What is an Au Pair?

Au Pair or Nanny, what’s the difference?

A nanny is an experience 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 17 and 27 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 and the opportunity to attend a local language school, the Au Pair will provide childcare and domestic help. An Au Pair is given ‘pocket money’ and is usually not 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.

Au Pair checklist:

✔ An Au Pair can be male or female. To ensure that your Au Pair isn’t classed as an employee or paid worker, it is important to consider the following:

✔ An Au Pair should be a foreign national or EU citizen living with a host family in the UK. They may require an applicable student or Youth Mobility 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 offered by the Au Pair, this should not exceed 30 hours per week for EU Au Pairs, and no more than 25 hours per week for Au Pairs from Romania and Bulgaria. 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.

How do I find an Au Pair?

Using a searchable Au Pair database such as that offered by Childcare.co.uk, offers access to over 2000 possible candidates. While it is important to note that parents should always carry out thorough background checks, having access to such a large number of potential applicant’s means that half the battle is already won in terms of recruitment.

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 and have you researched local language colleges in your area? You can expect to pay in the region of £70 to £90 per week.

When you create your family profile on Childcare.co.uk, consider adding as much relevant information as possible. Family photographs can help to provide a warm introduction and will receive a welcome response from Au Pairs who, will already be able to visualise life as part of your family if you provide a detailed outline of who you are and what you’re offering.

The British Au Pair Agencies Association can provide up to date information on the current requirements, 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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