The comment from PA AuPair mom in the post about docking the au pair’s pay sent a chill down my spine, and reminded me that I need to write and post this bit of advice:
Before your Au Pair leaves, be sure to settle all accounts with her.
This advice is not for host parents who want to screw over their au pairs in some vindictive way for all the various damage the au pair may have caused— Of COURSE it isn’t, because those kinds of host parents don’t read this blog. This advice is for host parents who want to act honorably and also make sure that their au pair keeps her commitments. Moving on…
With my agency, and I bet with others, there is a form that you fill out when your au pair is departing, either for rematch or for home. This form acts kind of like a balance sheet, where you can calculate if you own her any money (e.g., the remaining reimbursement for the up to $500 she has spent on classes) or whether she owes you money (e.g., phone bill, deductible, etc.).
In my experience, I have never owed an au pair money, but instead have been owed money.
Have a ‘nearing the end’ meeting
It’s a great idea to have what I call a ‘nearing the end’ meeting, where you clarify things like financial obligations, how she is getting to the airport, that she needs to ship her own 38 pairs of shoes home, and what bills might still be outstanding. Remember that you can often check phone bills online as the charges accrue, and you can use averages from previous bills to estimate the final bill. This is also a good time to tell your au pair about the “checkout list”, so that she can plan ahead to do this cleaning.
Have a conversation about outstanding bills in plenty of time, so that neither you nor she is left ‘holding the bag’ — her with not enough money to pay you, you with not enough remaining to pay her to withhold what should be withheld.
Before you lose your leverage
You need to make sure that you ask your au pair to pay any outstanding or anticipated bills before the very last week of her time with you. By then, your au pair may not only have already spent or committed this money to something, but also you have lost any kind of leverage you have over her to get her to pay.
Not that you necessarily want to dock her pay, but do you want to be the one left holding the $168 long distance phone bill?
You know, the bill you racked up when you were making unauthorized phone calls to Brazil, but that I didn’t discover until after you left, you little blank? Yeah, I know you got the emails that I sent you at your rematch family’s home. I know that our LCC called your new LCC to nudge you to send the money. I know that I paid you for vacation time you supposedly accrued when you refused to watch my children because you simply had to visit NYC. And I know that you still owe me $168.
Ooops sorry, I digress.
If you are in a situation like the one PA mom mentions, where her AP owes her $500, but where the host parents only have 2 weeks of pocket money left as leverage ($360 or so), it’s gonna be tough to get all of the money back that you are owed. Not only is this unfair, but also it can easily generate a lot of resentment that, if unattended, can dent your relationship with your next au pair.