for the last week in the month, maybe – 1/4 of her usual paycheck, since she was better by then? Give her the three days sick at home before going to the hospital as a grace period, because neither of you knew, at that point, that she would be laid up for so much longer.

My family sometimes goes on vacation for two weeks somewhere (it’s Europe, after all), but I still have to take care of the dog at the house and clean and everything while they’re gone, and so I get paid for these two weeks despite them not actually being there; it’s sort of like a mini-vacation. My HD hasn’t ever brought up me not being paid for these weeks. I’ve really only been sick for one or two days (been here 8/12 months), and luckily they happened to be on a weekend so I didn’t miss any set work-time.

SwissAupair January 26, 2015 at 7:54 am

As an Aupair I think it is not very nice to count sick-days as vacation-time. Vacation is the time to rest and get new energy for the time after, sickness is definitely not vacation IMO. Always ask yourself “how would you feel if your boss would do that”, so there would be no vacation left for the whole year?
I’m pretty sure that the HF has to pay the stipend when AP is sick.

bestaupair 4u January 26, 2015 at 8:45 am

Well, that seems reasonable but… In Europe an au pair is not a regular job. There is no ‘boss’ but a hostfamily. Leagly, here, when you take antibiotics, you are fit to work. Also, here in Europe, when an au pair is sick, or doesn’t work for any other reason, you don’t have to pay. On the other hand, you have to consider yourself as a HF, to pay the au pair. When the au pair is excellent for example, you might want to pay.
The problem in most cases, in our experience, is attitude of the au pair. Feeling sick, but in the weekend, surprisingly, better again.

WarmStateMomma January 26, 2015 at 12:15 pm

@SwissAuPair: that’s exactly what many Americans deal with at their jobs. Host parents use their limited sick days (if their employer provides those) for the kids’ illnesses and if they are lucky, their own. They just don’t have sick days for an au pair as well. And they are likely to get some side eye at work if they explain they need to be out of the office without any prior notice for an extended period of time for the au pair’s illness. I don’t like it, but that’s what a lot of parents here deal with.

You don’t even want to hear about maternity leave or paternity leave….

NoVA Twin Mom January 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

And I’ll add that even the United States Government treats its employees that way. So you’re not just seeing people commenting whose employers are particularly “mean” – that’s how it is across the board. For federal government employees, there are separate “pots” of sick leave and vacation (which is much better than most people in private industry get – they get personal time that can be used for either). But even the sick leave can only be used to care for certain people – self or a dependent. And au pairs don’t count as dependents, nor does having to care for one’s own children because the au pair is too sick to do so.

So while it does sound harsh when you see it typed out in black and white, I agree with WarmStateMomma that what you’re seeing is exactly how we’d be treated by our own bosses. We’re trying to make it less draconian on our au pairs than we would experience ourselves but sometimes it gets to a point that something has to give.

NoVA Twin Mom January 26, 2015 at 12:41 pm

That last sentence in the first paragraph should say

“And au pairs don’t count as dependents, nor does having to care for one’s own HEALTHY children because the au pair is too sick to do so.”

If the kids were sick at the same time as the au pair, then the Government’s sick leave could be used – to care for the kids.

SKNY January 26, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Id like to add that my job gives me 3 WEEKS of vacation, and those INCLUDE sick days. That means with 4 kids, if each gets sick once, and I get sick once in a year, I only have 2 weeks left. If my au pair (which I dont have anymore) had been sick for 3 weeks, that means I would probably had lost ALL of my paid vacation (meaning I would not even be allowed Christmas eve or New Year’s eve that said year.
I come from a country where you get 4 weeks of vacation and as many sick days as you want. However, this is USA and things are not the same…

Taking a Computer Lunch January 26, 2015 at 3:39 pm

The years in which The Camel has had major surgery (for which she was hospitalized 4 and 5 weeks), I didn’t take a vacation at all. No Christmas Eve, no New Year’s Eve, no family trips. Every minute of my sick and vacation time went for her care. It happens, and I’m her mother.

I do my best to sit each AP down and explain how different time off works in the United States compared to their country – including how I have to take vacation time if I actually receive time off between Christmas and New Year (doesn’t happen every year). I also make it clear to the AP that there are just certain times of the year in which I won’t be able to grant them time off because I will have to work.

hOstCDmom January 26, 2015 at 3:51 pm

And, as SKNY put it, this is the US and things are not the same. This IS part of the cultural exchange! Learning that while it is the land of opportunity, Hollywood, and class mobility, and to some extent equal access to education, the US is a harsh place in many ways for its employees, no sick days, no maternity leave, at-will employment, that there isn’t a government benefit social safety net like in some countries…and that folks in the US suck it up go to work when they have a cold, and women work when they have their period, and there isn’t universal, government subsidized childcare..! :)

NJ Mama January 27, 2015 at 6:13 pm

We went from me using up all my vacation/sick time to care for my youngest, who seemed to be always in and out of the hospital with pneumonia (she has asthma), and then for my mom, who eventually died of cancer. And then we had that horrible string of bad luck with APs that went on forever. And we ended up using just about all of our vacation time for interim care between au pairs and sitters, and then phasing in new APs. Even today, when my office is closed b/c of the snow, I am expected to work from home — it’s not a “snow day” for me! Our system is just so different. And I think some APs just don’t get it.

I think it’s a great idea to add sick time language to the handbook – great suggestions below.

It’s gotten to the point where I am always hesitant to use vacation during the year just in case. And so if there are a few days left over I or my H can take time off over winter break, which is always nice. This year that happened to coincide with my APs vacation time. So it worked out.

I think 3 weeks is a long time and I really really empathize with the extra $1,500 that you had to shell out for babysitting. I don’t think you should be required to pay the AP for the time she was sick, especially since you were providing room and board the whole time. And I think the LC is not doing her job — she needs to sit down with both of you and help you figure this out.

HRHM January 26, 2015 at 3:42 pm

In addition, in the US if you are really lucky, once you’ve used up your sick leave (5 days per year at my very generous employer) and vacation time, you may have had the option to pay for “short-term disability insurance” . I pay a large amount of money out of each paycheck to ensure that, God forbid, if something serious happens to me to prevent me from working (broken femur, cancer) for a long period of time, they will pay me 50% of my normal pay so that I can at least not lose my house and car while trying to heal. In my mind, AP already got that by being housed, fed and cared for while not working. After all “room and board” are 40% of the stipend to begin with and if she’s not working…

NoVA Twin Mom January 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm

And for some legal reason I don’t really understand, federal employees aren’t even allowed to buy that insurance. They get to depend on the largesse of their coworkers, who are able to “donate” leave to a bank shared by all of them for serious illnesses. From their pool of limited leave.

There are limited ways to take advance leave – but that means you spend the next year(s) paying it back just so you can “get to zero” and start earning leave from scratch again. Some people I know have chosen to go without pay for some of the days they miss rather than digging themselves into such a hole.

Should be working January 26, 2015 at 4:00 pm

I’ve never heard of this idea of a pool of sick leave! From our federal government, where “socialism” is a slur!

NoVA Twin Mom January 26, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Come to think of it, I don’t think it’s sick leave that’s donated – it’s vacation time! But you can only be a recipient if you meet certain criteria, all of which I believe are medical/health related – again, to care for yourself or a dependent.

To be eligible to receive a “payout” you have to donate a pay period’s worth of VACATION time each year you want to participate. I think you can get a certain amount of time just by putting in a request (and maybe dependent on the seriousness of your/your family member’s illiness); otherwise people can directly donate leave to another participant once their “need” has been approved.

Anna January 26, 2015 at 10:56 pm

Yep, was saving my vacation and sick leave when I was pregnant so I could get paid at least something during my maternity leave… lost most of it when had to be on bedrest for three weeks. My federal government employer let me borrow vacation and sick leave for a year ahead, so I got paid at least a little during my materinity leave. Generous ppl donated me three days of leave to use during my materinity leave. My baby turned one a month ago, and next payperiod I will finally start earning vacation and sick leave! Every time I had to take time off this year (and I had to, I got sick, au pair suddenly left, religious holidays when I cannot work, doctor appoinments) I lost pay, and I was lucky my boss allowed me to take unpaid leave. I lost so much pay this year I am afraid to count it..

AlwaysHopeful HM January 27, 2015 at 9:02 am

I also saved up sick and vacation in order to take maternity leave. I ended up taking a combination of sick leave, vacation leave, and unpaid leAve in order to make it all work. Fortunately, at the time I had already been at my federal government job for about 10 years and had lots of leave saved up. Two little secrets one may also not know about American vacation time (at least at my job): 1) although you earn it, you are considered kind of a slacker if you use it all each year (one reason I had vacation saved for maternity leave) , and 2) in the federal government, you earn vacation in terms of hours, not days. So if I have to leave a hour early to take my child to a doctor’s appointment, or let my au pair off early to go to a special concert, I have to use my sick leave (doctor’s appointmemt) or vacation time (au pair’s concert ). Since my son started school, my used leave has increased tremendously– because of parent teacher conferences, school plays, au pair vacations, etc, and i have no option other than to just try to igore the impatient looks I get from my boss and coworkers. But, luckily, I haven’t had a au pair take any significant sick time!

German Au-Pair January 26, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Wow, I was aware that things are different but to me this is insane. We get full payment for a longer period of time when we are sick -you wouldn’t worry about a broken anything if you had a full time contract (though we do have loser contracts with which you certainly would worry) and even when you medical insurance is done paying, there are options that will leave you with 70% of your pay if you have worked long enough. I don’t actually know how things work if your kids are sick. I believe those days are numbered as well.
You are expected to take vacation or find a different solution if your childcare is not available for any reason though (like regular holidays or closed due to infections diseases etc).

This conversation is precisely the reason why I would never choose to live in the US, as much as I love that country. It’s also the reason why I will always wonder how people can actually oppose government supported medical care. I would NOT want to fear for my existence for breaking my stupid arm.

To return to the topic, I have read several times that the contract says you get a stipend for 51 weeks which means you have to get said stipend no matter. I wonder why there is nothing on sick days in the contracts…

exaupair January 26, 2015 at 5:38 pm

yup, that’s one of the reasons I would never ever moved in the US for good…

TexasHM January 26, 2015 at 5:54 pm

So this is me totally hypothesizing but I would be willing to bet that sick days are not included in the dept of state rules for several reasons:
1 – many Americans don’t get sick days (I have a couple personal days to be used for anything and then my vacation weeks, that’s it and I work full time for an enterprise organization
2 – it would be one more thing to track/enforce
3 – many APs never get sick, that age/demographic is generally the healthiest
4 – what would happen to APs that go over the sick days? If you set a threshold for sick days then you have to define course of action. If you set no threshold then you don’t have to define anything – you leave it to the HFs to decide if it’s more than they can handle or not. My guess (again imaginary world where this might happen) that APs might get 2 sick days per year and then it charges against vacation (this is common for American jobs and would be what happened if I had a longer illness). Would this AP be better off if they had done that and charged up all her vacation while she was sick?
Also GermanAP – just fyi – government supported healthcare has nothing to do with whether or not someone would lose their job. Your note about worrying about losing your job for breaking your arm would not be impacted by government healthcare at all. Government would make sure you had an insurance plan so you could get a case perhaps, but that wouldn’t do anything to ensure your job so that may answer your question as to how some can oppose government healthcare. :) I think most agree that there are problems with the system here and want to fix it, the disagreement is on how to fix it not necessarily if something should be done.
Lastly, (sorry) our APs have had some good points about government healthcare. They have said that even though they have easy access the quality of care is often not good (totally generalizing but this was two countries same feedback) and could take a very long time to get treatment for anything serious (not generally when you want to wait) and there are people coming to the US for treatment everyday so as usual, its a complex problem or we would have probably fixed it already! :)

German Au-Pair January 27, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Sorry, TexasHM, I did not intend to get political here. And our Health Care system is far from perfect. But what I meant with losing your existance was NOT your job but actually the money you need to pay for the surgery and everything else involved. I cannot begin to tell you how many Xrays I have received in my life and when I look at my family and add those MRIs all flues and medication…we would NOT be able to afford that without government supported Health Care. In fact, with my dad now not being able to work anymore, we might fear for our existance.
Plus, our system actually prevents you from being fired given once you have a real full-time contract, you cannot be fired due to medical problems.

I can say that for Germany, it is not true that you have to wait a long time for anything serious. Yes, for normal appointments you generall have to wait a while, depending on the type of physician you need to see, but for a serious, acute condition you don’t have to wait longer. As for the quality…I guess you will hear terrible stories from everywhere around the world. Ask 5 people about one doctor and you will get 7 opinions. I have made both positive and negative experiences with the quality of my medical care in the US and in Germany (and other European countries for that matter) I don’t think one can actually pass judgement on that in general.

Again, I know our system is seen as very Un-American by many and it is far from perfect in many regards, but it does give more security to people. I realize you may have a different opinion on that and I’ve had many wonderul discussions with people who had different reasons (I was an au pair in the South, so I did get to see the more conservative side of things, too) and I respect that. I also don’t know enough about the current program to go deep into discussion about it and I’m sure it’s also still flawed. But I also view it as a step in the right direction, to a change that hopefully serve everyone well at some point.

Maybe the different view also stems from growing up and having learned to deal with the given system. I would not give up that security easily but if you never had it, maybe it’s not such a big deal.

TexasHM January 27, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Hey GermanAP no worries and some good points. I think you are right, it is much harder to lose something you are used to than to accept something new. I only mentioned it because you had said “I will always wonder how people can actually oppose government supported medical care” and I was just trying to illustrate that if people believe you aren’t solving the right problem or are creating 100 new problems (and like you said, they didn’t have it in the first place) then it’s much easier to see why it would be opposed. I don’t think anyone thinks there is not a problem and like you said, I think most countries have issues because it’s a complex problem. As far as the southern side of things I got a chuckle out of that as I am not from Texas myself and yes while some states do lean one way or another you will find both everywhere (my closest friend here is a strong liberal agnostic – go figure!) and there are liberals that oppose government healthcare as well so again, complex problem that I wish was easy to solve but is what it is. The interesting thing is that those MRIs and Xrays and surgeries you talked about get paid for by someone – the government in your case which I have to assume is funded by the people via taxes? We have never had a GermanAP so I don’t know! My point being that perhaps we pay more for insurance to protect us like you said from major medical issues but pay far less for consumer goods or taxes, I don’t know so perhaps if you didn’t have government funded healthcare your family could afford medical insurance? (Not saying they could just wondering aloud – the world will never know!) ;)

4th time lucky?! January 28, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Just to clarify – Germany doesn’t have Government funded healthcare but compulsory health insurance each employee has to pay for (topped up by Government) (though there are also voluntary insurance options). Like a tax, a %age is taken off everyone’s gross wages/ salary. The same happens with Unemployment insurance, Pension, Accident and Care Insurance (in total reaching about 20% of gross income, but exact amount depending on wages).

One major issue with the system is that (some) people will go see the doctor about anything and everything because they’ve paid for it… it’s basically not sustainable.

Also, on another side note, never been to US, so can’t compare, but life in Germany is extremely cheap these days, esp. compared to Scandinavia, UK, Ireland, etc.

German Au-Pair January 30, 2015 at 2:23 pm

@4th times
Well it is government funded in the sense that you still have health care even though you don’t have a job. Even when you’re unemployed you can afford medication for your flue. (And it goes even further: if all the medication you have to buy yourself exceeds a certain percentage of your year’s salary, you can save the receipts and get back the money for medicine that otherwise wouldn’t have been covered by your medical insurance.)
As far as I know car insurance doesn’t go out of your salary…I pay for my car insurance without even HAVING a real salary.

bestaupair 4u January 27, 2015 at 8:25 am

Au Pair is not a job. Even an au pair in Germany doesn’t get paid when sick…

Taking a Computer Lunch January 26, 2015 at 8:34 am

SwissAuPair, in my company sick leave is limited, so that if I use more than I have accrued, then I have to use my vacation time to cover the rest of the time off. Now, au pairs don’t accrue sick leave, and not paying the au pair a stipend does seem a bit harsh, but I can also feel the HF’s pain – they housed a sick au pair, and had to pay for childcare during her illness.

Fortunately, in the 14 1/2 years I have hosted, I haven’t had an AP who has been sick more than one or two days at a time. Here’s my policy – if the AP gets sick from the kids (e.g. a kid has strep throat and the AP catches it), then not only does she get the necessary sick days, but we pay for/reimburse her for her medical care (thank goodness for CVS Minute Clinic). If the AP gets ill from another source, she pays for it. We have school age kids, and DH and I are able to use small amounts of VACATION TIME to cover for her.

If the AP gets ill because of bad choices she is making (e.g. hung over, out too late and too tired to get up, sick from lack of sleep, a sexually transmitted disease from making out with strangers – I’ve only written it because it’s happened, etc.) then we have a chat. I don’t mind using my VACATION TIME to cover for a sick au pair, but I do resent it when she’s made bad choices. We warn APs that if it happens again, we will institute a curfew of 8 hours before shift (which would mean being in our house by 10 pm), which usually puts a halt to the behavior – APs don’t want a curfew and I don’t want to use my VACATION TIME all year because her bad choices affect her job performance.

I do think it’s time for this AP and HP to sit down and have a chat. In my opinion, the HP should pay the stipend. Anyone who needs a PICC line and home antibiotics is seriously ill, so I think there is more to the story than what the HP wrote here. Is the HP blaming the AP for getting ill? Could the illness have been prevented? Has the AP been mediocre, and so the illness is one more thing? Does the HM want the AP to step up her game now that she has recovered?

NoVA Twin Mom January 26, 2015 at 9:50 am

Officially I know the answer is yes – and the “pay for one out of three sick weeks” idea just seems strange, I’d want to know what the basis for that would be. And she probably did incur some expenses during her convalescence – internet shopping :)

Once we were able to negotiate with our company that we had to pay our au pair even though she wasn’t working (for various reasons I no longer felt my kids were safe with her and had removed the kids from the house even though we were hosting the au pair the two weeks while she was in rematch (and shopping because she wasn’t caring for the kids…)) BUT the company would provide a credit against our program fee for an equal amount. I wasn’t thrilled but since I just wanted the whole situation to end I took it. (Side note – one of our best au pairs ever arrived a few weeks later – we took an extension au pair instead of a rematch au pair and had to wait for her first year to end).

So maybe contact “corporate” rather than your LCC and see if a program fee credit would be possible?

TexasHM January 26, 2015 at 11:14 am

I agree, I would absolutely put this on the LC and agency to resolve. They all (agencies) have insurance policies and funds to cover extenuating circumstances and while they can’t guarantee continuous childcare coverage this is not a transition situation and you took care of this AP while she was sick – definitely in the spirit of the program. The LC telling you one thing (that was wrong by the way you can’t withhold stipend ever for any reason period) and then coming back after the fact chaps me so bad because we recently had a similar experience – yet another example of how critical it is to have an experienced LC/corporate support from your agency.
Regardless, I would put this back on the agency. You could have said nevermind – we can’t have a gap in childcare and we need to transition and that’s expensive and risky for them and obviously would have been horrible for your AP but instead you did exactly what they ask you do – treat her as a family member and you took the entire brunt of the unfortunate circumstance and I fully agree the agency needs to step forward and do something about this. I realize you don’t want to burn the bridge with your LC but all the more reason the agency should step up (LC told you that your costs would be X, now they are Y and all because she didn’t know what she was talking about).
Sidenote – you actually do NOT have to pay transition APs that you are housing as long as they aren’t providing childcare. We recently had major safety problems and had to pull the plug and have seen this at other agencies and as long as the AP was no longer working, the HF was not to pay her (direct experience on this with APIA and Interexchange, would have to check on CCAP). You DO have to house them, but do not have to pay them if they are not working.

NoVA Twin Mom January 26, 2015 at 11:24 am

Yeah, in hindsight (and with our regular LCC, who was on vacation at the time) I would have fought paying the stipend more for the au pair who wasn’t working, ESPECIALLY because the reason she wasn’t working was entirely her fault. At the time it seemed like a reasonable solution, and something that the agency agreed to easily. It was one of those times when you’re SO fed up that you can’t deal with it anymore.

TexasHM January 26, 2015 at 11:43 am

Oh no judgment meant, I totally get it. In fact we wrote off $2k of damage on our car (she didn’t even know she hit the car and house twice but then when she found out she didn’t have to pay if it was while she was on duty – don’t get me started on how insane this policy is – she suddenly “thought it was when she was working” and wanted to contest it after we had already all signed the settlement docs) and we told her not to worry about the remaining $50 she owed us for her tablet (we put it on our Costco card) just to be done with her and the whole thing and move on!!!! I just know a HM friend that did pay the AP two weeks (when not working) and then later the agency told her she didn’t have to do that and she was super frustrated (again, get a good LC/AD whatever!) so just wanted to make sure others knew that if they are in transition and the AP is not working they are off the hook for that. :)

NoVA Twin Mom January 26, 2015 at 11:56 am


Nice to hear someone else had a similar problem and just wanted it to go away so took the hit to the wallet. I was SO fed up at the time I couldn’t even get a post here to adequately explain it all – because every time I tried to write it out the emotions/tone of voice were gone and what she said seemed totally reasonable rather than SCARY which is how it came across at the time. If only there were better screening for mental issues (rather than just asking if they’ve ever had issues in the past – which of course they all know the “right” answer to. Anyway, back to the sick leave discussion …

TexasHM January 26, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Totally agreed! In fact, you might have noticed I still haven’t really shared what happened! A few of you on here know because I desperately reached out to you for sanity checks and thank you all SO MUCH again for supporting me and not being afraid to tell me just how insane I was for even questioning myself given the frequency and severity of the safety issues. Now that she is gone and we have had time to reflect (and she has continued to reach out to us and other APs here via FB and email with crazed accusations) we are wondering about her mental health as well. Some of her statements are very alarming (now) and I have to wonder if the psych tests really can’t pick out the candidates that are too emotionally unstable/vulnerable after seeing all this play out. Although in fairness, one of our previous APs pointed out that she had a friend fail the psych exam for CCAP so the friend went to another large agency and they let her test until she passed. Scary. I think I couldn’t bring myself to share on here because I was embarrassed that I got interview fatigue and settled (despite my extensive interview process it doesn’t matter if you don’t really follow it!). And then I thought maybe I could fix it somehow since we both wanted it to work so badly but you can’t fix awareness (or lack thereof). We need a HF in transition support chat room! A place to get voices of reason in transition! CV add that to your endless list of improvements that don’t benefit you personally in any way. ;) Love this blog!

JJ Host Mom January 27, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Man, I could sure use that transition chat room. I don’t want to flood this blog with negativity so when things aren’t quite right I tend to spend a lot of time just reading past posts and having reality checks with myself, rather than posting about it. But it would sure be better to get input from other seasoned host moms.

Should be working January 27, 2015 at 2:54 pm

What an amazing idea! “Transition chat!”

Meanwhile, JJ, it would never occur to me to hold back on negativity while posting here! I actually enjoy seeing how you other moms “work through” a dilemma.

TexasHM January 27, 2015 at 3:06 pm

JJ I do the same for sure. I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer on here and it was just a couple weeks before Christmas so all the posts were about gift exchanges and including APs in the celebrations! :) In fairness I did send a few desperate emails to a few fellow HMs on here so that saved my sanity for sure but yes, I would have loved a forum to discuss on the fly with experienced HPs because as you well know, the situation changes moment to moment as well so even posting the story on Tuesday would have been way different than Friday and sometimes we just need a sanity check. In my perfect world that room could also serve as a place for transition APs and families to find each other regardless of agency or even where new families considering the program could pickup a transition AP for a shorter term or to fill a summer gap, etc. Oh yeah and world peace! :)

Host Mom in the City January 27, 2015 at 4:35 pm

So funny. We actually went through a rematch recently ourselves and I don’t think I posted much at all about it. For me, it was mostly because I didn’t want to get recognized. Sometimes the distinguishing features for rematches are pretty specific. Would have been nice to have some support though!

TexasHM January 27, 2015 at 4:48 pm

HMiTC now that you mention it, that’s a great point I do remember thinking that I wanted to be sensitive and keep my head down because I wanted the best in the situation and I didn’t want the AP to think I was broadcasting her mistakes whilst she was trying so hard at the time to fix them and I didn’t want to throw our LC under the bus for not doing her job because I know the agency reads these and we had a lot of money invested and she had already said she wasn’t going to let us go anywhere else so yes, another good reason to fly low while in rematch but an anonymous chat room would have been really nice! ;)

NJ Mama January 27, 2015 at 9:54 pm

transition chat room is a wonderful idea!

I also thought of posting about my bridezilla before she dumped us. But I dunno what gets over us, it’s like writing about it makes it more real. Plus you’re trying soooooo hard to save the relationship, do right by your kids. There’s just so much going on. And I think at least for me, I felt so sheepish. Going through the rematch after rematch was really hard. And you think that it’s you or your family. Then we got what we thought was a good au pair — and she was, until the engagement — and then that one goes south too. Just a lot to handle.

I’m so grateful for this community and this blog. There are so few people I know that really understand what this whole program is about. So again, thank you CV!

WarmStateMomma January 26, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Do the AP rules say she gets 2 weeks vacation or personal time? Sick days and vacation are both forms of personal time, so perhaps this AP has taken 3 weeks of personal time….

TexasHM January 26, 2015 at 12:28 pm

It says vacation. Per Dept of State directly host families are required to “Provide a minimum of two weeks paid vacation for each 12 month exchange term (prorated for extension periods of six or nine months), in addition to regular weekly/monthly time off”

WarmStateMomma January 26, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Thanks. I guess the OP could consider this vacation time – there is no rule that the AP is entitled to 2 weeks of fun time off work, just 2 weeks off work. It doesn’t sound like the relationship can be saved, though. I would be upset if my AP was complaining about her pay at a cluster meeting after my family saw her through a major illness and spent $1500 on back up care….

TexasHM January 26, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Agreed but it gets sticky because I am pretty sure any LC on here would tell you that counting it as the APs vacation is not “in the spirit of the program” and would be grounds to remove the family from the program or not allow them to host again, assuming they allowed that to actually happen (OP charge AP vacation time). I personally wouldn’t ask an AP to count that as her vacation if she was genuinely sick/hospitalized like described above but I would definitely be having conversations with the LC about how we (HF and agency) make this palatable for all and there is a real possibility that no matter how much we loved the AP, if it was going to be for a longer term we might have to rematch because we just don’t have the flexibility to go for 4-6 weeks without care (plus caring for AP). It’s just not a great situation for anyone in this case and its unfortunate but I would think surely the agency could throw this family a bone. I heard years ago about APIA issuing a credit for agency fees while an AP had a longer term illness and couldn’t work – as in family paid the stipend but APIA gave back a few weeks of agency fees – no idea if they would still consider this but if it were me I would definitely ask. Its reasonable to ask a family to cover a week, maybe two with concessions (AP offers up some vacation and/or agency offers a discount), beyond that and not only are jobs often jeopardized but you are talking about significant backup care costs and impact (as shown above).

Returning HM January 26, 2015 at 12:44 pm

We went through this last year. Our rockstar AP hurt his knee and was unable to walk or drive, so not only did I need to care for the children, but I also needed to care for him. It required a week for the swelling to reduce enough for them to do the MRI and then several more days for the results to come back as a torn ACL and meniscus. Now it would be 10 more days til surgery, then a week minimum before walking again and two weeks before driving. So we were looking at 5-6 weeks minumum of no AP help. AP wanted to stay and do surgery here (insurance was insisting that the surgery HAD to be here, so that was fine), but we were in the dilemma of how to go 6 weeks without childcare.

The two weeks i had to take off before the surgery and full diagnosis were already putting me in trouble (I was a visiting professor for a year at a new university so had no “chips” to call in from years of good service), and we definitely could not get through without extra help. So what we proposed to Cultural Care was to either house an AP in transition and pay them but not our AP for those weeks that our AP was in and then recovering from surgery and unable to work (and would himself need nursing and driving help) or else we hire a live-out person and not pay AP his stipend for those weeks.

We were told by Cultural Care that this was impossible. That the AP must be paid NO MATTER WHAT and the minute that we stopped paying AP his stipend, he would have two weeks to leave the country as they would cancel his J-1 visa. They would not allow us to house and feed him and care for him but use his stipend to pay someone else (which was what he was begging – he really wanted to stay and felt comfortable with us as his family that we would support him through the surgery – I went to every doctor’s appt with him etc, and he also was mortified to get paid when he knew he was causing so much effort and hassle on his account), but the agency would not allow this.

In the end, the insurance company reversed itself and said the AP had to go home for surgery and so end his year (and it was 6 months before he could walk again, so in the end, I guess it was the right call that he went home), but in the wake of that, I know for sure that you MUST pay your AP the stipend NO MATTER WHAT – whether he or she works for those days or not.

HRHM January 26, 2015 at 12:46 pm

I think the worst part of this is what this AP has now done to her relationship with her HF. Not only did they NOT go to rematch when they realized that she was going to be out of commission for several weeks, they releived her of all responsibilities and took care of HER. Her response was to turn around and stab them in the back for money. Truly sad. She will likely get her 400 dollars but at what cost? If I was this HF, I would already be looking for a rematch AP. I don’t know that I could ever undo the damage done by having my kindness during a protracted illness repaid this way.

Re: the vacation pay usage, if she wasn’t working and was now insisting on being paid, she would totally have used up any remaining vacation time. Of course, in my house, she’d be on her way to rematch anyway, so it wouldn’t really matter…

German Au-Pair January 26, 2015 at 4:20 pm

The question is, did she complain to the AD, did she tell her she was being treated unfair and did she intend to stab them in the back, or did she inquire with the AD about whether this was right? The AD an aid not only to the HP but also to the AP and if she asked what the rules say, it doesn’t mean she intended to stab them in the back for money. We don’t know from this email if the HP just didn’t pay her without discussing it and she simply asked the AD about it, or if there was an actual intention of making the HP pay. I would not jump to conclusions that quickly.

hOstCDmom January 26, 2015 at 4:27 pm

I agree

TexasHM January 26, 2015 at 5:33 pm

The OP said “But, after last week’s monthly Au Pair meeting, where our Au Pair complained to the LCC that she hadn’t been paid” – so she explicitly says it in her post. Assuming that is true (giving OP the benefit of the doubt) then my comments stand as above. If it is not true and the AP was just confused/inquiring then yes, that is different.

TexasHM January 26, 2015 at 1:23 pm

I was also rubbed the wrong way by the way AP handled this. If she had gone to you (HF) and broached the topic because she didn’t understand that’s one thing but complaining to the LC at a cluster meeting about it would definitely prompt a mediation conversation. Not about the money – the LC blew that – but about how important communication is to the relationship and in this instance, I would share the full scope of the impact this AP being sick had on you because she must not realize it (or is incredibly self centered). Thank goodness we haven’t had this issue! We had an AP get the flu (from me) and we got her to a doc, got her meds, and had her off for a week but once she was good enough to be up and around and run errands she tried to ask for another week to rest (because she was afraid she might die of the flu even though she was already better and no temp and was treated immediately). I had to be honest with her that we couldn’t cover it any longer, would have to hire outside care and that if she wanted to rest another week that is fine but she would have to use vacation time (this was our LC’s suggestion btw). She decided to work that week and had zero issues. Yes, we all want to be generous and take care of our APs and be flexible but it’s not always that simple. There is always a cost and sometimes we run out of flexibility/runway etc and have to be honest about that. I felt horrible for our AP which is why we took care of her and made it work for 9 days but after that we just couldn’t anymore and that wasn’t anyone’s fault, just life!

Au pair January 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm

3 weeks is a long time! Honestly, as an au pair I would feel very guilty to even take the money. The HF took care of her while she was sick, how sweet is that. Have you talked to her that you had to pay a lot of money to cover child care? Maybe you can find a compromise on how much you pay or not pay her? But I would for sure call the headquarters of your agency. Good luck!

AnotherSeattleHostMom January 27, 2015 at 1:39 am

we have a section on illness in our handbook that basically says we will all try to help each other out when sick or injured but that we can’t guarantee “time off” for illness. We say this to avoid the “I have a hangover” calling in sick situation.

I get a generous 2 weeks of sick leave per year and since having kids I use all 2 weeks every year and then dip into my vacation. If I run out of vacation it’s leave without pay.

Obviously it’s too late with this situation and she was genuinely very ill but this is a gpod cautionary tale for us for the future. If faced with a potential long illness i would have a discussion about potentially forfeitung some vacation..

Host Mom in Paradise May 6, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Kind of like “hangover days” but not quite — AP1 got depressed often. This really took its toll on my child. I told her if she’s too sad to come to work she’s welcome to take sick days to “center” or whatever. It seemed like a good idea at the time because I didn’t want my child around someone exuding negativity. She took me up on it a couple times, and then again at the very end, when she called in sick and also quitting.

I really wish AP agencies offered assistance for depression / mental health.

Dorsi January 27, 2015 at 5:00 am

AP #2 had a lot of headaches (among other problems) that she often asked for coverage for. She helped me add a section on illness to our handbook.

Ours says this: “Like most Americans, we usually work when we are sick. We are unable to call in sick to work for regular illnesses. This is one of the reasons we have an Au Pair. If you are sick, please let us know. We will do everything we can to reduce your hours and make your job easier (extra tv for kids, take out food etc.). If you truly cannot perform your job, we will find additional care. If this happens more than one time, we will need to reconsider if you are a good match for our family”

That sounds really harsh, but we cannot have an AP who needs time off for colds and other illnesses. I can absolutely not call in sick for work – and I have never done so through 3 pregnancies, and all the associated kid illnesses I contract. I expect the same work ethic from my AP.

Additionally, I have no patience for sick APs who “don’t like medication.” If you have a headache, you take a pain relliever. Or you don’t get to complain about your symptoms.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 27, 2015 at 9:09 am

This raises an interesting question for me. What does one do with an au pair who has a series of brief, legitimate illnesses– let’s say out 2-3 days each time.I can imagine that i would not be able to make that situation work, but in would

AlwaysHopeful HM January 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

Oops– not sure what happened there!

I would feel like a complete heel turning away an au pair because he or she got sick too frequently.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with that. Each of my au pairs has gotten sick, but each has powered through without any prompting from me. I try to pay attention to self care because I think the problem can become worse if unattended. I insisted AP 1 take a couple days off when she had flu (!) that she got from my son and/or me, and even then she really resisted. And, although he kept working, I let AP2 have a couple of “take it easy” days when his girlfriend broke up with him. (He was so sad!). He took one, then was active and engaged again by day 2. None of my APs have eliked to take medicine, which I don’t understand, but as long as they keep working, I guess that’s their choice!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 27, 2015 at 9:25 am

I would have a talk to see if they were brought on by specific behaviors – sharing food and drink with friends. It’s so much fun to taste new foods, cocktails, etc. when out in a new place, but if you’re caring for small children it’s potentially dangerous (I no longer clean child #2’s plate because he always, always, always, has a stomach flu when I do!)

If it’s constant colds, then I talk about the need to wash hands more frequently and eat healthy foods.

If the AP is vomiting, has a fever, or other flu-like symptoms, then I don’t want her near the Camel, who is medically fragile and prone to being hospitalized when ill. If she has a cold, then I expect her to wash her hands every time she needs to touch The Camel. If she’s really goopy, then DH and I will take over for a day. Any time we think an AP is too sick to work, we send her to the CVS minute clinic to be tested for flu, strep, etc. If the kids made her sick, we reimburse her, if not, we don’t.

JJ Host Mom January 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm

We have a section in our handbook that says:

“If you are too sick to work, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make other arrangements. You are allowed 5 sick days a year. If you take additional sick days, you’ll be expected to make up the hours later in the week.”

This doesn’t help for long-term illnesses like the original post but I do think it creates awareness by putting responsibility for sick days on their shoulders. No fun to stay at home all day if it means they have to work Saturday night to make up for it.

I’ve never had an au pair take more than a few sick days over the course of her year, so I’ve never had to enforce this.

As for the original post, I would be pretty upset if I were the original host family because the au pair complained, but I do agree with German au pair that we might need some more information about how this went down before coming to a conclusion. In the end, I would put it on the agency to come up with her stipend for those weeks since the LCC told you that you didn’t need to pay her.

SKNY January 27, 2015 at 10:20 am

oh gosh dont get me started. Last au pairs got a small cold, and while legitimate she wanted to cure it with rest, honey and lemon juice…
Well… if you really have a bad headache that you cant work, please take a pain relief. it is hard to give an au pair 3-4 days while she waits for honey and lemon to work (not saying it wont btw)

NJHostMom January 27, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I am borrowing this language for my handbook.

SingleHM January 28, 2015 at 1:53 am

Last year, my princess au pair got sick around Halloween. She had a bad cold which got worse (fever/cough). She called in sick for 7 days straight…She would NOT take medicine and only went to the doctor after a few days of high fever and my demand. After the fever broke, she still claimed that she was too weak/sick to work.

Frankly, she was used to be coddled at home by mommy, and didn’t know how to deal with being under the weather by herself. She actually complained to my LCC that I wasn’t ‘caring enough’ for her while she was sick. After 3 days, she should have ‘muddled thru’. If she had just taken some Advil or cough suppressant, she might have been just fine.

It was a nightmare re-arranging care (as I am a single mom) but luckily it was during a school week and I had after care to help.

I now vet candidates when matching to see how they care for themselves while they are sick, whether they might take medicine if they don’t feel good, etc.

All my other au pairs have taken a day here or there or none at all.

SwissAupair January 28, 2015 at 4:41 am

In Switzerland we say “A cold will last a week withtout medication and 7 days with medication”. Painkillers are like the word says, they “kill the pain” but not the cause. When I have a cold I may rest for a day, take medicine to take down the fever and drink a lot of tea with, geuss what, lemon and honey.

Multitasking Host Mom January 28, 2015 at 6:49 am

You are right. If it’s a virus you are not getting rid of it. But taking medication to “kill the pain” means that I can go to work instead of putting even more of a workload on my co-workers, I can take care of my children when they need me, and I can fulfill any other obligations I have already agreed to. I have always believed in soldiering on if I can (of course this excludes a major illness). I would feel like a heel if all I needed was Tylenol and cough medicine to be able to function, but didn’t take it and thus became a burden to other people. I am a working mom with kids so I don’t have the luxury of rest….trust me, I wish I did, but that is not my life.

SwissAupair January 28, 2015 at 8:04 am

I’m absolutely not against painkillers. I eat them when something hurts really bad, bud try to avoid them when it’s just a small pain. My doctor once told me, that no person has to have headache. Painkillers are not bad for your body if you don’t eat them on a daily base. But when I have just a little headache i try peppermint-oil first, most of the time it helps. But even if you take painkillers you may are not a 100% ready to work. In that situation it is important that the HP may give the Aupair a “slower” day. Allow her to let the kids watch a bit more tv, don’t force her to do the laundry/clean kids room, give her the money for some food delivery,… whatever makes her day more easy.

I once had a family who made me work my full shedule when i had a 39°C fever, with a toddler in the house and two other young kids under 6 years. I had to walk 1.5 miles to bring the to kindergarden, and pick them up in the afternoon, bring them to the kid’s sports club (2.5mile walk) and do “sports” with them there, clean the house, cook,…. On my way home from sports I felt to the ground and woke up in tha hospital again. I called the HM more than once trough the day when I was sick at work and told her that I really can’t do it anymore and she told me that I’m whining and I should work as usual, that’s what she would do. While I was still in the hospital they told me that I put the children in a very unsafe situation because I left them unattended on the street (while I laid passt out ond the ground). I only went back to the family to pack my stuff und leave immediately.

WarmStateMomma January 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm


Luckily, my APs have not had any serious or extended illnesses, but I would be frustrated if they refused to try to mitigate the problem by taking appropriate medicine. I’d feel a lot more sympathy for someone who is accepting help and trying to improve her situation than someone who is not.

Schmetterfink February 3, 2015 at 6:53 am

Germany has the same saying Switzerland has about colds and going to the doctor just because of a cold is frowned upon in a work environment (our Indian PhD student went to the doctors for the snuffles, his supervisor just rolled his eyes on that) – however, if you have a high fever (100/101°F) that won’t go away that’s a totally different story.

I think the main problem is extremely different expectations of how to handle sickness and many au pairs aren’t aware how sick leave is handled in the US. They might simply be used to how it’s handled in their home country and if the host family doesn’t tell them up front how the US handles sick days, how are they supposed to know it is not as they are used to?

Take me for example. I work in a very average job (entry level university administration). I get 30 days of vacation per year plus all public holidays (11) plus three additional university holidays (Shrove Monday, Christmas Eve, New Years Eve) – of course, all paid. In addition, I can stay home – with full pay – for up to three working days without going to the doctors (very convenient for things like headaches, stomach bugs, cramps etc.). If I am sicker than that, I go to see a doctor and will get up to 6 weeks (!) off with full pay. After that I can get up to 72 (!) additional weeks of sick benefits for the same sickness over the course of three years, paid by the health insurance (70% of my regular gross salary).
If I am on sick leave for a tonsillectomy in January for six weeks and in May for appendicitis I will still get full pay for the second sick leave as it’s a different sickness than the first one, if I then break my leg in August I am obviously having a bad year and my employer won’t be happy but I will still get full sick pay for another six weeks. I can also not be fired for being sick or while sick (well, theoretically you could but it’s really difficult).

If we had children, we could each take up to 10 days to care for a sick child. As a single parent you get 20 days per child, but only up to 25 days per parent (or 50 days for a single parent).

If we think we might be contagious we are highly encouraged to stay home for a day or two (or three). If we are unwell enough to disrupt the working environment or unwell enough to not be doing a good job when coming in, we are encouraged to please stay home for the day. Staying home to recover is considered a good way to keep everybody else in the office healthy and not spreading infectious diseases more than necessary. Rest is also adviced as a good way to help fight a small infection off more easily and more quickly instead of aggrevating it by neglect (and maybe ending up sicker than necessary because you couldn’t take good care of yourself)

Now, if you have an au pair that is used to a similar “standard” of time off, you will need to make very clear to them that this is not how it works in the US. Getting it in writing in the handbook is the first step but also stressing it again in an interview and after arrival is just as important. They might consider “I cannot take sick days” as a “I don’t want to miss work”-cannot rather than a “I won’t get paid, if I don’t get paid the bills don’t get paid, if the bills don’t get paid we are all in big trouble”-cannot.

I also tend to soldier on and rather go in after taking some Ibuprofen and I always have a box of caugh drops in my office drawer, I have gone in after throwing up in the morning because I had things on my desk that needed to get done that day, and I provided a full day of childcare (for four, incl. a toddler) as an au pair with a temperature of 103… but people are different. And what to you is luxury (and I agree it is!) might be the normal behaviour to an au pair that is used to that luxury.

However, not taking anything to ease your pain and to get yourself capable for work if you know you have to go in and not going to see a doctor even though you can’t get rid of something yourself though your employer asks you to do so is ridiculous!

Taking a Computer Lunch February 3, 2015 at 10:37 am

I don’t think anyone wants their au pair to take care of children when s/he has 103 F fever – that’s high enough to be both dangerous to both au pair and children. We might be frustrated as HP at having to change our schedules, especially if the AP in question was staying out late at night, eating lots of unhealthy foods, and otherwise burning the candle at both ends.

While I do report to work with a common cold (no fever), if I have a stomach bug or the flu (fever), then I stay home from work. I’d expect my AP to do the same – just to prevent my kids from getting ill.

That being said, I do empathize with the OP. While we, as HP, are told constantly to have back-up plans, the reality in the U.S. is that there is a shortage of good childcare options, and families often have to pay a lot of money for short-term solutions with no advance notice. Stuff happens – APs get injured, they get sick, they go into rematch. And we juggle.

As an experienced HM who has hosted 11 APs in 14 1/2 years, I’ll tell you, I’m much more willing to juggle for a rockstar than I am for a mediocre AP who needs constant job coaching. But in my experience, the mediocre AP is more likely to get sick – because her focus is on having the year of her life at the expense of getting a good’s nights sleep and eating well. My rockstars paced themselves, had a great year, did plenty of fun things with friends, and still managed to get up almost every morning for which they had been scheduled for work. And DH and I covered for them on the few days they were sick without flinching.

WarmStateMomma February 3, 2015 at 3:56 pm

@ Schmetterfink: Most Americans know that the vacation time is extremely generous in Western Europe, but the sick days just blew me away. Do young Europeans not know that Americans don’t have these kinds of benefits?

My husband works for a European company’s US entity and his benefits are considered quite generous here. They aren’t half as good as what you described for your position.

I’m a lawyer and have to bill a certain number of work hours – regardless of how many days I’m out sick or on vacation. I don’t think I even have a specific allotment of sick days or vacation days. No one I work with has been out of the office for more than a week’s vacation at a time in the last several years, so it’s just hard to fathom getting 6 weeks off, 14 holidays, and all the sick days needed. Why leave Germany to come work year round?

DCMomof3 January 27, 2015 at 11:34 am

We all change our behavior with new APs based on experience with former ones (like it or not). I now have to go through a detailed set of questions on how APs deal with their periods after having one AP who would be out of commission with cramps for one or 2 days each month. The pain always seemed to miraculously disappear in the evening when her shift would have ended and it was time to go out. She told me that they only bothered her during the daytime hours. Who knows if it was true, but now each new AP gets questions from me on cramps, in addition to willingness to use tampons and swim with the kids when she has her period. I am sure that they think that I am a crazy micro-manager and maybe I am, but if you are depending on someone to work so you and your husband can work, then you need them to be healthy and available as much as possible.

HRHM January 27, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I’ve been surprised by how little OTC med knowledge/use there has been amongst my APs. I personally live on ibuprofen but don’t actually take/need any rx meds.

My APs have all suffered through headaches, sore throats, sports injuries etc and were amazed when I suggested some ibuprofen to help with the pain. After they try it, most are rapidly convinced that it works great, but before that it takes a lot of cajoling to even get them to give it a shot.

WarmStateMomma January 27, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Mine prefer Chinese medicine or home remedies over common American OTC options. AP1 was shocked to learn about Tylenol and impressed at how quickly it reduced the baby’s fever. At 26 or 27, she had not learned about taking medicine for fevers!

Au pair January 27, 2015 at 6:05 pm

In lots of countries it isn’t that easy to get medication. Also, I noticed that Americans take medicine for pretty much everything. Sore muscles from vigorous workouts, to headaches, minor cold symptoms to the actual flu. While those medications are nice to have, we need to be careful to not overdose. To much medicine can really impact your liver. So we don’t give the kids a fever relieve if it is below 101. And if they need it with 101 they can have it. But not all kids feel crappy with 101. Of course fevers that spike high can be dangerous ( denaturing of enzymes etc) I myself have a little home pharmacy;) but I select very cautiously. Do I really need a pain relieve, or could I do it without? My friend who just arrived from Germany, came down with a really bad cold. She felt miserably. But it took me hours to convince her to take some sudafed to release her sinus pressure.! She just wasn’t used to take medicine for a really bad cold! But she had to work, so you have to figure something out;)

NJ Host Mom January 27, 2015 at 12:52 pm

After one week of being sick, the AP should not receive the stipend. LCCs always tell you what you need to do for the AP even if they are wrong per the State Department requirements. They want to keep the peace all the time.

While I don’t know the State Department requirements, as an employee of a US company, after one week of consecutive sick days, I have to go on Short Term Disability (STD). If the company doesn’t provide benefits, I can apply for state benefits which are much less than my salary and would result in a financial hardship. Given that the AP’s primary expenses are covered (i.e. room & board, etc) by the host family, that should suffice as her STD benefit.

Kiwiana January 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Keep in mind that a lot of medication that is OTC in the US needs a prescription in other countries.

NoVA Twin Mom January 27, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Slightly off topic but not by much – there’s a link above to “similar topics” in the See Also of the original post – Quirky Mom wrote in February 2014 about her au pair with a broken arm (and unable to drive, which was a huge part of her job) and said her agency was going to have her take a rematch au pair, then let the au pair go home to recover and come back on the same visa to be an au pair with another family after she recovered (I think that’s how it went). At least one someone mentioned hearing about something like this before but that it didn’t end up happening.

So – if Quirky Mom is still around – did the au pair end up recovering and coming back to be an au pair again, or did those “best laid plans” fall through?

Returning HM January 28, 2015 at 12:34 pm

I tried to contact her last year when our AP tore his ACL, because we wanted to do the same thing, I didn’t hear back from her. Our agency (CCAP) said there was no way that this would work at all, under any circumstance, due to restrictions on the J1 visas. Since the visa has to be tied to a family, we could not legally employ the transition AP while at the same time having our current AP (not working but still attached to our family via his visa) still remain legal in the US.

BearCo HM January 27, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Unless you were rematching and already in transition over it, I think you have to continue to pay the stipend even if they aren’t working. I could definitely see resentment building over this easily though – ESPECIALLY if it seems the AP brought the illness on herself through bad choices.

Our AP#1 was sick often, and in our opinion, it was in large part due to unhealthy diet and lifestyle (no physical activity) – although could have been just a weak constitution on top of that – which made it hard to be sympathetic after awhile. She would also stay out very late partying (i.e. 4-5am) on nights before she needed to work early in the am, which almost always resulted in falling ill a few days later (I think from exhaustion). We ended up having to put a curfew in place to curb this. Luckily, she was a responsible person (around her AP duties) so rarely was she unable to work for these illnesses, but it was still frustrating because the quality of care obviously went way down on those days.

The only circumstances I could see potentially trying to work out the AP losing her vacation for extended illness is if you have some kind of situation where you already are providing tons of time off – say 4-6 weeks of full week-long time off – and previously were allowing an extra 2 weeks chosen by them on top of that. Even though Americans typically don’t get a lot of vacation themselves, I do think that time off is a critical part of the AP experience (i.e., ability to travel) from the AP side and it’s unfair to ask her to give that up because she got sick.

WarmStateMomma January 27, 2015 at 7:19 pm

My APs have not viewed travel as a critical part of their AP experience (neither did/will travel even during their travel month despite having the time and funds to do so). The sick AP discussed above still has weekends and her travel month. I also suspect her HF would allow her to take long weekends whenever they had a day off work, went to visit the grandparents, etc.

I have no doubt this young woman was seriously ill given the IV meds and whatnot, but I would expect the AP or the agency to take the hit on the missing childcare for 3 weeks. The HF was also paying agency fees and providing room, board and care for their AP…while incurring $1500 in child care expenses. It seems unreasonable to ask them to double pay for three weeks – and to have to pay for back up care for another 2 weeks to let the AP go on vacation.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 27, 2015 at 8:42 pm

First, I want to say that I totally understand and sympathize with the OP for not wanting to pay for three weeks of non-work – it’s the American way. I completely understand her frustration with having to pay for three weeks of childcare – btdt – but only for one week and gulped a the price. However, I disagree that the AP should be stripped of her vacation as punishment for getting sick and forcing her HF into this position.

As hard as it is to take a financial hit (and I’m totally on board with the fantastic idea of pressuring the agency to absorb some of that $1,500 with a future discount on AP fees), unless this AP did something purposeful to get that ill (both my kids and my husband have had PICC lines inserted – at the time they were dying and needed the antibiotics that landed just above the heart in massive doses), it was no holiday for her. She’s making minimum wage with room and board factored in (otherwise below). To me it seems cruel to say “Suck it up, you’re living in American with its horrible, backwards policy toward employees, no vacation for you.”

As I said before, I sense other factors at issue here. I have not doubt I would be as resentful as the OP if I had to shell out $1,500 for childcare (the #1 reason why my APs cannot take a vacation week during the summer is that it costs me $500 out of pocket for the Camel because I can’t hire and dismiss a nurse that fast – I can’t imagine my life with typically developing young children ineligible for nursing).

So, I recommend having a venting discussion with the LCC – not to be angry at her for not know the regulations – but to express frustration at the absorbed expense for a less-than-rockstar AP.

Will the OP need a mediated meeting with the LCC and AP in order to be able to move on and have a decent rest of the year? Probably. Should the AP step up her game to show her gratitude for a full paycheck, treatment like a family member, and thankfulness that the family did not choose to go into rematch? Absolutely! But, my recommendation to the OP – follow the rules, do what’s required, and if the AP is not performing well enough for you to let go of the recent illness, then ask your LCC for a mediated meeting.

Schmetterfink February 3, 2015 at 7:01 am


AlwaysHopeful HM January 28, 2015 at 10:07 am

Even without travel, I believe a periodic break from work is critical to one being able to perform at her best. And i believe the program requires payment even in this situation. On the other hand, I don’t have the flexibility to cover 5 weeks without childcare (3 of which were unanticipated), whatever the reason. I would probably explain this to the AP, and offer the full amount of vacation time, but possibly broken into chunks of a couple of days at a time over the rest of the year. That would be more manageable for me than offering a week at a time, and hopefully the AP would see it as fair. If not, I likely would need to rematch, simply because I don’t really see another way to absorb the hit.

Julia January 27, 2015 at 6:59 pm

I have to be honest and would say it would be great if the agency would tell the au pairs how it is with sick days in the us. I’m from Germany where it is a different story but even after living the the U.S. for 4 years I didn’t understand the rules about being sick. I studied there and was shocked that even with a sick note I got a F in a test because I didn’t show. Maybe really a talk with your au pair in the beginning helps and just add the over the counter meds. I barley knew about them when I was sick the first time and yes my host family gave me some but it wouldn’t have known what to buy and what not. Yes you don’t want another child to take care off but especially in the beginning I wouldn’t have known what to buy and even if it helps. I saw a doctor here the other day and told him I took the regular otc stuff from the pharmacy and he just smiled at me and said that doesn’t help but I know the American stuff is better for it
I’m back in Germany know attending a certain government training program with 60 other ppl and one had a cold/flu whatever and because everbody was like we can’t miss a thing what happend the government had to cancel the mid term because of 40 ppl being so sick that they can’t attend class. I’m probably sure in the u s ppl would still attend classes but right know I’m glad I finally got the chance to rest and get better. It is like a lot of things a cultural difference . And yes it sounds strange but be upfront with your au pairs when you match and when they get here and explain it to them.
Nobody likes to think about getting sick and what happens if you are really sick. Just as an example here in Germany I can stay home for 3 work days without even having a sick note so yes it is easier to stay home than to work. As most of the time communication and explanation can prevent and solve a lot of issues. Maybe define at which your would stay home from work and that you expect the same.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 28, 2015 at 9:39 am

Julia, you are so right, and i will definitely add this to discussions with future APs. I think it is just one more area where people on both sides assume their experience is just common sense and don’t fully appreciate the other view. I may also mention it to our LCC as a potential discussion topic for a cluster meeting.

old au pair mom January 27, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Here we have an open medicine closet policy. I know OTC meds are expensive, so we have tylenol, claritin, thera flu, etc all available and I have no problem diagnosing a sick AP and insisting on their taking the meds I offer. I will make tea if you have a cold and pour some whiskey in it and then you can sit by the fire and watch the little from a safe distance.
We have had minimal issues with AP illness and it is usually me that orders the AP to stay in bed, but I do expect quick recoveries! And absolutely no going out when you have taken the day off to be ill. The AP with the “daytime” cramps would have been gone in month 2 at my house. I never hire any AP who indicates menstrual issues on her paperwork. It just seems like an a problem that I would rather avoid.

NewbieHM January 28, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Fortunately I haven’t had that problem with my AP. When she gets a cold she takes the OTC I offer. I even asked her to take time off since I’m a stay home mom but she refuses. She is great! I don’t know what I would do if she got sick for three weeks though.

To the OP, I would ask the agency, not the LCC and I would do so in writing. People are more careful about putting the right information in writing. I would also explain on my email what the LLC previously told me and the effect it had in my decision making process. At the end of the day she represents the agency so they are responsible for the information she gives you. If you knew you had to pay her while at the same time pay for other child care, in all honestly, what would you have done differently? Determine that and ask them to compensate you accordingly. Be polite, but firm. That’s what I would do.

Seattle Mom January 29, 2015 at 1:29 pm

This is one thing about the au pair program that feels like such a gamble, and makes me very nervous. My husband teaches college level math and he really can’t cancel classes unless there is a dire emergency, or if he is too sick to stand up in front of a classroom. He can get a sub but that always ends up being more work for him in the end- he still has to do the prep for the lesson and tell the sub what to teach, he can’t just have a sub babysit the class.

So if the au pair is incapacitated, it’s on me to make sure the kids are taken care of. And I just started a new job and don’t have much leave. I go to work sick, although I recently was very sick (pneumonia) and had to take a whole week off- completely blew through my sick days, now I’m back to 0. I’m still not fully recovered, but I’m at work.

We’ve been lucky so far with our au pairs- they have all worked through bad colds, and none have had anything more serious than that. Our last au pair had a mild illness for the 2 weeks before she left (actually I believe it was the same illness that became pneumonia for me), and I told her to do whatever she needed to get through the day- drive the kids to school (our policy is they have to walk unless the weather is very bad), lie on the couch while the kids play, very simple meals, unlimited videos, etc.

I do try to screen for “hardy” types of au pairs, so I think that often means people who can work through a mild illness. I can’t deal with prissy people in general, and it would be a deal killer in an au pair. But I have definitely been surprised by how some au pairs have not been what I expected (for better and worse), so I know I’m not immune.

Seattle Mom January 29, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Change “I can’t deal with prissy people” to “I become impatient with prissy people” – I can actually deal with everyone, but I would much rather not deal with people who have very limited capacity to function outside their narrow comfort zone.

Susannah January 29, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Although I havent been an au pair, I worked as a sleepaway camp counselor for 2 months last summer and there were days wehn i was definitely feeling sick, and another time i was recovering from a minor medical procedure that left me not at my best. although i could have gotten a CIT to cover my tent had i been feverish, otherwise we were expected to work through it. For me that usually meant shifting usual tent time activity from roughhousing or active games towards letter writing, reading, or chiller card games tha felt easier when i really wanted sleep! If you get creative there are a lot of ways to still create fun experiences while not having to put 100% lively energy into it. As counselors we worked together whether that menat pairing tents up for a scavenger hunt or organizing age group story time. Yes it does get harder when you’re “on your own” but there are definitely ways to make it through when you’re under the weather.

Host Mom in Paradise May 6, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Given discussions on the Open Thread ( I am considering adding this to my handbook. The numbers are from the APIA match closure worksheet (2015) for Au Pairs and Year2 Au Pairs. I am recovering from AP1 who was sick a lot, and just matched with AP2 and am putting together my very first handbook.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Sick time:
Please try to give me notice as soon as possible so that I can make other arrangements for childcare. If you are feeling sick at night and think that you will not be able to work the next day, it would be very helpful to let me know that night. If you start feeling sick in the middle of the night, please leave a note on the kitchen table for me to see when in the morning. If you start feeling sick after I have left for work (at 8am), please call and tell me. You are allowed to take as much sick time as is reasonable.

If you are sick for a long time:
When you are sick, I have to take vacation days at work or pay out of pocket for my child’s care. If you are sick for an extended amount of time, we may work with the LCC to find a transition au pair who will stay with us and care for my child. You will not be paid, but will continue living and eating with us.

You will have two weeks of vacation time during the year. Please give me at least at least one month advance notice of when you plan to take days off, so that I can make other arrangements for my child. According to Au Pair in America, vacation time is accrued at a rate of 0.92 days per month with the host family.

Time without pay:
If you are healthy and need to take time off, you are welcome to take vacation days. If you do not have vacation days, you can take time off without pay (please discuss this with me first). According to Au Pair in America, an au pair workday is valued at $39.00.

WarmStateMomma May 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm

I don’t think you’re allowed to offer time off without pay – whether the AP is sick, on vacation, or otherwise.

I include a statement that vacation may not be possible on some dates – but my back up care is flying in relatives who need to be able to take time off work, or taking time off myself. I tell them to give me as much notice as possible, but at least 2 months, for vacation so we can have a better chance of accommodating their dates.

I would delete the sentence about her taking as much sick time as is reasonable – that’s something you may not actually want to offer if she gets really sick and reasonably needs 30 days to heal.

I might also throw in a sentence about being happy to help the AP figure out which OTC meds she may need (or a link to something like WebMD) so it’s not all about you and shows a desire to help her through an illness. Being sick in a foreign country while living with your boss is probably even less fun than it sounds.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 6, 2015 at 8:33 pm

While I have never had an AP sick for more than a couple of days, almost all have had a day or two every year when they absolutely could not work. Because my APs must care for a medically fragile child with a disease that makes her very vulnerable when she is ill (it’s an auto-immune disorder), I spend a lot of time talking about eating healthy foods, washing hands frequently, and not sharing food or sips of drinks with other APs (meningitis, anyone?!)

I am not a person who gets sick easily – I eat well and drink a lot of water. I exercise (not enough, but I do move). The AP sees me come home from work on the rare occasions when I have a mild cold (because she’s still asleep when I go to work). The AP sees me haul my butt out of bed to take over when I’m suffering from stomach flu. While she’s not the kids’ parent, I do expect that she’ll extend herself a bit when she’s a little ill, and have the common sense to ask to go back to bed when she’s just going to make The Camel sick by working.

Because I only take APs who have had practical experience with people who have special needs, most of my APs have held a job and know the importance of being reliable. I had one AP in particular who wanted to be my 3rd child, and after pulling an “I’m sick” stunt on a day when my kids had no school (she had asked for the day off and had been told no – it was also two days after a big car accident) – that I told “If you do this again, then I’ll give you a curfew of 8 hours before your shift begins.” It would have meant being home by 10 pm from Sunday through Thursday night. She never did it again.

You have to pay your AP for 51 weeks – even if you’re granting her a 3rd week of vacation. (When an AP doesn’t want to travel with you AND she’s used all of her vacation, it is completely acceptable to give her chores to do in your absence – cleaning the kids’ rooms, tidying closets and dressers, deep cleaning the playroom, putting games and toys back together – all fair game.)

My expectation is that my APs are adults and know how much sleep they need to stay healthy and show up every morning on time and ready to work. That being said, I’ll bend over backwards for a great AP and chafe when a mediocre one is ill.

I also promise to pay/reimburse 100% for medical expenses when an AP gets sick from my kids. Now that they’re teenagers, it doesn’t happen as much, but when they were younger – I paid for many, many, many strep tests and rounds of antibiotics.

Host Mom in Paradise May 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm

The “reasonable” thing is an Au Pair in America policy. When AP1 was sick, LCC said sick time is as much as is “reasonable.” What’s reasonable to a corporation (I’m looking at you, APIA) may not be reasonable to an individual (my pocketbook). And I struggle with that, with AP2, having been burned by it.

I will remove time without pay and add OTC meds. Thanks!

WarmStateMomma May 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm

I just wouldn’t say *anything* about how much time. There’s not going to be much agreement on what’s reasonable between you and someone from outside the US anyway. (There’s an interesting discussion of sick days in Europe somewhere on this blog and my APs tell me that Chinese companies offer one “period day” each month to female employees, so “reasonable” is a cop out for not having a real policy given the wildly different ideas of reasonableness APs and HFs will inevitable have.) If you ever get into a jam, I’d ask APIA for their sick policy for their own full-time employees. That’s probably going to have limits that are more “reasonable” to you and APIA would be hard pressed to explain how their own policies are not reasonable.

Host Mom in Paradise May 6, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Great idea. Removed reasonable. You’re the best, WarmStateMomma.

Returning HM May 6, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Do you know that your LCC will allow you to host a transition au pair, who will work, while also hosting your current au pair, who will not work and not get paid? We tried to do this last year when our AP tore his ACL and was going to be out for a long period (but wanted to stay and do his surgery in the US and then finish out his year), and we were told that this wasn’t allowed. Unless you are paying for two APs and having both of their visas connected to you, you can’t have two of them working for you, and you would have to terminate the first AP’s connection to your family in order to employ the second one. This is something you should clarify. Maybe APIA is more lax about this rule, but I followed this request up the chain of command at CCAP and know for sure it wasn’t allowed.

Returning HM May 6, 2015 at 4:45 pm

I meant to add that it’s absolutely not allowed to not pay your current AP, no matter for how long he or she doesn’t work. If you want to not pay, you have to terminate the relationship.

HRHM May 6, 2015 at 8:30 pm

The State Department regulations clearly state that the AP MUST be paid for every week she is in the US. No exceptions.

If you stop paying an AP for 2 weeks, they are no longer Visa eligible and must return home.

You may not give the AP time off without pay, EVEN if she requests it. No exceptions. Not for illness, not for travel, not for anything.

If you would choose to keep a sick AP, even while hiring another (temporarily) to do her job, you would have to pay both the full stipend.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 6, 2015 at 8:17 pm

A “period day” in China now makes sense to me. AP #5 was from China and suffered from cramps (cultural expectations for cramps of physical aspect I do not know). I told her that in the United States one is expected to work when one has a period. End of story. (I wasn’t going to use my vacation days every month so she could lie in bed in moan – she was working a split shift, so she did have 6 1/2 hours between the AM and PM shifts (each 2.5 hours long) during which to moan).

WarmStateMomma May 6, 2015 at 10:41 pm

My first two APs also suffered a lot from cramps. They were very surprised that we just see a doctor to come up with a long-term solution if it’s that bad. Seriously. They just didn’t know much about health or wellness in general and nothing about women’s health, birth control, pregnancy, etc. I’ve become a huge believer in teaching sex ed, health and other life skills in school now that I’ve hosted Chinese APs.

NewbieHM May 6, 2015 at 4:47 pm

I’m curious, what happens when the AP gets sick a lot? Does the agency helps with the costs, do they go into rematch or sent home? I don’t have that issue (knock on wood) but I wonder. I guess at some point the should use their vacation days to cover their illnesses.

Host Mom in Paradise May 6, 2015 at 5:10 pm

I’m not sure. My LCC offered a transition AP when AP1 was sick a lot (but only in retrospect — “Oh, I could have sent a transition AP to help last month. Oh well, ha ha!”) and offered again when AP1 suddenly decided to go home (but we rematched within a week). I don’t know how the details would be handled.

NoVA Twin Mom May 6, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Many years before I was a host mom, I knew an au pair (which is how I found out about the program, which is how I became a host mom, which is a lot of history no one needed to know, but anyway…)

While she was here, with a large, often mentioned agency that I’ll not mention to protect its identity, she was diagnosed with diabetes. At first it looked like type 2, which would be much easier to treat, particularly with the (ahem) sometimes subpar au pair insurance. As time wore on (and I heard reports second or third hand, so I don’t have details, this happened in her extension year and I knew her in her first year, her extension year was partway across the country in one of the more “dream” destinations further away from us) it became apparent that the diabetes was type 1 – as in, treatment was much more high-maintenance than was originally thought.

It was strongly suggested by the agency that it would be better for all involved if she went home. Now granted, the health system in her home country allows better, cheaper treatment than the au pair insurance does here. But the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, since her host family seemed remarkably willing to work with her on it.

NoVA Twin Mom May 6, 2015 at 5:20 pm

And more recently with our own, beloved LCC – we asked when in rematch (hell) a few years ago for other reasons about the idea of taking a rematch au pair with just a few weeks left on their visa to “tide us over” until a new in country au pair could arrive, as we knew that one of our au pair’s friends had helped another family in a similar way in a neighboring cluster, allowing her to stay a few more weeks after leaving her own bad situation.

We were told our LCC didn’t allow that in her cluster. So no matter what, it’s going to be highly dependent on your individual LCC.

Dorsi May 7, 2015 at 7:22 am

This is cut and paste from my handbook:

What if I get sick?
Tell us right away! When you are ill, we will try our best to help you get well as fast as possible. This means that we will cancel some work hours and simplify your job. We can help you with medications/advice on how to get better.

Do I get Sick Days?
No. If you are truly unable to work even a modified schedule, we will find back-up care, but would expect the circumstances to be extraordinary. If this happened more than once, we might need to reassess whether continuing your time with our family makes sense.

Like most Americans, we do not have designated “sick days” where we can miss work for illness. We rarely (or never) do not work because of illness. That also means that it is nearly impossible for us to miss work because of your illness.

I know the above sounds pretty harsh, but I work when I am moderately ill (both at home, taking care of my kids and in my paid job). When we have APs with a cold, I show them what OTC meds I recommend, relax the rules on TV watching, and cut their hours to the bare minimum.

SKNY May 7, 2015 at 8:52 am

I might need something alike IF I get an au pair again (which we might)
Where I come from (and where we recruit from), you are entitled to sick days whenever you want or feel like.
So… I dont feel I want to work, I go to a hospital or walk in, say I have diarrhea or wathever, and get a doctor excuse. That earns me paid sick days. That could be the same for cramps, headache, cold…
One of my au pairs (granted the terrible one) thought this was the case in US, and felt I was insensitive and slave driver for being annoyed when she DEMANDED a sick day (her third in a 3 week span). She just sent me a text: sorry, feeling sick, cant work. sorry for inconvenience, but I cant.
However about noon she was upstairs, sitting in the kitchen while DH watched the kids

Taking a Computer Lunch May 7, 2015 at 12:43 pm

My APs learn pretty quickly that if they claim to be sick then they better not go out partying with their friends that night because they are “suddenly” feeling better. As much as I chafe at a sudden change in plans when an AP is ill – adjust – I don’t want her making the kids sick. However, I really get mad if she’s just a little sick and I’m out 8 vacation hours (because I can’t use sick leave to care for healthy children!!) – and suddenly at 5 o’clock she’s ready to party again. (Child #2 hears this from me too – don’t tell me you’re too sick to go to school on a Friday and then expect me to drive you to that event you’ve wanted to attend on Saturday!)

Host Mom in the City May 7, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Right – I think this is what would bother me the most. We allow “unlimited” sick days and would never think to not pay someone their stipend for not working. That said, I expect my au pairs (and they all have) to understand what an enormous challenge it is when they are sick and to do their best to work if at all possible. We too try to shorten hours, let up on TV restrictions, whatever we can do to make it as easy as possible for a sick au pair. But then, if she’s really sick and needs to stay in bed, that is totally fine. But oh man, if I had an au pair that was too sick to work and then did anything at all that day, I’d be really irritated.

We get two weeks sick leave at our jobs, which I understand is very generous in the US. But we can only use it if we’re sick ourselves or for the kids’ illness. We get three weeks vacation time too during the year, but that’s all eaten up with our one vacation week we take each year, coverage for our au pair’s two weeks vacation, and all the random things you have to take off for as a parent. There is no back-up childcare option for us, so if an au pair takes a sick day, I take a vacation day (usually involving a huge scramble to re-arrange client meetings that day). If an au pair needed to be off for a week, poof, that’s a 1/3 of my days off for the entire year and all of a sudden I can’t go on our vacation anymore. It’s a big deal to take a sick day in the US, and it had better be for a big deal sickness. I wish it weren’t that way, but it is what it is at this point.

Host Mom in Paradise May 7, 2015 at 12:57 pm

I don’t want APs spreading illness, so when sick they should take sick days.

I demanded that AP1 take sick days when she’s too depressed to work. It’s both for her sake (to regroup / center) and for mine. When her negative attitude was too much to contain it would rub off on my kid and he’d have terrible days, being disagreeable, whining constantly, and bursting into tears for no reason. The last thing I need is a kid who develops the same attitude as AP — which he ended up doing anyway and AP2 and I are now trying to correct.

This is why I’m so worried about AP mental health and I wish LCCs and agencies would be more proactive about keeping APs healthy. There’s only so much I can do as a host mom.

HRHM May 8, 2015 at 1:17 pm

I think the best strategy for all employers (AP hosts included) would be to eliminate the idea of vacation time vs sick time and just change to total paid time off.

In my youth, I routinely called in “sick” for “mental health days” because I knew I would never use my sick time and I sure as hell didn’t want to eat up my vacation days on a day here or there. I also felt like it was a benefit that was wasted if I didn’t get to use it. As a manager, it would have been so much better to let people have that extra time to SCHEDULE days off, rather than get the phone call at the last minute with the fake “sick voice” telling me they weren’t coming in. Same goes for APs.

I’d rather just know in advance that my AP gets 15 days of “paid time off” and that way, if she gets sick, it automatically comes out of that and you rapidly make your schedule more manageable since no one would waste a day they could use on vacation to call in “sort of sick” or “fake sick”. Only “genuinely” sick.

Host Mom in Paradise May 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Is that a thing we can do? Just say “you have 15 days of PTO” in the handbook? Or is that outside of the policy of the AP organization?

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