Your Experiences in Withholding Pocket Money

by cv harquail on January 25, 2010

Okay parents– here’s a place to catch the different stories about whether or not you withheld pay from your au pair — for a super legitimate reason– and whether or not there was an Agency policy or response behind that.bitzi.jpg

We’ve already had one mom mention that with the first agency she used, withholding was explicitly forbidden. And, with the second agency, she was advised to hold back the last two weeks of pocket money until all accounts were settled.

What else have you experienced?


PA Au Pair Mom January 25, 2010 at 11:25 am

Our last AP had 3 accidents in our car. For one she had the kids in the car so we didn’t hold that against her as she was technically “working”.

The other 2 were on her off time and were her fault due to recklessness. We paid the deductible on the first and asked her to be more careful. The second time we told her she would need to pay the $500 deductible. She kept telling us that she was getting the money from her parents, there was a problem with her German bank account, etc. When it was down to less than one month left and it became obvious to us that she wasn’t going to ever produce the money, we withheld $100 from each of her last 3 checks.

She reported it to our LCC who told us that we COULD NOT under any circumstances hold her stipend. We pleaded our case and said that under the contract she OWED us the money. The LCC stood firm but we did it anyway. We told the LCC that if she felt the need to, she could remove our AP from our home immediately!!! there were lots of issues and at that point we would have been happy if she would have removed her.

We never heard another word about it and our princess left for Germany as scheduled and hasn’t been heard from since, except when she called to say she had forgotten her German cell phone and wanted us to overnight it to her.

NoVA Host Mom January 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm

After we started the rematch process with our first-ever AP, our LCC advised us that we give her all the final pay at one time – the last day, when the LCC was there to witness it. The LCC also said to ensure we had all the bills accounted for (money owed us for education, phone, etc). So when she was given her final pay, the money due us was immediately turned back over to us. The LCC said it was going to be the only way to ensure we were paid, as our outgoing AP’s spending habits were well known by then, and the LCC was legitimately concerned that we would not see one cent otherwise (the LCC had a sneaky suspicion that our outgoing AP would not find a new match — surprise, she did not).

It worked out great for us, although the AP could not keep her smiling facade going the entire time. I did notice the flash of “ticked off” cross her face. Oh, well!

Jane January 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm

That seems like the most fair way to handle it to make sure you get your debt paid and that she gets her stipend. It’s very clear in our Au Pair Care handbook that we cannot withold money from the weekly stipend, but it’s also very clear in the same handbook that an au pair must pay their own phone bills, accident deductibles (up to $250), etc. If we are ever in this situation, I will have the LCC come by for a close-out visit and make sure I pay the stipend in cash that can be handed back to me. But here’s hoping that won’t happen–our APs have been very responsible so far!

NoVA Host Mom January 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Oh, and the amount that was paid at once was the total of her last two weeks. Rather than giving her the stipend each week during those last 2 or 3 weeks, we just “paid all at once” (held it until the last day – matter of semantics). So that allowed us enough to ensure we would get what we were owed, and she still got what was due to her.

OB Mom January 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I routinely withhold $15 a week from the AP’s money to help them “save” money to pay for their expenses. I have “OFFERED” this to each of them with particular emphasis on the fact that it will help them rather than hurt them. They all seem grateful and are actually delighted if that is too much and they get a mini-bonus after a couple months. It generally works out to pay for their gas and phone charges just fine … if not they may owe me $20 or 30 rather than $100 which can be hard for them. Importantly, I do tell the AP’s that is voluntary, b/c it is technically against the rules, and they all seem appreciative.

I don’t know about everyone else’s experience, but I have found that all of my AP’s end up mismanaging their money. They over draw their bank accounts and end up getting charged outrageous amount of $ in bank charges (I think it’s a crime that banks can charge so much for overdrawing with a debit card … why don’t they just make it so they cant’ get the Starbucks coffee … but that’s another story). To prevent this, I have also offered them to let me directly link to their bank accounts so I can deposit an emergency loan of $50-100 if they have overdrawn. Each one has been embarrassed to ask, but it saved the first 2 hundreds of dollars in bank charges. I also have told them each to call the banks when these charges do occur and often the banks can reverse one or 2 of the charges.

MommyMia January 25, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I agree about the ridiculous bank charges, but I just don’t see how the APs don’t realize they’re basically flushing their hard-earned money away when they stop at the minit-mart and buy $4 worth of snacks which ends up costing $39 when the overdraft charge is added on! I like your “voluntary” savings plan very much and wish I’d have thought of it 3 APs ago. Luckily our current one is very money-smart and has even figured out how to wire-transfer money into her account from her home country!

MTR January 25, 2010 at 5:35 pm

They just don’t. Just like I didn’t when I was their age. Just like many us here did not realize these things. Add to it that fact that some of these APs are from very poor backgrounds (like my current AP) and some of them are away from families for the first time and feel like they can finally spread their wings.

My current AP at one point ended up in $360 in the hole with the bank. In the end, bank revirsed all of their charges so AP was not out of money, but it took 2 months and during that time I was paying her in cash so that she would not have to deal with the bank until that was resolved. She learned her lesson and has not had problems like that since. She still cannot save a penny if her life depended on it, but at least she is not showing negative balance.

Melissa January 26, 2010 at 5:32 pm

We’ve experienced the lack of money management skills with 2 of our 4 au pairs as well. Our current AP got dinged with 7 overdraft charges in one month (I urged her to call the bank and they reversed out 2 and I covered another 2 for her, because I felt bad for her). However, I think she just did it again, judging from that tell-tale little bank envelope that came in the mail. I know they’re young and may not have any experience managing money, but I too wonder about this. Just take out what you need from the ATM and spend cash, vs. charging $2 at Starbucks!! It seems like some of my APs literally had NO MONEY left by the time their next stipend paydate came around. I know $200/week isn’t much, but I wonder, how hard is it to put away $20 or $40 dollars each week when you have hardly any bills to pay (just phone, gas and personal money – no rent, little food to pay for, etc.)?? I often think the agencies should include a mini “budget management” course in orientation.

Ann January 27, 2010 at 9:39 am

Well, this is just from my pont of view – the point of view of an 19 year old:
I think that 200 per week are okay for the aupair programm. we (the aupairs) do not have to pay for our rooms and also not for most of the food. honestly, most of the mony is “thrown out” for clothes, gas and nightlife.
I also had to manage all the things with my money and bank in my home country and I think that by the age of 18 (the age you are allowed to work as an aupair) you should be responsible enough. Aupairs should take care on their money all alone. They do the programm to become more independent and to become (more) responsible – and that does not only include the responsibillity on children. For most aupairs, this year is a start for a new time in their life. they often just finished school, when they come back home they are just about to move out from home, start at a college etc. I think it is sad that they still need someone to take their hand and lead them the right way. Honestly, it is truely pathetic…

TX Mom January 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I’ve seen the spectrum of good money management and poor money management in AP’s. After one AP in the cluster left the country owing the bank $900 in overdraft charges another AP did something similar. As a HM I did my best to advise that AP’s can’t “run away” from debt. I even threatened it would impact an AP’s ability to get a visa to visit the US in the future. But honestly, I don’t know what the implications are of leaving the country owing the bank money. It seemed like one AP got the idea from an AP who did it “successfully.”

HulaGal January 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

OB Mom – we have done pretty much the same thing, direct line to their account so we can deposit their salary etc. Offered to withhold money by acting as their savings account etc. And yes – the au pair we have now has terrible money management. I did too at her age. But we do not loan money to our au pairs. I think that goes beyond where we are comfortable. They need to sink or swim and sometimes it means learning the hard way.

Mom23 January 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I have withheld money only once. That was when an au pair who was in rematch slipped out in the middle of the night 3 nights before she was scheduled to leave. On the advice of my agency I waited for two weeks before sending what I owed her. I really couldn’t have given her the check then anyway. I subtracted the three days and found that there was a small amount of money missing from our cash book. I subtracted that as well.

I sent the final check through the agency and documented why I subtracted out each item. The au pair disputed them all. The agency said that I couldn’t prove that money was missing, so I couldn’t subtract that out.

Typically, my husband and I budget $10/week for a bonus that we give the au pair at the end of her year with us. Theoretically, we could use the year end bonus to cover such things as deductibles or phone bills.

Believe it o

Should be working January 25, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I love the idea of telling the AP they get a $10/wk (or $40/month) bonus and that money they owe me will be deducted from that!

Mom of 3 January 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm

We use Quicken for our money management. We provided our au pair with Chicago train card which auto charged our credit card (local transport to class + her misc personal use), we provided her with a cell phone for emergency use (charging monthly to our credit card), and we gave her an access number for long distance (also charged to our credit card). Each time I received a charge that was over our obligation (weekend train trips with friends, cell phone charges over the $15 or so I agreed to pay for emergency calls, and any long distance charges…I noted the expense in Quicken as a charge to me but a reimbursement due back from her. Then, each week when I went to write her check, I already had the amounts to be subtracted as noted in Quicken and wrote her a check for the difference. I printed out a little report of the “split” noting her full pay minus her personal expenses. So technically I was not holding back any of her stipend, as she owed me the money. I also included copies of all of her expenses (which I could get to online) so there was never a question. I am baffled that an agency woudl say you couldn’t do this – seems perfectly reasonable to me to get your money back within the time frame the au pair spent it!

In hindsight, I will not get our future au pairs the long distance phone card, since I think they can do this on their own. Our au pair (our first) did not have a credit card or any way to pay continuously, other than buy a phone card in cash at a local mart, so it seemed to make sense at the time – but became a bit of a pain for me to do. Also, I will be more clear about cell phone use in the future, too, since we weren’t so clear up front this time around and I am sure I ate some of that cost too. But the travel on local trains was easy – I knew what trains expense she had to get to class, and on what nights, and that was that.

A few times, she asked us to pay for a flight (weekend vacation) and we deducted the ticket cost from her weekly stipend that week. As long as we were even within a week or two, all was well.

Busy Mom January 26, 2010 at 12:31 am

Mom of 3, we do exactly the same thing with Quicken, including providing the “pay stub” with itemization. To me, it’s the same principal as handing over the full amount and asking her to hand back the reimbursement. At the end of the calendar year, I printed a report for our au pair.

Anonymous January 25, 2010 at 6:25 pm

My current AP wanted unlimited texting on her phone (not to text me LOL) and we don’t have a plan, so we added it for her phone and her weekly stipend is 3.50 lower than it should be to account for this expense. I told her I was doing this and she didn’t seem to care (easier than passing cash back and forth) so why should the agency. I know what the rules are but in reality, if she owed me money, I wouldn’t hesitate to hold back pay in order to recoup it.

I guess it’s possible that some unscrupulous HPs could short pay and then say they were owed money (or that AP took extra time off, or worked a short week etc) but I’m pretty sure that most of us are on the up and up.

NoVA Host Mom January 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

We do a written receipt thing each pay period, so if there were any text charges it was indicated on the pay receipt (Stipend – texting -fees = amount paid that week). It worked pretty well for us. Then I ended the texting entirely (love VZ Wireless management) and our current AP does not wish to pay for a text plan, so no worries.

I figure written accounts keep everyone above board, and the AP has their own copy at all times.

NjMom January 25, 2010 at 10:52 pm

We only withheld it when she asked us to as a way of paying us back for an “advance loan” for travel or something else special. When her mom came to visit she asked me for a month’s pay upfront so that she could have more leeway in entertaining her mom during that visit. I wasn’t thrilled but she was doing a good job so I did it. Fast forward to current AP who is EXCELLENT at money management and totally gets the concept of saving for a trip in advance. In fact, she’s probably better at it than I am! First AP was also good at saving but I allowed her to do babysitting (and a few light cleaning — shhh!) jobs on the side as she was a bundle of energy so she always had extra cash. So all in all, I’ve had AP’s with good money management skills so it is possible.

CCDC Mom January 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm

It seems to me that many of the rules applicable to the program, including the money withholding, are in recognition of the skewed balance of power between the au pairs and the host parents. It is far easier for host parents to abuse the rules than in fact it is for the au pairs–the houses, the cars, the salaries are ours, and we pay the agencies who want us as repeat customers. Despite our carping, I think most of us on this blog are generally trying to figure out how to treat our au pairs well and with respect, including while navigating some tricky circumstances. With that in mind, in this forum I feel it’s sometimes of limited utility to state the rules as a black and white response to someone’s question. There are many instances where looking outside the rules is reasonable in my opinion, and I think what we are all looking for is a litmus test about whether our behavior accords with common sense. For example, 98% of the time my au pair works about 25-30 hours a week, far fewer than the 45 permitted. But if I have a horrific work week at some point during the year, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to ask her to work more than 10 hours for a few days and I don’t feel like an outlaw for doing so. Similarly, when we have reimbursable expenses for our au pairs, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to work out a system for repayment that could include a deduction from stipend each week. I think it’s a great idea to itemize as others are doing with Quicken, and I definitely think that it’s incumbent upon the host parents to ensure the deductions won’t leave the au pair without sufficient funds for the week. But while we must recognize our obligation to pay the au pairs their stipends each week per the rules, the au pairs and the programs should also recognize the host parents’ right to devise a reasonable plan to recoup legitimate costs and expenses from our au pairs. It is possible that by doing so a host family could be admonished by the program, but my guess is that, assuming the host family’s response is reasonable under the circumstances they will receive the benefit of the doubt (as they should, at least in my opinion).

NJMom January 26, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Amen to that. My AP’s usually work 25 hours and I have not gone too crazy when there is a school vacation day and they have to work an 11 hour day. It is rare and none of my AP’s have complained. I think they’re mature enough to see the big picture.

Melissa January 26, 2010 at 5:41 pm

We’ve never had a situation yet (fingers-crossed!) where we’ve been faced with our AP owing us money. Like NJMom, we have, however, had a few instances with our first AP (who had excellent money management skills) where we’ve lessened her stipend amount if we ‘fronted’ her some money the prior week for something special, like an out of town trip. Also, there were some occasions when I charged travel for her to my credit card and then she ‘repaid’ me by having it deducted from her stipend.
We do try to minimize our APs owing us anything by using a pay-as-you-go cell phone, vs. attaching her cell phone to a family plan. I want her to have a phone for emergencies and to be able to communicate with me, but 99% of her use is personal (and boy does she use it!). I just give her a small amount each month for work-related use and she pays for the rest. I do the same with gas – give her money to cover child-related driving & school, and she pays for the rest of the gas herself. If anything, I ususally owe HER money for taking the kids out to the movies or lunch or something!

Sara Duke January 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Occasionally we have had an au pair owe us money for maxing out all the cell phone minutes (my husband and I share an account with the au pair phone – she gets the bulk of the minutes and the school calls her first when our medically fragile is too sick to stay at school). When an au pair goes over the minutes, we discuss the amount of money and how they want to pay it back — all at once or over the month. It doesn’t take more than 2 months to get phone use in check. (Our au pairs work about 5 hours a day on weekdays and occasional weekend hours, so they have plenty of time to text and talk to their friends.)

One au pair’s driving skills were much weaker than advertised, and our LCC said she should share in the cost of the $477 for 3 evaluative lessons offered by off-duty police officers. We met with her about reimbursement, and she wanted to wait a week before the reimbursement started so she could buy a laptop. I must say, I put my foot down. Here I was out nearly $500 and she wanted to buy a laptop (the $477 was money I had intended to use to purchase a new computer and could no longer afford to do so). I told her the laptop was a want, not a need, and what we needed was someone who could drive (because that medically fragile child has a lot of doctor’s appointments). She ended up accepting paying off her share of the driving lessons over a 5 week period (and then went out and bought her laptop). When she needed more driving lessons, we made her pay up front and then reimbursed her for our half.

Occasionally au pairs have wanted to use my credit card to charge their travel expenses, and I make them pay me cash first and then sit with them while they book their holidays. None have ever abused the privilege by charging more on their hotel rooms than what was originally covered.

By the end of their stay with us, most au pairs are fairly money savvy, and none has left owing us money.

It is true, however, that we only pay for 51 1/2 or less weeks, since their first week is spent in orientation, and their year often ends mid-week. We, too, start paying the stipend a week after their arrival.

My 2 cents January 27, 2010 at 4:47 pm

We too have been lucky to not have had an au pair that abused us financially. But we too limit our exposure to that by not allowing them access to things like our credit cards or our cash and, in the rare case when my au pair must buy something for the family, require production of receipts and the card that same day, or give her cash and ask for the change and a receipt. I have no idea what they have in their bank accounts and don’t really want to know, and don’t want to be responsible for accounting for reimburseables in either direction.

This all being said, we all know that having an au pair repay a $500 or $1,000 car deductible is difficult to say the least. Should I ever be in that situation, I’d probably do what some others on there have done and either stand there with my hand open on pay day to be repaid directly, inquire into her deposit with the agency, or just deduct from her weekly stipend on terms we hopefully agreed to. Fair is fair when it comes to financial obligations and I would find a way to be repaid regardless of whatever the agency had to say about it on official grounds.

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