au pair FAQ

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All about Au Pairs

What is an au pair? An Au pair is usually a student from outside the UK who live in your home as part of your family. They earn pocket money from looking after your child for a few hours a day when required sometimes also doing light housework. They can also babysit for you in the evenings or weekends. Au pairs do not have to be exclusively from the European Union. However, Au pairs from some countries outside Europe can also become an au pair but must apply for a visa which usually takes around 3 months. Au pairs generally come to the UK to improve their English and as a host family you must allow time for your au pair to attend a school or local college. Unlike a live-in nanny, Au pairs should not be treated as an employee.  There are cultural benefits on both sides. Your Au pair gets a picture of family life in the UK and similarly  your child benefits from spending time with someone from another country, possibly even learning another language

Does an Au pair need Qualifications? An au pair doesn’t need any formal qualifications in childcare. Nor is it required that they have any previous experience of looking after children! For this reason, we insist that an au pair is not left sole charge if your child is under two years of age. Your Au pair needs to be excited about looking after your children, and ready to follow your lead in your parenting methods.

How do I source an Au pair? Use Nutkin! We have contacts abroad and can source the candidates for you. We will match your needs with details supplied by our Au pairs. If they are already in the UK you may be able to interview in person before offering an au pair a place otherwise we recommend a Skype interview. We also carry out identity and background checks, and obtain references, where possible, for all au pairs on our books.

How long will my au pair stay? They normally stay is between six months to a year  depending on the needs of the family, or the Au pair’s visa. If your Au pair is European, there’s no restriction on their length of stay. However, from outside Europe, the visa will expire after a maximum of two years.

Does we have to provide accommodation for our Au pair? Yes. They will be part of the family. You will need to provide your Au pair with their own bedroom and an area to use for study along with all their food and full use of your home & facilities. If they accompany you on day trips out or to restaurants, you should cover the costs.

What hours can I expect my Au pair to work? Your au pair should not work for more than 35 hours a week  over five days. As they they are also here to study and need time to attend language school, usually five hours a day is common practice, plus up to two evenings babysitting a week. Do make your Au pair requirements very clear to us. If you’re likely to need cover most weekends, this must be made clear at the start, but consider that the au pair will need one full weekend off per calendar month to allow her for rest and travel around the UK. You must talk to your au pair, either on the phone or by skype or face-time before they travel. We can then draw up an agreement once you’re both comfortable and in agreement with the arrangements.

Can my Au pair look after pre-schoolers? Au pairs should not be used for pre schoolers, especially babies under the age of 2. They are not qualified and are in the country to learn the language in exchange for board and pocket money. They are generally used for school runs and for no more than a few hours before and after school/nursery

How much pocket money should my Au pair receive? According to the BAPAA, if your Au pair works 25 hours a week they must receive a minimum of £75 a week. For 30 hours a week this should be at least £90. However, at Nutkin we advise all families to offer a minimum of £100 per week because this is a competitive market and candidates don’t like to earn less than this, especially in and around London. You will need to provide extra pocket money if your Au pair babysits outside the contracted hours, but you are allowed to use the au pair up to 2 evenings per week for babysitting on the days she already works. If you need babysitting on their day off, the au pair is allowed to refuse, and if they accept, they should be paid extra. We advise a minimum of £5 per hour. Also consider the other expenses as your Au pair will be living in your home. There will be another mouth to feed and extra heating and electricity costs. If you want your Au pair to use your car, you’ll need to include them on your insurance which can be costly. You will also need to supplement them if they use public transport with your children. We can provide a SIM card for your au pair with £5 credit pre-installed, then it is up to you to make sure your au pair has enough credit to get in touch with you in case of an emergency as well as making sure she has a working mobile phone if she cannot use the one from her home country with a UK SIM card.

Can my au pair help with household duties? Yes, your Au pair becomes part of the family, therefore should contribute keeping your home clean & tidy, but they are not housekeepers and they should not do anything too strenuous such as gardening or doing the weekly shop but asking them to help with a top-up shop is acceptable. Light housekeeping is also acceptable. For example, an Au pair can:

  • cook meals for your children and in some cases the whole family
  • do the washing and ironing and change the children’s sheets
  • help with the washing up
  • basic cleaning such as running the hoover around and giving a quick dust.

Show your Au pair how to work your oven or hob if necessary and the house alarm if you have one, show them if there is a certain way you like things to be done.

What if my au pair doesn’t work out? If sadly the Au pair arrangement doesn’t work. Perhaps the family has high expectations or perhaps the fit isn’t quite right. Maybe they are homesick, having never been away from home before. As difficult as these situations may be try to resolve the problem as best you can unless your Au pair seriously breached your trust. It may be a simple misunderstanding due to a language barrier because your au pair isn’t fluent in English yet, going over the details of your agreement or having a notepad/diary to write things down can resolve any confusion. If there are still unresolved issues, contact us and we will be able to act as mediators or source a new Au pair. The rule is that you must give your au pair a minimum of 2 weeks notice, if you don’t wish your au pair to work those 2 weeks or for the au pair to leave the family home before the end of the two weeks, no matter the reason you must either way pay for them to stay in a hotel for those 2 weeks, or pay for their return flight. In no way you should make an au pair homeless!