What is an Au Pair?
An Au Pair is a young person, usually 18-27 years old, who lives with a family in another country for up to 1 year. The Au Pair Programme has existed for a few decades and is a Cultural Exchange scheme based around childcare. This means that the Au Pair/Au Pair Plus will live with the family as part of the family.
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 per week and also babysit for 2 evenings per week.
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 about £70-£80 per week (more for an Au Pair Plus). Additionally, all of our Au Pairs love spending time with children!
- 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.
- Although usually female there are also many good male Au Pairs.
- The Au Pair is expected to help with a degree of household chores which could include some of the following:
Putting the washing on
Folding & putting laundry away
Loading/Unloading the dishwasher
Helping to keep kitchen clean & tidy, including sweeping & mopping floors
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 or asked to Spring Clean.
- 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).
- The Au Pair should be supporting you in looking after the children more than looking after the house.
- The Au Pair must be given enough time to attend a language course (normally a couple of hours a few mornings per week in term time).
- Au Pairs should not be given on-going sole charge of children under 2 years old.
- 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).
- 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 week's paid holiday per year (2 weeks per 6 mths or 1.66 days per month). 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 £70 and minimum £85 for an Au Pair Plus.
- If an Au Pair is babysitting 2 nights per week, only 1 of these evenings should be at the weekend, the other ought to be during the week.
- 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 and Wifi connection is also common.
- An Au Pair can work 1 day at the weekend (by prior agreement) but they must be compensated by being given a day off during the week. They should be given the occasional full weekend off, so that they may sometimes go away for the weekend if they choose.
- If an Au Pair is keen on animals they might enjoy spending a little time caring for your pets; cat feeding, dog walking, exercising your horses (if they ride).
- The Au Pair should be invited to join the family in some leisure activities.
- The Au Pair should share meals with the family.
- The Au Pair should be prepared to pay for their own travel costs (outward and return). Some families offer to help with the cost, or to pay for their travel back home again.
- The host family should collect the Au Pair from the airport.
- 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. Make sure your own expectations are not too high.
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 hours in the afternoon. The Au Pair must be given the possibility of attending an English course.
8.00 – 9.00 Get children ready, take them to school.
9.30 – 11.30 Au Pair attends language school (they can usually attend different hours if it fits in better with your schedule).
11.30 – 3.30 Au Pair goes out with friends or spends time on homework, or on computer usually in her/his room.
3.30 – 7.30 Collects children from school, takes them to any activities, prepares light meal for children, supervises homework.
From 7.30 If not babysitting, will often go out with friends, do homework or just relax in their room or with the family.
(please note there are many variations, this is a very basic example)
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!
An Au Pair is always foreign, is usually under 28yrs old, has experience but is most often unqualified in childcare. They live with you as part of the family. Whereas a Nanny is usually native, trained and qualified in childcare and is your Employee (with according rights and benefits).
An Au Pair works about 25 hours per week (over 5 days) and babysits up to 2 evenings, for £70-£80 pocket money per week.
An Au Pair Plus works about 30-35 hours per week, and babysits up to 2 evenings.
Both positions usually involve helping you with children and household.
A Mother's Help is a person with significant childcare experience who can work 8 to 10 hours per day. The Mother's Help is either a native English speaker or speaks English almost fluently. They may live in or out, but our Mother's Helps live in. A Mother's Help position is not suitable for many candidates coming from overseas, because the number of hours in the working day often leaves them too few hours to attend language courses. However we do have candidates who prefer to work longer hours. You may need to pay tax and NI contributions and adhere to employment law.
A Nanny is someone who is specially trained and has childcare qualifications, or someone with a very significant amount of childcare experience. Nannies are employees of the family and often live out. Nannies look after your children, their washing and bedrooms and prepare their meals, but do not usually help generally in the household. They can look after children of any age sole charge and work either full or part time. They charge ca. £8 - £10 per hour. You will need to pay tax and NI contributions and adhere to employment law.
We are not specialists in this area and cannot advise, but many people ask us about the Minimum Wage, Tax, NI contributions and Employment regulations relating to Au Pairs. Having talked to Acas and HMRC we understand that if you treat your Au Pair like an Au Pair as per our lengthy description 'what is an Au Pair' at the top of this page and fundamentally as a part of your family, who is here on a cultural exchange, and you do not pay them 'excessive' pocket money then they are exempt from the minimum wage, tax, NI contributions and employment regulations. Everyone's situation is slightly different however, so we advise you to speak to HMRC yourself to determine whether your 'Au Pair' is actually more of an Employee to you. The following link might help - Au Pairs: Employment Law