What is an au pair?
An au-pair is a girl (or boy) usually aged between 18 and 28 who travels to another country primarily to improve their knowledge of the language, to live for a while as a member of a family and to experience a different culture. Taking on an au pair is an inexpensive childcare option, and because the au pair lives in, this gives parents greater freedom as well as the benefit of help with household tasks. Your children will learn about other countries - their languages, cultures and food, giving them a broader outlook on life. While au pairs do not generally have formal childcare training most have been involved with various types of children's groups, such as Scouts, church Youth Groups, coaching sport etc, and have babysitting experience.
What is an au pair expected to do?
Your au pair can be expected to do a mixture of childcare and light housework, to assist with the children, perhaps helping them to dress , getting them breakfast, taking and collecting them from school, preparing meals and keeping their rooms tidy. There may also be some dusting, vacuuming, ironing, washing and bed making etc. An Au-Pair generally works 25 - 30 hours per week and possibly two evenings a week babysitting. The hours may be spilt differently however, depending on your requirements and some au pairs are happy to work longer hours for more pocket money. It is helpful if having allowed your au pair a day or two to settle in, you sit down with him/her and go over their duties day by day being as specific as you can. To avoid misunderstandings and problems, any household rules should also be explained.
We provide each family/au pair with our own handbook which contains advice about acceptable house duties, holidays, the role of the agent, how to deal with homesickness and other problems plus suggestions from current and past au pairs of places to visit, the best pubs and clubs in the main cities and so on. This is sent out to families before the au pair's arrival, along with tourist brochures, a complete au pair contact list with best initial contacts flagged, a UK sim card and information about language schools and about our Facebook pages. We also sent out a regular newsletter to the au pairs, updating the contact list and informing them about social events.
Help for Families
In 2013 BAPAA launched its new publication, The Childcare Handbook for Au Pairs, developed in conjunction with the experienced early years childcare specialist, Emma Dewey. The 63-page handbook contains practical advice and guidance to the au pair during their placement in the UK. Subjects covered in the handbook include "Working in partnership with parents", "Sibling Rivalry", "Managing Behaviour" and Child Development and Activities". This can be ordered from BAPAA - just let us know if you would like to purchase a copy - price £4.
The au pair should have his/her own room with meals generally taken with the family. Free time should be given daily to pursue personal interests or for study, and a desk should be available in their bedroom for this purpose if the au pair requests this. They should have two days a week completely free normally at the weekend. If this is not possible, they should have at least one weekend a month with no duties. Pocket-money is paid and I recommend a minimum weekly allowance of £80 for 25 hours or less, £85 - 90 for 30 hours or above. Some families also help with the cost of English classes and provide bus passes but there is no obligation to do this. Au pairs are not usually qualified in childcare and their only experience of looking after children may be babysitting. An Au-Pair is not a nanny and should only be left in sole charge of babies and young children at the family's discretion.
Au pairs do not sign a contract with the family but they do generally sign an agreement with the home country agency and most agencies use an agreement recommended by IAPA (the International Au Pair Association). All au pairs should have two full days off per week and are not expected to baby-sit on these evenings unless there is some arrangement between the au pair and family. The family may ask the au pair to do additional duties for which they should give extra pocket money in return. This should be agreed between family and au pair. The notice period is 2 weeks on either side. (This information is based on Home Office Regulations regarding au pairs).
Fourteen days paid leave should be given for each six months worked. All au pairs have two full days off per week and are not expected to baby-sit on these evenings unless there is some arrangement between the au pair and family. If you decide to go on holiday and are not taking the au pair with you, they must be paid during your absence and money should be left for food. They are entitled to have Public holidays as free days without loss of pay.
Au pairs are expected to pay their own return fare to the country in which they are to be employed. Arrangements will be made for them to be collected from the airport/station by the host family or by agency staff (for which an additional fee will be negotiated).
Matching au pairs to families
Our au pairs are chosen for their suitability for childcare, management of light household duties and ability to fit into family life. When making the selection, we consider the particular interests of the family and the au pair, how independent they need to be and other aspects of personality. We place both male and female au pairs. We ask families to provide a reference, either written or verbal, ideally from a previous au pair or nanny, and it is helpful if the applicant can speak to a previous au pair.
If you require your au pair to drive a car it is advisable to arrange one or two driving lessons to familiarise the au pair with the differences in the road system and perhaps supply them with a copy of the Highway Code. BAPAA has recently negotiated favourable insurance policies for au pairs through a company called Stone Shield - https://www.stoneshieldservices.co.uk/?utm_source=agencyI001&utm_medium=Agency&utm_campaign=ssagencylinkWe do not advise on or make any recommendations in respect of any general insurance products. If you are in anyway unsure as to whether a particular insurance product is suitable for you or not, then you should seek independent financial advice.”
The agency will maintain contact with the family and au pair and will be happy to discuss any problems the au pair may have which they are unhappy discussing with the family directly.
What to do next
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a Family Application Form. It should be possible to fill this in online, save as an attachment and return to the agency by email. We will then send you a summary list of available au pairs highlighting any we think may be a particularly good match. You can then request full files which will include references, photographs, police check certificates etc. Once you have decided on a particular applicant, contact us as soon as possible to indicate you interest.
We will then contact the au pair’s agency, forward your letter of introduction and ask if we can organise a Skype interview . The agency fee is due when the au pair is formally booked and should be paid before they depart for the U.K. and invoice will be sent with bank details for transfer of payment.
What happens if the family and au pair appear to be incompatible?
Please allow your au pair time to adjust to life in your family. It is advisable to have a clear timetable for the week setting out what you expect her to do. You should then sit down at the end of the first week to discuss how he/she is coping. Be as clear as you can - misunderstandings, which can arise over something trivial, if unresolved, can be blown out of proportion.
If you have tried the above and still have concerns or have any questions, we are happy to discuss and try to resolve any problems. If all else fails, we will seek a replacement (see Terms and Conditions of Business).