Do Host Parents need to buy Workers Compensation Insurance?

by cv harquail on February 22, 2012

While we’re on the topic of insurance, MinneMom emiled with a question I’d never considered —

Do you have a separate Workers’ Comp Insurance policy for your au pair?


In the deep dark recesses of my failing memory, I think I discussed insurance with my DH when we were early into the au pair world. We weren’t thinking about insurance for our au pair, but we did have a part time housekeeper (15-20 hrs a week) and two long flights of steep stairs from the sidewalk to our front door that seemed like a hazard at the time. We inquired about insurance, and it turned out that the combo of the housekeeper’s part-time-ness and our over-priced premium homeowner’s policy had her covered.

Now though, I wonder if we weren’t flirting with disaster!

MinneMom offers some important details about requirements, below. And, she tells us that no one she knows has actually purchased workers comp insurance for their au pairs.

Surely, somewhere in this community we have a host parent or two with some expert knowledge of the insurance requirements and options?

At the very least, let’s share our experiences and see the range of strategies.

Hi CV!

It has been a while since I have wrote to you and am hoping you and/or some of the AuPair Mom readers can shed some light on whether or not they are carrying a separate policy on their au pairs for workers comp.

It has been brought to my attention recently that host families in certain states (Minnesota and New York being two of them) are required to carry Worker’s Compensation Insurance as per state and federal law. This enforcement is applicable to any au pair who earns at minimum $1,000.00 per quarter.

Here are two sites that provide specific information with regards to Worker’s Compensation Insurance:

I have contacted our insurance agency to see if our homeowners’ policy and/or personal liability umbrella insurance would cover workers’ comp and they are redirecting me to an independent insurance agency that can write a workers comp policy. From the sounds of it, this policy will be around $1,100 per year.

How are we defining when an au pair is workers comp eligible?

The au pair lives in their workplace. If they fall down the stairs in my house, slip on a toy, hurt themselves lifting my child … is this considered a workplace accident? If they slip on ice outside, they are now entitled to paid time off, physical therapy, etc.? And all the while, I am paying for alternate means of child care. Hmmm….

Our area director and other host moms in my cluster have told me that they do not carry such a policy even though it is recommended. I understand some agencies impose fines on host families who cannot provide proof of insurance.

  • I do not have such insurance; should I?
  • Are there any items I need to address and/or know when this policy is written?

I have to imagine readers either have this insurance and see it as an item that goes along with hosting an au pair OR they are in the dark about this too.

Educate this mom! I would love to hear input!   MinneMom

See also:

Your Au Pair Counselor As A Local Expert and Resource

Image: Fort Greene Stairs AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Atomische • Tom Giebel


AFHostMom February 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

I’ve never heard of this, but off the top I’d want a more clear definition of “earn,” and I’d want to know what New York would do if a HF had an AP and intentionally kept her hours below 40.
Frankly, notice of this sort of requirement is an agency responsibility. If my agency tried to fine me and I lived in one of these states, I’d tell them to keep walking or terminate my contract.

MinneMom February 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Hi AFHostMom,
I am not as well versed with the NY law requirements (live in MN) but in MN, regardless of hours worked, I still have to carry a policy. MN uses earnings as the key factor to assess if I need this kind of policy. APs will undoubtedly earn more than 1k in a quarter. This might be something you want to bring up to your local area leader if you are concerned about the NY requirements and see what other host families are doing in your cluster. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of families in my cluster that are worried but I feel compelled to write the policy for a CYA measure. Thanks for your input.

AFHostMom February 24, 2012 at 12:54 am

oh I’m not in New York. :) Just musing.

Carrie February 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm

This is one of those things that varies from state to state. In Washington our Au pair is exempt because she is our only household employee.

I would suggest googling (your state) workers compensation and look at the regulations to see if your Au pair might be exempt.

Now if we were to hire another household employee, then we may have to look into it more, but it appears we can actually have as many part-time household employees as we want, but no more than 1 full time (40 hours a week).

Carrie February 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm

This is one of those things that varies from state to state. In Washington our Au pair is exempt because she is our only household employee.

I would suggest googling (your state) workers compensation and look at the regulations to see if your Au pair might be exempt.

Now if we were to hire another household employee, then we may have to look into it more, but it appears we can actually have as many part-time household employees as we want, but no more than 1 full time (40 hours a week).

All that said, if she is injured and cannot work, we are still responsible for paying her wages (as far as I understand from the Au pair agreement) the only thing might be medical coverage, but they have health insurance, so it would be a matter of the deductibles, and depending on the accident, some people might be able to use homeowner’s insurance.

NonCoast Host Mom February 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

We are first time host parents this year. This is one of the issues I found I really had to research on my own; the agency was no help. I work in a law firm and was able to ask a colleague. This is indeed a state by state issue. In my state, workers’ compensation insurance is required for all “domestic workers.”. This would certainly include a nanny, though OP raises an interesting point about whether an au pair is an employee. It was a no-brainer for us to err on the side of caution. In my state, the insurance rate is based on a formula that factors in industry and total payroll. It cost us less than $50 a year for a policy. Required or not, this seemed worth it to me. Workers compensation covers medical expenses for workplace injuries. So if my au pair needs stitches because she cut herself, she would be covered. Notably, her health insurance through the agency is pretty bare bones.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Hmm, this is an interesting take, and one worth consideration. I generally pay for my AP’s health care expenses when they get sick because of the children (other than the typical viruses which don’t generally require an office visit – the only expense has been to cover strep throat). It’s happened twice.

My APs are lifting a 50 lb child constantly, and no one has ever claimed injury as a result.

So, even though no AP has ever been injured on the job, it would reduce my potential expenses by shelling out for a policy. Too bad it wouldn’t cover the strep throat!

Dorsi February 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Interesting that one person can get coverage for $50 and one for $1100. I wonder what my true out of pocket liability would be for a moderate injury (broken ankle requiring surgery)? Depending on the Au Pair, she might go home if she couldn’t work for months — certainly I could not afford to house her, feed her and pay her while we waited for her to recover. While the insurance is mediocre, I understand that it will cover a well defined injury decently. I suppose that all sounds harsh (send her home), but it is what I would expect if my daughter was abroad for school/work and could not continue.

Also, catastrophic stuff is covered (I imagine) with my homeowners/renters + umbrella policy.

Should be working February 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm

This sort of extra requirement, although I suppose it’s not a big deal, would be the kind of thing that makes me question whether we might quit hosting APs. It’s already enough paperwork, documentation, managing things, and insurance always feels like a ripoff–you pay, you fill out forms, it’s always a pain, and in my experience getting an insurance company to simply pay up is not easy and always happens only after mistakes, phone calls, etc. I wish somehow the agencies could, for their $7K fee, deal with this issue.

I vaguely recall our LCC recommending we get workman’s comp but I don’t recall it being a requirement. I just want a personal assistant to do this kind of research for me.

(CV, my posts don’t always seem to post but sometimes disappear; I wrote a lengthier response yesterday that never made it.)

NoVA Host Mom February 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I don’t remember ever hearing about it! I’m kinda crazed on the insurance thing, and we won’t let our APs drive even as a “guest” until they are licensed locally and on our policy. Maybe I totally missed it as a new HM 4 years ago, but I can’t remember seeing it from the LCC or the national office since. Hmm…

MinneMom February 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm

This is the OP here! I am assuming from lack of response this is unfamiliar territory to a lot of other host families or a policy where we are looking the other way, and hoping things work out alright (i.e., no accident).

I agree Dorsi that should something catastrophic occur, the AP would ideally return home. Always easier to recover in the comfort of your own home, with your family and network of physicians. That said though, it only takes one AP’s family to sue and I am not sure what legal ramifications would occur and don’t want to be the case example for agencies to point out and remember.

I find it interesting too the range of cost … anywhere from $50 to $1100!! Wow.

Should be working ~ yes these “little” extra items add up and they hard to keep track of and remember! I wish I was at a point where we no longer needed an AP but that won’t happen for a few more years so forced to face this dilemma head on and get this policy written.

Anyway, I appreciate the input and guidance on how you all handle this.

WestMom February 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do pay about $450 for worker’s comp for myself (NY state $500,000), as required by many of my freelance employers.

We do not have insurance for our Au Pair, and it never even crossed my mind. I guess it would be possible to get sued in the event of an accident, but considering the relationship we have with our Au Pairs, and the fact that they come from countries more ‘restrained’ when it comes to bringing others to court, I would be shocked if one were to sue.

And as many others mentioned, I would assume that our agency/LLC would have brought this up as a requirement.

OpinionatedHM February 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm

We have workers comp for ourhousekeeper even though we are not required to in the state of Texas. I just felt it makes good sense to have a policy to deal with it rather than go through our homeowners in case of an incident. Plus, i know my housekeeper does not have private medical insurance coverage and therefore would be forced to find a way to pay her bills if she were injured on the job. A workers comp policy just makes sense in this case. When the employee leaves, the employee comp policy is no longer necessary and the additional cost of the policy goes away. If you use your homeowners policy to cover a possible claim, any increased premium cost will not go away when the employee leaves. We pay about $600 per year for workers comp policy. We also have a commercial driver policy for $100 a year in the event our housekeeper is in a car accident while driving her vehicle on our behalf.

We did not get a workers comp policy for our aupair because we were told that she is not an employee. (this is why the fiction of AuPair as family member frustrates me so much. It just creates confusion.) Her visa is not a traditional work visa, and we do not pay employment taxes for her like we do for our housekeeper. The aupair also has an insurance policy to cover medical emergencies which i assumed would kick in if she were injured while caring for the kids. (I know, that dreaded word “assume”) The fact that Texas does not require workers compensation policies helps me be comfortable with this decision. If I lived in a state that does require workers comp policies, I would certainly contact my insurance agent to find out what they think about the situation.

When we researched a workers comp policy for our housekeeper, we found that costs vary widely depending upon the coverage benefits. Things like having a choice of where to be treated vs. having to go to a preferred provider can make a huge difference in the cost of the policy.

Brian February 26, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Bottomline — if someone looks like, acts like and smells like an employee they will likely be found to be an employee. In New York, if you are a live in domestic worker (aupair etc) then you WILL be an employee. For a mere $400 or so a year you can obtain a policy from the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF.COM). I have, as a disability attorney, represented countless injured domestic workers whose employer (couples) failed to get insurance (and no, your homeowners insurance will NOT cover you unless you have some really fancy policy) and are now facing not only the cost of the claim for lost wages and medical, but penalties and potential criminal charges! Yikes!
Play it safe when someone is working in your home, you wont regret it.

Dorsi February 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I am curious if you have ever represented an Au Pair. Honestly, they don’t have the ability to stay in the country and pursue a lawsuit (they certainly aren’t living with me while they file one, and I doubt the agency puts them in rematch). It seems it would create a poor case for a lawyer — the maximum possible lost wages (11 months) is $9k. The maximum medical would be their out of pocket and deductible ($5k?). Even with penalties, I have a hard time seeing a lawyer offering representation for a fraction of the take (.33 x all that is a pretty small number). I also don’t see an Au Pair having the means or ability to hire their own attorney.

KM February 28, 2012 at 12:14 am

We received a State Department letter from our agency. It is addressed to “Dear American Host Family” and contains the following information:

“Please keep in mind that while you are an employer of the young person who will care for your children in the next year, you are also a host.”

The IRS considers au pairs employees. So I assume the answer is yes to au pairs being host family employees (at least in the eyes of the federal government). Au pairs are required to file state and federal income tax returns. has updated au pair info.

As for au pair medical insurance, suggest reviewing au pair medical policies. My guess is these vary among agencies. Our au pair’s policy covers repatriation if our au pair has an accident and cannot work.

BBBG March 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm

We are in Chicago, IL. We have purchaed a workers compensation policy for the past 2 years. First year, we had a live-in sitter from another state come live with us. This year we have an au pair from Germany.

Basically from what I could figure (and I tried to research it and the info out there is all over the place)…you should have one. This is what I learned:

If a part time sitter fell down the stairs at our home, they would be covered by our Homeowner’s Policy.

If a full-time sitter living in our house but not related to us fell down the stairs at our home, they would not be covered by our Homeowner’s Policy, mostly due to the full-time in-home nature of the relationship. If a friend came to my house for a party and fell on my icy sidewalk, that too is covered by Homeowner’s.

We didn’t plan on testing this, but unfortunately we did have an experience that kicked us into getting the Workers Compensation policy. We had a part-time sitter who fell down our stairs. Our Homeowner’s Policy took care of her medical expenses. She was a student on her dad’s policy, but after the sweet girl fell, all of a sudden things got tense the next week and we started getting legal letters. Thankfully our agent handled the legal discussions with her and we did our best to continue to have a good relationship with her (we cared about her and were sad she was hurt). But when we asked our Homeowner’s Policy agent if they would also cover an au pair getting hurt in our home, or a full-time American non-family members employee in our home, they said No, that we would have to get a Workers Compensation policy.

We pay about $1,000 per year for our policy. It was harder to find than I expected – I had to call all over the place. You’d think more families would be needing this type of thing…given that it seems required for any non-family member working and living in your home. However, I did find an agent at American Family Insurance who would write the policy. In Illinois, it then goes into a pool of some sort, then a different insurance company picks it up and takes on the policy. Travelers took ours.

If you are risk averse, and you have dangerous stairs, I’d recommend it. You just don’t know what could happen if someone got hurt. It could wipe you out financially, and emotionally.

Dorsi March 9, 2012 at 2:06 am

I still don’t think I understand the logistics of how a person on a j-1 visa would sue you for 9k in lost wages. They couldn’t stay in the country long enough to follow the suit through to its conclusion. They (likely) could not afford to travel back and forth to pursue the case. What kind of lawyer would pick this up? Has an Au Pair every successfully sued their host family for a work related injury? I would love to hear about just one case, because I doubt that it exists.

I consider myself quite risk averse. We carry a large umbrella policy (which may cover this?). I would not fork out 1k/year for a policy to prevent an event that I suspect has never occurred.

Jay May 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm

After reading the responses, it seems that people have three seperate outlooks;

1. I have a policy, it’s a good idea, you never know.
2. It had never crossed my mind, but sounds like a good idea! I will investigate this, for both my sake and my AP’s, it seems like the right thing to do.
3. If my AP is injured, she’ll just get thrown out of the country because she can’t work, so it won’t be my problem and I’ll just get another one.

Frankly, one of these disgusts [concerns] me. It further reinforces that some people most certainly view AP as objects, utilities, and of lesser value than themselves. “Oops, the dishwasher is broken, toss it and get on the phone to order another one.”

DCMomof3 May 5, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Maybe the answer is more that part of the agency fee goes to health insurance and if the au pair gets injured on the job, the health insurance should cover major medical expenses. Beyond that, if an au pair cannot work, then yes, she probably will need to go home. Workers comp insurance is not going to change that situation since the au pair’s visa status is tied to her ability to work as an au pair. If she cannot do that, she cannot make a workers comp claim and go get an apartment somewhere in the US. The agency would have to send her home. Its not so much a matter of the host family tossing the au pair aside, but rather that the au pair’s status in the US is dependent on her ability to do a certain job. At every job I’ve ever had, I needed to actually work to keep the job, regardless of how much my boss liked me.

wtleffs May 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm

We have a special needs child and absolutely carry workman’s comp for our special needs au pair. Our daughter is prone to thrashing and bouts of agitation.

ColoradoMom September 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm

It seems I may have to do some additional research here. I called my Homeowner’s carrier (USAA) to ask if there were any considerations (like worker’s compensation) I should be aware of when hosting an AP who lives and works in my home as part of a cultural exchange. The matter had to go through a couple of representatives, but they concluded by phone that since the individual would be considered a resident in our home for the duration of her stay, the AP would be covered like a family member if injured in the home, on the job.

Maybe that’s just my carrier’s way of handling the situation, but reading all of these comments, I’m not sure I’m protecting myself or our future AP well if I don’t get this coverage.

Has anyone else had a difficult time finding an attorney or CPA who is familiar with the intricate details of having an AP and the questions that come along with the exchange?

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