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Au pair expenses - need some advice!

(29 Posts)
Puffthemagicdragongoestobed Wed 01-Nov-17 21:19:07

Our au pair has just put me into an awkward situation with her expenses and I am looking for opinions on how to handle this.
She just presented me with a list of expenses she wants reimbursed. This includes a roughly £50 bill from IKEA for items for her room (although some of those expenses she put down as 'optional'). Last weekend she went to IKEA and bought things for her room including hangers, picture frames, storage boxes, jars etc. She now asked if I could reimburse her for them.
Now she never discussed this with me before her trip there. I didn't even know she had gone to IKEA until she was already back home. Had she asked for some of the items beforehand she would have found out that we already have them around the house and I could have just given them to her. Also, a lot of the items are non-essentials - she already has a few book shelves and a book case as well as a big chest of drawers to store her things, so those storage boxes are not strictly necessary. She argued that it will be something that one could always find use for in a household therefore I should pay for them - obviously the stuff is too bulky to take back home when she leaves so I guess she expects to leave them here.
To be fair, I did mention when she first started that she should let me know if she needs stuff for her room and we will provide within reason. I remember our previous au pair asked for a laundry basket and a bin which we then bought for him. But this did not mean she should just go off to IKEA and buy lots of things and expect me to reimburse afterwards without even discussing with me first!
I did say to her she should have discussed with me beforehand, but left it open if I will pay for them. Because I honestly don't know if I should! On the one hand I would like her to feel at home in her room and would feel mean not to pay, on the other hand she never discussed this with me before making the purchases and just went ahead and did it. I would not do that in my job, all major expenses have to be approved first before they are made!
Also this month we will have lots of expenses with car insurance renewal coming up as well as xmas expenses, so I am not exactly swimming in cash..
We pay her £100 per week which is pretty standard around here. On top of this I got her babysitting jobs at 3-4 local families so given this is all pure spending money I think she is doing ok financially. Although I guess this is beside the point.
Opinions please! Thanks so much

caroldeckershair Wed 01-Nov-17 21:28:47

Maybe offer to reimburse her on departure if the items are still usable?

When we had an aupair we went to ikea and bought that kind of stuff. It sort of seemed necessary to make it homely iykwim.

Lindy2 Wed 01-Nov-17 21:33:49

She should have checked with you but £50 isn't that much and £100 per week sounds pretty low pay to me.
I would reimburse her but make it clear she needs to check with you first, going forward.

Puffthemagicdragongoestobed Wed 01-Nov-17 21:40:13

Thanks for your views. Lindy, I felt £100 is pretty average. I have heard of variations from £85 to £110 around here but maybe we need to review then at some point.

NataliaOsipova Wed 01-Nov-17 21:43:39

I’d be tempted to pay for all/most of it as it’s only £50 and you want someone who is happy looking after your children. But I’d say, pretty firmly, that next time she needs to ask beforehand....

Puffthemagicdragongoestobed Wed 01-Nov-17 21:48:30

I think you are all right. Thank you

pret Wed 01-Nov-17 21:51:24

It’s £50. Not enough to worry about.

I would pay it but tell her that in future she needs to discuss things first.

Mumof56 Wed 01-Nov-17 21:51:38

You think she should be grateful you got her a second job?

LaChatte Wed 01-Nov-17 21:52:11

I'm impressed she went to IKEA and only spent £50.

Caulk Wed 01-Nov-17 21:54:40

I think it’s depends. Jars, picture frames - no, storage -yes.

Appuskidu Wed 01-Nov-17 21:55:34

I actually think she should have asked you first before spending your money on jars and picture frames!

Butterymuffin Wed 01-Nov-17 22:01:28

Some of the stuff she could take home, like the picture frames? Maybe pay for the rest of it. Then again it might make very little difference - I can see the point of those saying just pay it all this time.

Puffthemagicdragongoestobed Wed 01-Nov-17 22:01:46

OK, I will consider paying for this but will make it clear she needs to discuss with us first next time. I think it was less the amount than the principle that she just went ahead with it that bugged me.

NataliaOsipova Wed 01-Nov-17 22:05:59

You could put it as “These aren’t expenses. Expenses are things like ice creams and cinema tickets when you’re out with the children. However, we’d like you to feel happy and at home here, so I’m happy to reimburse you this time as a present. But please discuss anything like this with me beforehand in future.”

Ontheboardwalk Wed 01-Nov-17 22:39:34

How many tea lights did she buy?

DrinkFeckArseGirls Fri 03-Nov-17 16:34:04

Wow, when I was an au pair that would have been unthinkable. It’s a nice gesture to offer an au pair skme nice bits for her room, but to be rprsented with an unexoected bill is not ok. I’s hust pay for some of it and give her a chnace to return other bits if she doesn't want to pay for them.

MidLifeCrisis2017 Fri 03-Nov-17 16:38:58

I was an au pair and DD is at the moment.

You are supposed to be treated as part of the family - there's absolutely no way one of my kids would spend £50 and expect me to reimburse them!

blueshoes Fri 03-Nov-17 16:59:48

Your aupair is taking the piss and being entitled. To underline the point about her not checking in with you first, I would not automatically pick up the tab but make it clear you will only pay for items that are necessary (e.g. storage, fresh pillows, bedding) but not decorative/personal items. The latter she can either pick up the tab or return.

Is she good at her duties and otherwise a keeper? If not, I wonder whether it is worth investing further in her staying. I would be truly shocked at this and think she does not know how to behave.

OVienna Fri 03-Nov-17 19:20:36

Nope, cheeky. Very unlikely I'd pay.

Oly5 Fri 03-Nov-17 19:24:08

£100 is decent weekly
Pocket money for an au pair. I’d be put out if my au pairs had done this!
I would pay it but say she should have discussed beforehand and any future purchases need to be discussed

Puffthemagicdragongoestobed Fri 03-Nov-17 20:09:41

Thank you for those posts today. I had thought I was being petty in being so annoyed about the situation but I am glad that so many of you empathise!
I still haven't paid her for her things - was so busy at work - but I guess will do over the weekend - to keep the peace.

The other reason why I was so wound up by it is that - so far - she has just not been a great au pair! She still has not really bonded properly with the kids after 2 months of being here. She really only does the bare minimum with them. At the beginning she only really oversaw them playing but didn't do much to engage with them. I had to prompt her to do more with them, like playing board games or going to the park. Not that my kids need constant entertainment, they are content to entertain themselves, but some more engagement would be nice.
In those entire 2 months I think she only took them to the park once after school, even though I ask her all the time to do it. She just takes them home, let's them play with lego, maybe does a board game. Cooks. Eats with them. That's it.
Also, not sure how much homework she does with my son, I have not seen much evidence recently.
My daughter is walking all over her.
She is from my home country and I also asked her to speak in my native language to the kids, which she is only doing reluctantly. Her English is excellent, almost like a native, so no need to 'learn' it when speaking to the kids, and obviously less effort.
The one thing that she is great at is cooking. She always cooks enough for me too which is really nice. But I would prefer if she did more with the kids rather than cooking..

She is quite reserved, keeps herself to herself. Stays in her room most of the time. It's hard to engage into a conversation with her - we haven't gelled with her at all!

I am not even so sure why she came here - she is not particularly interested in the kids, she does not really visit London, she does not need to learn English. She has some local friends here and some mysterious boyfriend too apparently. Sometimes I wonder if there is some situation at home that she wanted to get away from..
I did have a funny feeling when I interviewed her in the summer but with so few candidates that were available I went with her in the end.

Maybe we will give her until xmas and then review..
Aargh.. it's a tricky situation. We have also looked into alternative childcare arrangements - maybe an au pair is just not right for us...

blueshoes Fri 03-Nov-17 20:32:55

Puff, I sympathise. Aupairs have been thin on the ground since Brexit and the situation is unlikely to improve.

Having had more aupairs than I care to list, I got the feeling from this stunt that your aupair is probably not all that great all round.

Assuming you are a decent host family, the success of the relationship depends very much on the personality of the aupair. Personally, I think you have tried hard enough with her and given her enough chances. I don't see how she is motivated to improve.

The question is when to call an end to it. Christmas is a good time as she will probably want to go home and it is a natural break. It might be difficult to find someone for early January (in an already difficult market) and so I would start now.

Nowadays, I try to find someone with a little get up and go. So a gap yearer or someone whose time is naturally limited because they have something better to go to. These aupairs take more pride in their work and try to do a good job in their short stay. My best aupairs went on to better things. I avoid drifters or people who you wonder why they are doing this - often it is because they cannot do anything else.

porkandcheese Fri 03-Nov-17 20:51:57

We've had two great au pairs and one which really didn't cut the mustard and went after the first school term. Your au pair sounds he v similar to our one who left after a term. Worth saying they have a responsibility to make it work too - it's not just on you so don't feel bad. I would overlook the fifty quid (one of mine asked for a £200 duvet!!!!) although you're correct to feel aggrieved on principle. Everyone else has already given great advice on how to deal with it so no point in going there. I would say don't give up on au pairs as a form of childcare based on this experience though. We are still in touch with our two fantastic au pairs - in fact our first is back in the UK next week and has been in touch for us to all get together as a family.

Because they are part of the family it's hard to pull them up if you feel they are falling short - but perhaps a 'how do you think it's going' type chat might provoke some reflection on her part and precipitate a change... be that leaving or bucking up her engagement. Best of luck. When it works it's brilliant but can empathise when it just isn't quite gelling together with you all.

Puffthemagicdragongoestobed Fri 03-Nov-17 21:32:47

Yes Blueshoes, the situation with au pairs is dire. I remember being stood up for Skype interviews, good girls getting snapped up in literally one day...
porkandcheese, how did it end with your not so good au pair? Did you have to end it or did they go out of their own accord?
I have thought about having the sort of review chat. The thing with our au pair though is that she just has no energy at all, not even in her personal life seemingly. Not sure if she would change...
I need to see how things go. At the moment my job is very full on so I don’t actually have the time for au pair hunting..
if things really end with her I still have other childcare options open, but they would involve having to drop off the kids in the morning at breakfast club and picking them up from after school care, not ideal but doable.

Doggington Fri 03-Nov-17 21:41:26

As a long standing au pair employer I would advise letting her go if after two months she has no bond with the kids, isn’t nicely integrated into family life and is pulling odd stunts like this in IKEA.

It’s true that brexit and terrorism have slashed the number of au pairs looking to come here but with perseverence you can still find good ones. We have a lovely au pair at the moment, it took me 4x more time than normal to find her but she’s a keeper and will be a friend for years to come. In my experience if it’s not good after a month or so it’s never going to be right.

And to answer your OP I would not pay for her IkEA purchases. It’s obvious she should have asked you for what was needed.

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