Hi, Maddie here. Summer is almost here! When I think of summer I think of sunny days, watermelon, and vacations. Summer is peak travel season in the USA and the season when most of us want to cash in our vacation time. This also holds true for most au pairs.
Your au pair is entitled to two weeks of paid vacation over the course of the 12-month program. This is on par with the average American worker with 1 year of service. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, US workers receive an average of 10 paid days (or the equivalent of two working weeks).
In this guide I will cover:
- Basics and norms of au pair paid time off
- How to calculate the equivalent of two weeks of paid time off
I spent a good amount of time digging through the information about au pair vacation time on the various au pair agency sites. I found that the contracts and guidance around au pair vacation time varied slightly from agency to agency. But, across the board, they agree that
- Au pairs are entitled to a minimum of two weeks paid vacation.
- Vacations need to be scheduled for a mutually convenient time.
- Au pairs are on a cultural exchange and should be encouraged to discover.
- Vacation for you is not necessarily a vacation for your au pair.
Au Pairs are Entitled to a Minimum of Two Weeks Paid Vacation
According to the US Department of State, au pair host families are required to “provide a minimum of two weeks paid vacation for each 12-month exchange term.” Au pairs on nine or twelve-month extension are entitled to two weeks of paid vacation for their extension period. One week of paid vacation is covered for au pairs extending for 6 months.
This does not mean your au pair should get 14 days of vacation. Instead, she/he gets the number of days off that is normally worked in a two week period. Also, when your au pair decides to use vacation time they should still receive the weekly free time and one complete weekend off each month.
It also doesn’t mean that it needs to be taken as 14 consecutive days. The time can be divided however the au pair and host family decide. Although, it is much easier to calculate if the au pair takes 7 consecutive days off at a time.
As an example, let’s say you decide to take your family on vacation without your au pair. Your au pair has already taken one week of paid vacation. The second week is already scheduled at a mutually convenient time in the future. You have two options as a host parent in this situation. You can give your au pair extra time off or you can have your au pair work on child-related duties while you are gone. In both cases, you still have to provide for your au pair as described in your contract. She/he is still paid her/his full stipend. You also still need to provide her/him with room and board for the time you are away.
Vacations Need to be Scheduled for a Mutually Convenient Time
Ok, so I have to admit that there is never a convenient time for my au pair to be on vacation. However, there are times that are less inconvenient than others. Typically we pick the timing of one vacation week and our au pair chooses the timing of the other week. We try to schedule her vacation time during these less inconvenient times.
Many au pair agencies suggest that the host family picks the timing of one vacation week and the au pair chooses the timing of the second week. One agency suggests that au pairs should take the first week of vacation within the first six months, and the second week in the second half of the year. In practice, my au pairs tend to take one week for a major trip and then a few long weekends for local trips.
Most of the agencies recommend against scheduling vacation time in the first month. This early time together is important for building trust and learning about culture.
No matter how you choose the timing of your au pairs vacation, it is important to plan it in advance. This allows the host family to find an alternative childcare provider. It also allows the au pair to coordinate with friends to make travel plans.
Au Pairs are on a Cultural Exchange and Should be Encouraged to Discover
Remember that the au pair program is intended to be an exchange program. As a host mom, I encourage my au pairs to use their vacation time to experience US culture. I also try to help them discover safely and cheaply. In the spirit of the cultural exchange program, you should not give your au pair an extra week of stipend instead paid time off.
In the same vane, your au pair is not an hourly employee. If your au pair wants to take off part of a day that should not count towards her/his vacation time. Also, if you choose not to use the full 45 hours, this should not count against her/his vacation time.
Vacation For You is Not Necessarily a Vacation for Your Au Pair
We love to travel with our au pairs. For us, the convenience of an extra set of hands is well worth the extra expense. Our au pairs have flown with us to San Francisco, Maui, Puerto Vallarta, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and joined us for road trips across the western states.
When traveling with your au pair it is important to talk about working verse free time in advance. Some au pairs may want to stay with the host family and work for much of your vacation. Others may want to only work for part of the time and use some of their vacation time to go off and explore while they are away from home. Either way, you will need to make sure that you follow the program rules. Allow your au pair to have time away from the family to rest and recharge.
Vacations in the Time of COVID-19
Vacations are difficult right now because of COVID-19. Depending on how restrictive the government is where you live, your au pair may need to postpone or rethink their vacation plans. Au pairs typically aren’t interested in staycations because it does not allow them to discover and experience the US.
You also need to take the personal risk situation for your family into account. I have seen some families ask au pairs to quarantine for 14 days after traveling. I have also seen some au pairs use their two weeks of vacation time at the end of their contract so they can quarantine after traveling home. If you require your au pair to quarantine outside of your home, most agencies will require you to provide room and board for this quarantine period. Make sure to talk with your agency about their specific policies and the obligations under your contract.
How to Calculate Au pair Vacation Time Off
Because the US Department of State, requires “a minimum of two weeks paid vacation,” the actual calculation of the paid time off can get a little confusing. Here are a few examples of how some families calculate vacation time off for their au pairs.
Vacation Example 1: Consistent Au Pair Schedule
My au pair works Monday through Thursday and every other Saturday evening. This adds up to 9 working days for her to take off as vacation over the year. (We make it 10 working days to be nice.)
We are pretty flexible, so we can usually switch days off to help her stretch her vacation plans. Let’s say she wants to take a 5 day weekend from Thursday through Monday on a week she is scheduled to work a Saturday.
- Thursday is a vacation day
- Friday is her normal day off
- Saturday would either be a vacation day or a trade for another Saturday where she would work
- Sunday is her normal day off
- Monday is either a vacation day or she can switch days and work Friday that week
This gives our au pair the choice of using 1, 2, or 3 vacation days. Of course, this assumes it was arranged well in advance. It would also need to be a week where we could be flexible, which is not always the case.
Vacation Example 2: Inconsistent Au Pair Schedule
Here is another way to look at it if your typical schedule is not as consistent as ours. In this example, two weeks of paid time off is equivalent to 14 vacation days because of the inconsistent schedule. Let’s say your au pair leaves Friday after work for vacation and returns the following Sunday evening. The work week in this example is Monday through Sunday.
First Saturday is not a vacation day (assumes that your Au Pair has worked her full 45 hours for the week already)
First Sunday is not a vacation day (assumes that your Au Pair has worked her full 45 hours for the week already)
- Monday is vacation day 1 (the start of a new week)
- Tuesday is vacation day 2
- Wednesday is vacation day 3
- Thursday is vacation day 4
- Friday is vacation day 5
- Saturday is vacation day 6 because your Au Pair has not completed 45 hours for the week, and is not available to work
- Sunday is vacation day 7 because your Au Pair has not completed 45 hours for the week, and is not available to work
If the au pair returned Friday evening and was available to work Saturday and Sunday, those would not count as vacation days. The host family could choose to use those as working days. Also, if your au pair chooses to use vacation days to take off a weekend they are still entitled to their one weekend off a month on another weekend (in this example that week end off could be the first Saturday and Sunday).
Have a question about how to count time off for your au pair? If you are a host parent, reach out in the My Au Pair and Me Community on Facebook for help from other au pair host parents.
We would also love to hear about your method of calculating vacation time in our community or in the comments below.