What is an Au Pair?

Au Pair or Nanny - what’s the difference?

A nanny is an experienced and or qualified childcare provider and can range in age from school leaver through to retirement.

An Au Pair is a young person aged between 18 and 30 years old without dependants, who does not necessarily have any childcare experience or qualifications.

A nanny is a waged worker who is entitled to at least the minimum wage and employee benefits such as annual leave and statutory sick pay. A Nanny is also expected to pay tax and national insurance contributions.

An Au Pair travels to the UK to live with a host family, to experience a new culture and to learn a foreign language. In exchange for board, lodging, meals and the opportunity to attend a local language school, the Au Pair will provide childcare and light domestic help. An Au Pair is given ‘pocket money’ and is not usually classed as an employee and as such, is not entitled to the standard employee benefits nor subject to the normal tax and national insurance contributions.

The .gov.uk website has some useful information about employing an au pair to work in your home, including a list of conditions that must be satisfied in order for an Au Pair not to be classified as a worker or employee.

Au Pair checklist:

✔ An Au Pair can be male or female. 

✔ An Au Pair should be a foreign national or EU citizen living with a host family in the UK. They may require an applicable Visa.

✔ You have provided your Au Pair with a written letter of invitation detailing the conditions of their stay, including pocket money to be given, board and lodging provided free of charge (a private bedroom is to be offered), time off for studying and personal use, and details of the hours to be worked and the duties to be performed.

✔ The Au Pair is to be given the opportunity to learn about British culture and in return, will share her own culture with the host family. The opportunity to attend a local language college is also a requirement.

✔ Light domestic duties and childcare is to be provided by the Au Pair which should not exceed 30 hours per week. The Au Pair may also provide babysitting services for two evenings per week.

✔ The Au Pair can travel with the host family on holiday and should also be allowed to return to her own family for holidays during the year.

✔ An Au Pair must be provided with their own room.

✔ The family must usually be of a different nationality to the Au Pair.

How much does an Au Pair earn?

An Au Pair can earn reasonable pocket money, usually about £70 to £85 per week but you may pay more. In the UK, an Au Pair must not work more than 30 hours per week.  If you employee someone to work for more than 30 hours per week then they are not classed as an Au Pair and you will be required to treat them as worker and employee.

How do I find an Au Pair?

Before you start the search process, make a list of the key attributes that you’re looking for in your prospective Au Pair. Consider the type of person that would fit in with your family and lifestyle. Are there particular cultures that you feel you and your family would like to learn more about? Where will your Au Pair live? Do you have a private bedroom or annex to offer? Have you researched local language colleges in your area? 

The British Au Pair Agencies Association can provide up to date information on the current requirement and is certainly worth checking, before inviting an Au Pair to join your family. You can find further employment information on working, jobs and pensions via the gov.uk website.

Further considerations

For many families who do not require full-time childcare but do require part-time help with the children and light housework, an Au Pair can be a good choice. Not only will you enrich the life of a foreign young person through cultural exchange, but very often, the relationships that are built in the process can continue for a lifetime. An Au Pair becomes part of the family when they travel to live abroad with a host family. It is important to remember too that your Au Pair may feel homesick at times so it can be helpful to look into local Au Pair groups or online forums where your Au Pair can meet others which will make the transition that much easier for all concerned.

It is also worth noting that an Au Pair should not be expected to carry out heavier housework duties such as gardening, washing upholstery and carpets, cleaning windows, washing the car or doing ironing and bed changing for parents. Use your discretion when compiling a to-do list. Are you expecting too much at the risk of not finding or retaining a suitable Au Pair? Keep in mind that you will have put in a lot of effort to find your ideal Au Pair so it is important that you keep to the agreement made and offer competitive duties and pocket money so that your Au Pair doesn’t decide to look for a new host family if she’s unhappy.

Your Au Pair should be allowed to return home to visit family and friends each year, at her expense. The current recommendation is that you offer at least 28 days paid holiday. Bank holidays should be treated as such and the Au Pair can either have the day off or another day off in lieu of the bank holiday worked.

It is not recommended that Au Pairs take continuous sole charge of children under two years of age. While you can expect up to two evenings babysitting per week, your Au Pair should be paid extra for any additional evenings worked.

If your Au Pair is expected to drive, it is your responsibility to ensure that she is allowed to do so on her current driving licence. Make sure that your insurance provider is notified and be confident that your Au Pair is capable and responsible driving in the UK prior to allowing her to take your vehicle. Take a drive together so that you can show your Au Pair the local area and have the opportunity to evaluate her driving skills.

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