Vacationing With Your Au Pair
What are the expectations regarding taking your Au Pair on vacation with the family? Many families choose to take their Au Pair with them on vacations. Imagine a family vacation with an extra set of hands to help with the airport chaos or to assist at the beach and around the pool. Imagine a ski holiday where you and your spouse can actually ski together for part of the day while your Au Pair cares for the children. No researching of local babysitting services needed (nor paying exorbitant rates!) Family vacations also offer your Au pair an opportunity to see parts of Canada and the world that she might not otherwise see. Remember, your Au Pair is PART of your family during her year abroad and this means that she will most likely want to participate in vacations and trips with you too.
Make sure your Au Pair has a Working Holiday Visa! If your Au Pair is in Canada on a 6 month Visitor Visa you will be unable to travel with her if it requires re-entry into Canada. CBSA has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to Au Pairs without Work Visas and they will send your Au Pair back to her country of origin. This is a horrible consequence of hiring an Au Pair without a Working Holiday Visa (see our previous blog post about ensuring you are offering “above board” employment). No family wants to end their vacation with their Au Pair being rejected at the border.
Vacationing With or Without Your Au Pair
How do you manage the cost?
Adding an additional traveller to your vacation costs may or may not be manageable. This is a discussion you will have to have with your Au Pair when it comes to deciding whether she will stay or go. As usual, we cannot stress enough the importance of communication with your Au Pair. Talk with your Au Pair about your concerns and the options for both of you.
We took a past Au Pair with us to Hawaii. We gave our Au Pair the option of travelling with us or staying home as we would not be requiring her for childcare purposes while away. She chose to come with us and paid for her own flight while we footed the bill for food, lodging and entertainment with the family. We did not expect her to babysit or tend to the children while we were holidaying, however it was wonderful to have an extra set of hands around to assist with the children, especially at the airport. She was more than willing to chip in and help out, even though she was on vacation. In the end we had a wonderful trip with our Au Pair and were happy to have helped provide her with an experience she would not have had otherwise. We have also gone on many short weekend or 5 day getaways with other Au Pairs and it was always wonderful to share with each of them new locales, Canadian culture and beautiful scenery.
If you choose to take your Au Pair with you here are a few suggestions to ensure things go smoothly:
1) If you expect your Au Pair to be “on-duty” during your vacation make sure your expectations are clear and you explain the hours and duties prior to embarking on the vacation. If your Au Pair is required to work during the vacation, she should be getting paid. Your Au Pair should also be entitled to some time for herself.
2) Remember that it is often hard for Au Pairs to know what their roles are when they are not alone with the children in their normal environment and usual schedule. When the host parents are present, children act differently and Au Pairs sometimes do not know when to jump in and help or stand back and let the parents take over. Have a discussion with your Au Pair about how you would like to share the responsibilities while on vacation.
3) Talk about sleeping arrangements. It should not be expected or assumed that she will have her own private room and bathroom in your vacation accommodation, especially if her childcare duties are scaled back while away with your family. Will she be sleeping on a pull-out couch or in the same room as the children?
4) If you are headed to amusement parks or attractions with your Au Pair, you should pay for your Au Pair. When your Au Pair has time to herself, she should take care of her own activity costs. You are not expected to buy souvenirs for your Au Pair.
5) Have fun! Vacations shouldn’t be stressful and having your Au Pair along should actually make things easier.
If your Au Pair chooses to stay behind or you cannot afford to have her travel with you, this is a great opportunity for her to use her time off to travel and experience Canada or cross the border and visit our neighbor to the South. Depending on where your Au Pair is from, this may be a good time for her to travel home to visit family as well.
You should be leaving the Au Pair with groceries for the duration of time you will be gone and some extra cash to pick up perishable items. Address in your Au Pair’s contract how she will be compensated when the family goes away. Depending on how often this happens, will she be paid? Will she have use of your vehicle while you are gone? Are guests allowed over to the house? Ensure you have left strict instructions as to your expectations while you are gone. The last thing you want is for anything out of the ordinary to occur while you are hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Your Au Pair is entitled to vacation pay while in Canada. These rates vary from province to province but an approximation is 4% of her pay (check with your specific province). Many host families simply give their Au Pair two weeks off with pay at some point during the year, which is generous as the labour standards actually state that the vacation entitlement does not come until after the first 12 months of employment. If you are in BC or Alberta, the following factsheets will assist you in understanding vacation entitlements.
Timing Your Vacation
We do not suggest that you go away on vacation during the Au Pair’s first three months of arrival. It usually takes a few months for the family and their Au Pair to become completely comfortable with one another and settle into a good routine. Travel and disruption can sometimes negatively affect the process of bonding and getting to know one another.
Keep in mind that you do not want to abandoned your Au Pair during the Christmas holidays. I cannot think of anything worse that being thousands of miles from home over Christmas and then being left by the host family too. If this is unavoidable, make sure that you have this conversation with your Au Pair long in advance of her arrival.
Let us know if you have any personal experiences you’d like to share relating to vacationing with your Au Pair. We’d love to hear from you. Happy travelling!
Canadian Au Pair Solutions