Questions from au pairs

“Is it allowed for an au pair to wash cars?”, “Is it au pair-work to clean windows outside?”, “Is it allowed for an au pair to make gardening”, “Is it allowed for the host family to take the passport of the au pair and hide it?”, “Can an au pair have a friend overnight?” and “Should an au pair work Friday after Ascension Day?”

Merete Pårensgård, Head of Au Pair Department, Udlændingeservice gave a seminar  “Updates on Au Pairs”  on the meeting “Au Pair Orientation” held 22 May 2010, 13.00-17.00 hrs by Babaylan-Denmark and Kirkernes Integrations Tjeneste in Copenhagen. After the updates, it was time for questions from au pairs and the chairmen of the meeting Judy Jover, Babaylan-DK, Chairperson and Rozvi Alberto, Youth Consultant, Kirkernes Integrationstjeneste.    

Merete Pågensgård answered according to the law and to cultural habits in Denmark. As the meeting would know the work of an au pair is regulated in the au pair-agreement The contract tells ie. about the content and working hours. It is signed by the host familiy and by the au pair-person. The tasks are typically inside the field of housework like cleaning, washing of clothes, cooking and looking after children. There might be uncertainty about tasks being inside or outside the content of the contract.

One of the questions which was explanated to cultural habits and the familiarposition was washing of the cars of the host family. It is a cultural habit in Denmark for the whole family to wash cars on Sundays. If so, it was ok for the the host family to ask the au pair to join them. It was not ok to ask the au pair to go and wash cars alone on a weekday. The same kind of explanation was given to questions about gardening. It was ok if the host family went gardening, but not ok to let an au pair make gardening alone the whole day on a weekday.

Cleaning windows outside was also explained according to family habits and what was legally allowed in doing work at home. It was ok to clean windows when you could do it standing at the ground, it was not ok to clean windows outside of an apartment on 2nd and 3rd floor.

Merete Pågensgård told it was illegaly that the host family kept the passport of an au pair-person, in stead it was a good idea to give a copy to save. Merete Pågensgård generally recommended dialogue between the au pairs and the host families so conflicts could be avoided. Ie. if an au pair had a person staying overnight.

Merete Pågensgård told that it was a new habit that Friday after Ascension Day is a day off for many Danes. It is legally a work day and au pairs should be working on that day as normally. But again, better to talk about it than getting into conflicts.

As an observer it was interesting to hear the kind of questions from the au pairs. They put focus of possible conflicts and Danish habits. It was also exciting to hear the answers and how the answers related to legislation and cultural habits. Since au pairs are working in an atmosphere of different cultures and is in an exchange program of culture ie Danish culture it is fine to hear both about daily cultural habits and habits which can result in to conflicts.

The survey on au pairs today in Denmark will continue in gathering information, photos and objects belonging to au pairs. The survey is on behalf of the National Museum of Denmark, Research and Exhibitions, Modern Danish Times.

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