I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or self-congratulatory when I say that the only place I have even run afowl of the Au Pair Program Regulations has been around half days. It wasn’t intentional, mind you, but I was ‘doing it wrong’. Oops.
Au Pairs are supposed to be scheduled only for five and a half days per week– they get one full day, and one half day, completely off-duty.
Figuring out the full day is pretty easy– it’s 24 hours. A day off that runs from 12 noon Sunday to 12 noon Monday is technically a full day off, but it’s not a day off in spirit. A real ‘day off’, in my book, is from au pair bedtime Saturday night to wake up time Monday morning (or, similarly, bedtime Tuesday to wake up Thursday).
The half day, however, is a little trickier.
I had always operated on the assumption that a half-day was something like off-duty all day until 6 p.m., and then on duty that night from 6 p.m. until the end of the PTA fundraiser. Or, on-duty until noon and then off-duty until the next day.
I was thinking of the ‘half-day’ as a big, uninterrupted chunk of time when your au pair could go away and do something really meaningful (e.g, trip into the city, bus trip to an outlet mall, etc.). I never felt that a morning off was really enough time, but an afternoon-through-end-of-evening span was enough time off. Similarly, I thought that if our au pair had the entire stretch of daylight off, then working from 6 till midnight on her ‘half-day’ was fine.
And it was fine, all the way through 8 au pairs, until we got to number 9. Number 9 was a — well, I won’t describe her, other than to say she was our very first rematch. She was all about ‘working to the rule’ and nothing beyond.
Because this au pair usually had work weeks that were 35 hours, and she always had a full day and a half-day (as I understood it), I had a hard time when she started to complain about being scheduled occasionally for a Saturday from 6 to midnight, with all day Saturday off-duty as her ‘half-day’.
(Of course, I understood that she didn’t want to work Saturday nights, so I usually only scheduled her for one full Saturday night a month, and then would scheduled another Saturday evening when we’d be home by 9:30 or 10:00, which would leave her able to go out to NYC with her other au pair friends at 10:30. But one of the reasons why we have an au pair is to have childcare on weekends, and on occasional Saturday nights, and she knew this when she took the job. But I digress.)
One week when she was particularly irked that she’d have to work not only 40 hours but also on Saturday night, she told me that I was breaking the rules. She’d consulted our LCC, who had confirmed for the au pair that a half-day was “5 hours”. Since I’d schedule her from 6 p.m. to midnight, a total of 6 hours, I was breaking the rules. Worse, I’d been breaking the rules for months! Bad Host Mom!
A half-day is five hours?
Turns out that that clarification of a half-day as 5 hours had been made by my agency somewhere between years 1 and 8, and I’d never caught on.
So, she said, I needed to change her schedule so that she was off at 11 p.m.
Of course, wanting to follow the rules (and miffed that she was getting so snippy) I changed her schedule. I gave her 5 hours on-duty on Monday, and 10 hours on duty on Saturday, from 2 pm until midnight. She got her official half-day, and my DH and I got our Saturday night out.
This Host Mom was back in line with the rules.
And the Au Pair? She was ultimately on her way to rematch.