With our previous conversation about whether or not an au pair is supposed to be paid pocket money if s/he takes additional vacation weeks, I was reminded of this very simple and confusing issue:
Although US regulations apply to any US au pair, each agency has its own ways of interpreting and explaining the rules.
Depending on the fine print of your agency contract, your obligations may differ from those of a host family with a different agency.
We’ve seen this before in our conversations– some fine point of interpretation about a family’s obligations, different beliefs about what’s right, and the discovery that the differences map to people being with different agencies.
Places where agency differences have come up include:
(1) paid vs. unpaid additional vacation time,
(2) paid vs. unpaid orientation weeks,
(3) consecutive vs. separated day and half-day of the “day and a half” off duty each week,
(4) what counts as a “half day”,
(5) how many times an au pair’s day can be ‘split’ with off duty time, and
(6) procedures for managing an au pair when you go into rematch.
I bet that I’d find just a couple more if I went back through all our pages.
Does anyone recall other topics where agencies seem to have different policies?
Sometimes, Agency policies get updated and you don’t realize it.
I was a little surprised to discover in the unpaid vacation conversation that unpaid vacation was ‘not allowed’. I know that sometimes the agency rules have actually changed while I’ve been a client– for example, the clarification that a ‘half day’ meant no more than 5 hours on duty, and not ‘at least 8 hours of time between 7 am and 8 pm’.
Sometimes, you’ve gotten used to one interpretation.
Often there is an interpretation that’s been supported by other host families and your counselor and seemed to be ‘correct’, and then a new counselor/LCC has a different interpretation. This has happened for us around whether or not non-credit ESL classes ‘count’ towards the education requirement.
Sometimes, the laws underneath the policies or advice actually change (or are different).
We’ve seen this with the question of whether or not your au pair can use an international driver’s license all year or whether s/he needs to get one from your state.
Sometimes, nobody seems to be confident about what the actual ‘right’ answer is.
Sometimes, we’ve just got it wrong (despite our best intentions).
None of us wants to interpret the rules unfairly, or to treat our au pairs in a way that is ultimately unfair.
In the end, there are two basic principles that we should follow:
1. What is the kind, generous, responsible interpretation of the issue that meets the au pair’s needs, the family’s needs, and is felt to be fair by all, and
2. What does the fine print in your au pair contract say?
Scheduling your au pair for a half-day
Scheduling Your Au Pair: Naptime, Mealtime and Meaningful Breaks
Do you pay your Au Pair for her orientation days?
Choosing an Au Pair Agency: Two questions that might make a difference