Things to Include in Your Au Pair ContractPosted by Dana Hufe • June 21, 2018 • 6 minutes read
Future au pairs, I am here to tell you to please, please clarify as much as you can in your contract before you arrive in your host country. If things are left vague, you may find yourself months in and thinking something like— “Uh, the host parents had agreed to pay for my transport and they never did. This is so awkward to bring up!” or "I want to take another language course but can't afford it. I wonder if they would consider paying for it..." If things are written up beforehand, it makes it much more clear for the both of you and you can avoid the awkward “money talks.”
Most countries will have a government contract but, as with Austria, a lot of things are generally left out. The government contracts will probably include your monthly pay and weekly hours, but there are still a lot of things that may vary from family to family. Please heed my advice and clarify them BEFORE you head over. Ask your host parents if you can each collaborate on typing up a new contract so that there’s no miscommunication. They should be understanding of this.
Here’s a list of things to clarify in your au pair contract:
- What will your schedule be?- As I have said in other posts on my blog, this is the number one most important factor. If I could go back in time I would make my host family give me a schedule so I didn’t feel like I was constantly on their leash, not knowing whether or not they might unexpectedly need me. If they say they can’t provide a schedule because their “days vary,” ask to have one at least a week in advance and designate a day they should give it to you. This way you’re not putting off your own life/plans because you don’t know when you’re needed.
- What will your day off be?- Going off of that, make sure you have a designated day off each week (it is required legally). It’s nice to know what day that will be ahead of time so you can make plans.
- How will you take off for holidays?- Most contracts will already have a set number of days for holiday that the au pair is allowed. This is supposed to be “paid holiday,” as it would be with any other job. Clarify in the contract whether or not the family is required to pay you during your holiday. Also clarify whether their holiday is your holiday. Otherwise they can say, “we’re leaving tomorrow for two weeks, so that will be your holiday.” Suddenly you may find yourself unable to plan your own vacation on such short notice. Are the dates you take your holiday chosen by you or your host family? If it’s chosen by you, how far in advance must you tell them before you take your holiday? And if it’s chosen by them, how far in advance must they tell you? Also clarify that if they go away on holiday, will they still pay you your salary? Otherwise you may find yourself suddenly without an income for a few weeks, which is not fair to you. In addition, clarify if they are to provide food for you while on holiday (which they should since room and board is to be included). I know a few au pairs whose host families have left them for a couple weeks and they find themselves having to shell out $100 of their measly pocket money because the family didn’t leave them any groceries.
- Will you get paid for working extra hours beyond your contract?- As I said, most contracts will have a designated number of hours each week you can work. So clarify what happens if you go over the designated amount. Do you get paid extra? How much?
- What counts as “hours”?- If the kids are asleep but you have to be home, does that count as hours? If the family goes away but you need to stay and take care of the pet or clean the house, does that count as hours? (The answer to both of these questions is yes.) Of course if the family takes you out to dinner, that probably won’t count as hours, but in general, if you are responsible for the kids’ wellbeing and you cannot be elsewhere, it should count as working.
- Will your host family pay for your public transport?- A lot of them don’t, but if you are responsible for picking up the kids and taking them on public transport to/from school and/or their extracurriculars, the host family should cover at least some of the cost.
- Will your host family pay for your phone plan?- This goes along with the public transport card. Will your host family pay for your phone plan or will you be paying for that out of your salary?
- What is the protocol for illnesses?- If the kids are sick unexpectedly, are you expected to stay home with them? Will you get paid extra for that? With that being said, if you are sick, what is the protocol for that?
- Will I get paid bonuses and if so, when?- I would definitely recommend looking through all the country information you can for the country you will be au pairing in. In Austria, there was a rule that if you worked for 12 months with a family, you were guaranteed 15 months pay (as in, you get an extra three months salary). Other au pairs I know received this, and while I told my host family about it, I did not receive it. This info was for any worker in Austria (including au pairs) and was listed online but was nowhere to be found in the government contract. This would be something to definitely clarify in your contract. If you don’t work the full 12 months, say maybe only 10 months, do you still get a portion of the extra pay?
- What are the au pair’s “duties”?- I have talked to so many au pairs who have said the words “that is not my job.” Clarify with your host parents what exactly your job entails. Is taking care of a pet your job? Many au pairs I know had to get up unexpectedly early every day to walk their family’s dog or stay home from vacations to take care of pets. Is cleaning and doing laundry part of the au pair’s daily duties? Clarify these things beforehand.
I hope this was helpful for anyone looking to begin an au pair year and I promise if you clarify these things beforehand it will save you quite a lot of trouble later on!