Received Monday, October 19, 2009
I am an American aupair working in a very expensive European country. By law, all employees must receive at least four weeks (normally five or six) paid weeks vacation time, regardless of their profession. Both of my employers work, and both receive five weeks. In my contract, it states I receive five weeks as well. Children here are on year-round school schedule, and generally have two weeks off in the fall, two weeks at Christmas, two weeks in the springs, and around four weeks during summer. So, having worked as an aupair for another family, I anticipated planning my vacation time around the children's, as most families go somewhere, every break, for one week. The aupair is then expected to work the second week. Fine. No problem at all.
So here is my problem. When I arrived, two months ago, I told told my employer, the father, that I planned to take my five weeks vacation spread out, exactly as the kids had their vacation. He said that was fine. And the first vacation week I was planning on taking was Oct 9-16 (as the father was taking the kids out of the country this week), which would have been the second week of the kids' vacation, and I was to work the first week because they would be out of school.
Well, the mother decided she wanted to take the kids out of school a week and a half early to go to her home country with the children. So I have been off from September 26 until today, October 18th, when I only asked to have off one week. I do not live with the family, but do rely on eating with them everyday (as I am an aupair and do not make much money), and only budgeted to have to buy my own food during the time that I asked for off. So, consequently, I had to spend $200+ on food while they were away. That sounds like a lot in US dollars, I know, so please do not say I could have eaten for less. The country I am living in is 2-3x more expensive than the US, and I only make the equivalent of $800 a month.
I met with the father today, and he said to me, "This doesn't matter to me either way, but do you want to use your vacation time for all the time you have been off, or shall we just put it down as hours that you owe?" This has really been bothering because I feel like I am being penalized for their decision to take the kids out of school early, and leave for 3 weeks. I was not given a choice as to whether or not I wanted to accompany them to work, so I do not feel as though I should have to make up the hours or use my vacation time. Who chooses to use 3 out of 5 weeks in October?? And the fact that I had to pay living costs while they were away also plays into this.
It was also my birthday during this time, and I didn't receive a phone call or an email or anything. I know in most jobs you would not expect to; however, as an aupair, I am supposed to be viewed as "one of the family", so it hurts that they didn't even acknowledge it.
What do you guys think? I would like to sit down with the father this week, but I want to be able to with confidence because he is not the nicest man I have ever met, and he is quite stingy, and can be very unreasonable. I know this site is supposed to be for nannies and nanny issues, but thank you for your advice.