What is an Au Pair?
The Au Pair program is an international cultural exchange that gives the possibility to young people to spend some time abroad, learn more about a different culture, improve their skills in a foreign language in exchange for help with duties related to childcare. The term “au pair” from French means “on equal terms”, signifying that Au Pair and Host Family treat each other as equals.
The family benefits because the Au Pair is live-in and flexible. She/he will help with the children and with light household chores for about 25 hours (30 max) per week which can include babysitting.
The Au Pair benefits from the exciting experience of living in a foreign country, learning the language and the culture of that country and is also provided with pocket money of usually £80-£100 per week.
An Au Pair must be treated and welcomed as one of the family – this is also the way that you will benefit most from your Au Pair.
The Au Pair is expected to help with a degree of household chores which could include some (but not all!) of the following:
Putting the washing on
Folding & putting laundry away
Loading/Unloading the dishwasher
Helping to keep kitchen clean & tidy
Helping to keep bathrooms clean
Tidying children’s rooms and communal areas of house
Preparing light meals for the children
Small grocery shopping
Ironing for children
They should NOT be given heavy duty tasks.
The Au Pair should not be the only one in the household to undertake these tasks.
Chores should be shared between Au Pair and Family (or other domestic help like a cleaner).
The Au Pair should be supporting you with childcare, more than helping with any housework.
The Au Pair must be given enough time to attend a language course (normally a couple of hours a 1-2 mornings per week in term time). Remember that Au pairs are learning English and are not yet fluent in English!
Monica's Nannies requires its host families to contributes with the School and at least £20 per month towards benefits (travel card, telephone).
My Au pairs are not permitted to have any sole care of babies/toddlers under the age of 2 years.
A basic outline of duties, hours and conditions should be agreed to before the Au Pair arrives. This should be set out in the initial Letter of Invitation – this is the means by which you offer your Au Pair the position, and is drafted for you by me.
Any subsequent changes to the agreed duties, hours and conditions must be agreed to by both parties.
An Au Pair should be given a 4 weeks’ paid holiday per year (1.66 days per month) plus all UK bank holidays. You can offer your Au Pair further holidays paid or unpaid. The Au Pair should be given sufficient time to be able to return home on visits.
An Au Pair should be paid a minimum weekly pocket money of £80 and more for 30 hrs.
Native English speaking Au pairs normally receive a higher pocket money.
An Au Pair must be given a private room to themselves. This must be clean, comfortable and include a window (!). You should provide them with a good bed, chair & desk and somewhere for them to store their clothes and other belongings. A television is common and a WiFi connection essential!
An Au Pair can sometimes work 1 day at the weekend (by prior agreement) but they must be compensated by being given a day off during the week.
The Au Pair should be invited to join the family in some leisure activities, particularly birthdays and other family events.
The Au Pair should share meals with the family and generally be treated as a family member, otherwise he/ she is likely to be regarded as an employee in the eyes of HRMC and subject to National Minimum Wage regulations.
The Au Pair should be prepared to pay for their own travel costs (outward and return), although some families offer to help with the cost, or help to pay for their travel back home again.
The host family must collect the Au Pair from the airport when he/she first arrives. If this is absolutely not possible then the family must arrange and pay for the Au pair’s collection from their arrival terminal.
Although an Au Pair is enthusiastic & energetic, has usually at least helped in their own homes and has some experience with children, it is important to remember is that an Au Pair is neither a nanny nor a cleaner and they are young and still inexperienced.
Make sure your own expectations are not too high. Having too high an expectation is the most common reason for a placement not working out.
If you need experienced help, or people with training I have many other categories of candidate which would suit you better.
The Au Pair will work the hours you agree with them, but in an average family, the Au Pair might work for 1 hour in the morning, helping to get the children ready for, and maybe taking them to, school/nursery. Then 4 or 5 hours in the afternoon. The Au Pair must be given the possibility of attending an English course, otherwise they will not be seen as an Au pair but more of an employee.
Although you must ensure your Au Pair feels part of your family, do not be surprised and certainly not offended if they choose to spend much of their ‘off duty’ time in their own room or out with friends. This is very normal – they would be doing the same thing in their own homes. Just as long as they are happy – and you are too!