Sometimes you just don’t want to read the subject lines of the emails that show up in our AuPairMom emailbox. The email posted below came with the subject line, “Am I being taken advantage of?”. But, by the time the au pair finished telling her story, it was clear it the subjuct should have been “Help, I’m being exploited!”
I don’t want to assume that the family, described in the au pair email below, is trying to take advantage of their au pair. They seem to have a logic to their plan, but they also seem a bit clueless. For this au pair to address the problems, she’s going to need to teach the family about what an au pair relationship is in spirit, and what it is under the law. And, she’s got to teach them that (in the USA) if the caregiver is not here under an AuPair program, with an Au Pair contract, then she’s not an au pair but a Nanny.
This woman is a live in nanny, a nanny who does other tasks, but a nanny and not an au pair. And, she should be paid as such.
Here’s Emery’s email:
I am currently an au pair in the Northeast City for a wonderful family with two small kids. I really like it here, but my friends and family are wondering if I’m being taken advantage of, monetarily. It’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll start with my background.
I am 24, and from the US. I was an au pair once before, in the Netherlands, being paid 350 euros bi-monthly. I have been taking care of children regularly for more than 8 years, through babysitting and non-live-in nanny positions. I also worked as an assistant to a Children’s Librarian for 5 years. I have my Bachelor’s degree, a valid driver’s license and no criminal record. I consider myself more than qualified to handle this job.
With the family here in the Northeast City, we did not use an au pair service to find eachother (basically saving the family $150 a week). The family put their profile onaupair-world.net just days before I re-activated my profile. We found eachother, talked on the phone then met in person, and I moved in in less than a month. Soon after moving in, we went through the guidelines for weekly hours, payment, etc, and we agreed to the terms that most of their previous au pairs went by.
Several months in, they are very happy with me. They tell me that I’m their best au pair they’ve hired, that I’ve caused the least amount of problems. I am their first American au pair as well. The girls love me and miss me when I’m not around, and I can tell that it is stressful for the parents to handle their own kids when I’m on vacation.
In addition to au pair duties, I also work during the day as an intern for the mom, who has a small business. I am paid the same hourly rate as my au pair job, which is $4.35 an hour. I am doing internet marketing, and although I realize that many internships are unpaid, the work I am doing is more than satisfactory, and I end up working almost 13 hour days with both jobs.
I work 45 hours a week, with 10 consecutive hours each Saturday. I am paid the minimum, $196 per week, for doing the maximum amount of work. If I work less than 45 hours (sometimes, this is not of my choosing), $4.35 is taken off for each hour missed. What are the legalities of this? The government documentation is not easy to follow.
I am just wondering if I am being taken advantage of. I love the work, but my family and friends scoff at my hourly wage. For my experience and qualifications, should I be paid more? Do you have any advice on asking for a raise, specifically methods on how and when to ask?
Any help you could offer would be GREATLY appreciated. Like I said, I enjoy my job, but if the family is taking advantage of me, my trust in them will be broken, and I may have to find another job sooner than expected.
Oh my goodness, where to begin.
Your host family IS exploiting you.
They are messing things up by trying to categorize you in ways that fit their needs and not yours. You are not an au pair, you are not an intern. You are an experienced, live in nanny. You are a part-time office worker with a college degree.
You need to be paid (in my opinion) at *least $12-15 per hour of childcare, and $10/ hour off office-work up to 40 hours, then time & a half after that. As a full-time employee of theirs, they should pay taxes on your wages, and they should (ideally) provide you with some kind of basic health insurance. And, if they want to provide you with room and board, better you should establish a rate for this, and pay it back to them out of your wages. That’s more professional.
You aren’t an au pair. But, if you were an Au Pair…
If you were an actual Au Pair (within State Department rules) you’d be getting additional benefits, such as basic health insurance, paid vacation, an education stipend ($500), and monthly training&social meetings with other au pairs. And, as an au pair from outside the US, you’d be getting some kind of cultural life experience — which you’re not getting as a US citizen. So, if we were to consider you a kind of ‘au pair’, you are not being fully compensated.
Also, as an au pair your tasks can NOT include doing business work for the host parents.
Worse, as an “au pair” you cannot be ‘docked’ any hourly wages if the family doesn’t use your full 45 hours. You’d get your weekly stipend, regardless of the hours.
You are a Nanny
Guess what– as a US citizen, an adult, a person with a BA, and a person with significant childcare experience, you should be treated as a Nanny.
You know how much a nanny gets paid in the NY/NJ/Boston area? Anywhere between $12 and $25 per hour (before room and board). Even if you were to take the total # of hours of childcare, multiply that by $15, and then subtract the US State Dept. estimate of room and board (which is around $140/week), you are still being underpaid.
You’re also not an “intern”
Technically, an intern can be engaged by a company without being paid if the position meets 6 criteria. The three critical ones for you are :
- The training is for the benefit of the trainees;
- The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded
Otherwise, the “intern” must be paid the hourly minimum wage of $7.25 / hour with an overtime rate (over 40 hrs) of $10.88.
You are a part-time office worker with a college degree.
I can see that the family might want to call you an intern, and deduct the Room&Board from your hourly rate, but really. They are using the term ‘intern’ to keep up a convenient fiction– that this isn’t a real job that they’d have to pay someone real wages for. If your host parent tired to hire someone to do the work you’re doing, she’d be hard pressed to find anyone with the skills you are using who’d accept less than $10 / hour in the Northeast City. Geeze, a high school babysitter on Friday nights gets $10/hour.
Moms, Dads and Au Pairs, what do you recommend that she do?
Ask to be paid as a Nanny and Office Worker? Find a new job? Wait it out until the end of her year? Your advice wanted, below….