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Just wonder if anyone else has funny stories they have heard about ap's treatment..

(19 Posts)
chloeb2002 Thu 25-Aug-11 22:16:30

Well maybe not so funny!

We ahev Ap's and they live with us , assist with my childcare and help me with the house work... yet they are part of our home.. like an older sibling... therefore we treat them as such and for 3 years this has worked very very well with different ap's!
however.. one ap came form a family that paidn her $170 (aus) a week.. wored 6 days a week... looking after 5 children... plus housework.. 2 children below school age.. bothe parents worked full time... funnily enough she left... she wasnt allowed to use the phone..had a designated shelf of food in the fridge... and wasnt allowed to eat anything else the family had...

My current ap has a friend who can only eat food in the fridge that has red dots stickers put on it..????? WTF???

she has another friend who is also worked 6 days a week... from6 am till 7 pm often. No Tv in her room. kids have priority on family room TV... and then host parents have use till they go to bed and watch the TV in Their room!
Very limited internet access so she cannot skype to call home ( so she comes to my house and skypes! with our consent!)
...
anyone else.. it may help people new to au paiurs to work out if they want one and maybe how not to treat the???

kelly2000 Fri 26-Aug-11 11:44:22

The most common ones I have heard about is parents hiring a young woman telling her the job is one of an au-pair, which like you say should be mor eof a big sister role with 25 - 30 hours of basic childcare ((i.e no babies), and light housework (i.e dusting and hoovering not cleaning bathrooms and fridges etc), and then once the girl arrives it turns out they want a nanny/housekeepr/maid of all work. They pay an aupair wage, and yet expect the girl to be doing all the childcare, cleaning the house (kitchens, bathrroms, laundry etc), shopping etc. They then justify this by claiming that the aupair gets a lower wage as she has no childcare qualifications, which is not true. I know in some countries they have been made to pay back pay to make up for the difference, and in one country in Europe they had a TV programme made naming and shaming families that were behaving badly. Another thing that is quite common is parents putting off paying the pocket money, and sometimes even refusing to pay if they know the aupair is leaving. Aupairs can get legal redress, but this is very difficult for a teenage girl in a foreign country especially as the parents often tell them they are acting legally etc.
However, the worst ones I have heard about was actually a british woman talking in a a paper about how she hired attractive aupairs as she wanted her husband to sleep with them, as she was worried he might have an affair outside of the house so preferred he slept with the aupair as she felt that would mean he was less likely to leave her. This was the most disgusting thing I have heard of as we are talking about grown adults hiring a teenage girl telling her she is an aupair and then just assuming she will sleep with the father of the family. Sick, sick, sick.

fraktious Fri 26-Aug-11 11:57:01

It seems to me the root of most of these stories lies in families not making things clear at the start, however many families themselves are shockingly uneducated about what they have to do as well.

The horror stories aren't confined to au pairs - anyone who works in another person's house is in a vulnerable position and may find it difficult to communicate with their employer. Of course that's doubled by the language barrier and not knowing the system.

That said restrictions on phone use or Internet use (a blanket ban is odd), TV and food aren't unusual. One would hold the separate food shelf rule went both ways - the family couldn't help themselves to the au pair's grub!

The guideline to treat as part of the family sets up bizarre expectations. The ways teens are treated in my family, DH's family and how we will probably treat our teen DC are hugely different. Any teen in my family, for example, would be given the WEP key, door keys, the burgular alarm code, free run of the cooking and washing facilities, a timetable of other people's movements and launched onto the deep end whereas DH's family still ate together, played family games etc.

Clafford Fri 26-Aug-11 15:51:37

Our AP's friend, also an AP, had cleaning up dog sXXt from the carpet as one of her express duties.

anewyear Mon 29-Aug-11 20:55:56

Not just confined to nannies and Au Pairs etc Kelly2000,
Im a childminder, self employed, give them a clear written 'handbook' if you like, as to all my T&C's, policies and a Contract, the fact i pay my own Tax & Ins, and they still think they employ me.. and dictate their terms.
I soon put them right (smiling niclely) as to what to expect from my service smile

duchesse Mon 29-Aug-11 21:09:06

Basically you treat them like a teenaged/ young adult member of the family who is expected to pull their weight a bit. This can be a bit difficult for people whose children are still young, so I guess that our au pairs have the advantage of being part of a bunch of teenagers and the same advantages and duties + a few more, whilst having a small child to converse with and help me with. They are not slaves. I've heard of terrible exploitative situations from British friends who had gone to be au pairs in mainland Europe 20+ years ago, even 50 years ago in one friend's case. So it's nothing new.

You should just never send your kid to be an pair without giving them some negotiating skills, or at least the ability to recognise when a situation is untenable. Also the wherewithall for a plane ticket home.

slowpoke Tue 30-Aug-11 09:21:52

Interesting... I don't really treat my au pairs like a teenage kid. I treat them like employees. In fact, I have a new one arriving very soon, and just had an e-mail for her asking for a contract and mentioning some key points she would like included in the contract. This is all fine, as I am already drafting the contract.

I prefer a profession relationship sealed with a contract for clarity of expectations on both sides.

duchesse Tue 30-Aug-11 10:53:21

anewyear- a contract is just that, an agreement between two parties. It's no more a question of you dictating your terms than it is them dictating theirs. It's a question of negotiating until you find a compromise you can both agree on. It's a pretty poor and inflexible way to do business if you just expect only people who agree with your terms to come to you. It's one way of doing business I suppose, just not a very effective one.

Say you manufactured rose-scented soap, and someone came to you one day and said "Could you make me some orange-flower scented soap?". You can either say "No, sod off, I only make rose-scented!", or you can sit down and think how many bars of orange-flower you would have to make to make it worthwhile buying in the oils and negotiate with them over quantities and actually expand your business.

Obviously childminding is not a standard business in that some of the parameters cannot be altered (ie if parents demanded you keep their kid in a box all day you'd have to say no), but I still think there must be room for negotiation taking all the factors into account.

duchesse Tue 30-Aug-11 10:55:32

And slowpoke is negotiating with her au pair and making it a proper business relationship. Which also works fine. I prefer to be flexible and work on a case-by-case basis with parameters as they arise- you can't foresee everything. Some are non-negotiable- ie I wouldn't have an alcoholic or a drug addict or a thief, so I screen well to avoid that. Others I can be flexible over.

kelly2000 Tue 30-Aug-11 11:13:06

I think having a contract with an aupair is fine, as long as it is reasonable. If a contract is not reasonable, it is more or less void anyway. If you are paying a live in aupair £100 or less a week and expecting them to do all the childcare, housekeeping, laundry etc then that is unreasonable contract or not, if on the otherhand your contract is outlining reasonable duties then that is fine and it is nice for the aupair to know what is expected. An aupair should be like a big sister arrangement, but i think because of the economic downturn a lot of people are using them as a cheap alternative to a nanny or nursery and a cleaner and the idea has become lost (although as duschesse says they ahve always been people around who try to exploit them).

fraktious Tue 30-Aug-11 11:59:49

A contract/signed agreement with an au pair, or at least a written statement of employment, is obligatory in the UK and one party thinking it's unreasonable doesn't make it void.

It also sets out a basis for negotiation - or rather the draft does. If an au pair isn't mature enough to a) realise that and b) negotiate an arrangement with which they are happy they shouldn't be doing the job. Talking about things with a reasonable adult where you're in a position to take it or leave it (i.e. BEFORE you accept the job) is much easier than negotiating with a 9 year old and standing your ground over duties from a distance is easier than facing down a tantrumming 5 year old.

Strix Tue 30-Aug-11 12:44:21

An au pair is an employee like any other in my house (not that there are any other employees in my house).

If anyone here buys their au pair a gym membership, a mobile phone, or a bus pass, please come look at my benefit in kind thread and help me see the light on that one.

Strix Tue 30-Aug-11 12:45:25

benefits in kind

kelly2000 Tue 30-Aug-11 21:14:04

If a judge thinks it is unreasonable it is void. A court will not uphold a contract that is one side-ed or unfair, especially if the one it is unfair to is a teenage girl whose first langauge is not english, and the other side are a pair of fully grown adults who speak English as a first language.

fraktious Tue 30-Aug-11 21:31:53

You do X, we pay you Y is not necessairly one-sided or unfair. A contract is there to set out the terms of employment, if you don't like it you don't sign it. I never cease to be amazed by the number of people who will enter into an agreement without having thrashed through the details first. And more fool them. An offer letter stating duties would, in the absence of a written contract (which the family have 2 months to provide), be grounds for negotiation.

That doesn't exclude the possibility for deceit but in the vast majority of cases where the au pair feels they have been treated unfair it is because the family have not been straight with then and there is NO remedy for that.

One person thinking it is unreasonable does not make it so. My definition of unreasonable is probably very different to that of other posters on this thread, defined by my experiences of living and working in other people's homes in different countries and, lately, of having someone live and work in mine.

There's also a presumption there that English is not that person's first language (not that case for most Aus/NZ/Canadian nationals eligible to come as au pairs), and that they are a teenager, and that they are female. Should a male, EMT, 24 year old be treated differently? Au pairs don't have a special status. The law doesn't confer additional protection just because they are young, foreign and potentially vulnerable but it does give them all the protection that any other employee has which so many people who purport to support au pairs seem intent on denying them.

kelly2000 Wed 31-Aug-11 01:47:07

No they should not be treated differently, I was using the teenage girl as an example of when a court would throw a contract out. In England and wales, if a court thinks a contract is unfair and one sided they can declare it void regardless of whether both parties signed it or not. the courts would not use the "more fool them arguement". they would look at several factors, and if for example the party that got the raw deal was a teenage girl whose first language was not English then that would count against the other party if they were grown adults who knew the language etc. The courts would also look at whether the contract was in keeping with the law, so regardless of whether the parties signed and agreed to it, it the aupair was getting too low a wage the contract would not count against her if she tried to reclaim wages. And although it is very very difficult auapirs can get remedies for being treated unfairly. In other EU countries couples who have hired auapirs and then got them to do far too much have been made to pay back pay for instance.

Strix Wed 31-Aug-11 09:08:02

I think a contract that is very unreasonable is far more likely to result in a disgruntled employee rapidly departing than a court case. And, of course, a contract which is truly unreasonable is likely to get much support here on MN.

I recently interviewed a girl who was here in the UK working for a nasty family. She is 19, her English is excellent. She was looking for a new family. She certainly wasn't going to stick around and work it out through the courts. I felt sorry for her and thought about hiring her largley so I could help her escape the nasty family. But, in the end she disappeared (as interviewee au pairs sometimes do) and I hired someone else.

And of course if you talk someone into signing an illegal contract it won't be legally binding. However, it is worth noting that there is no minimum wage for au pairs. I can hire someone legally for 40 hours per week and pay them £50 per week. No one I would want working for me would take that job. But, legally, I could do it.

Incidentally, speaking of contract negotiations, I stay away from potential au pairs who don't ask questions or make any requests regarding the contract. If they can't negotiate on their own behalf, how will they do it on my children's behalf?

Strix Wed 31-Aug-11 09:09:01

oops

"And, of course, a contract which is truly unreasonable is not likely to get much support here on MN.

chloeb2002 Thu 01-Sep-11 21:37:04

I agree that i have never had any contract with any of my au pairs.. except a verbal one that we talk at length about what we will provide.. and expect.. I did have an estra one told to me last night.. ap's friends host family recentky only gave her 1/2 pay as she was sick... she had incidently caught tonsilitits from the kids / family ! She then had to pay for gp's and antibiotics from her 1/2 pay... and to boot in 6 months they will offer her no paid hoildays.... I am a little cranky at this family... she also repeatedly works from 8 am till 6 pm... and does a 6 day week. for a whopping $170 ( au) a week.

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