What is an au-pair?
An au-pair works for and lives as part of a host family, helping with the family’s childcare as well as some of the housework. In return they receive a small monetary allowance for personal use and their own room. In general, au-pairs are between the age of 17 and 23 and are only supposed to work part-time, often coming to a country to study, generally focusing on learning the language of their host country. An au-pair is meant to be part of the family, albeit a temporary one, and not a traditional domestic worker. The usual practice is that au-pairs eat with the family most of the time and join in the family activities such as outing and trips. Private time is reserved for the evenings when au-pairs might stay in their rooms to study, watch television or go out with their friends.
What are the responsibilities of an au-pair?
An au-pair is not allowed to have sole charge of a child below the age of 2. Plus an au-pair is only allowed to work 25 hours per week and do two evenings of babysitting. How the hours are spread out over the week is up to the host family but the standard is 5 hours’ work a day with 2 full days off. Tasks include taking children to and from school, taking children to after-school activities, cooking, cleaning, ironing and babysitting. Some host families look for short term or summer au pairs, but the majority of families are looking for long term help so au-pairs will usually stay with a family from 6 months to 2 years.
How much do au-pairs get paid?
Government guidelines stipulate that weekly pocket money is a minimum of £70 per week. However, standard amounts within London and the South East are £100-£150 per week. However if you are the host family, you will also have to factor in the cost of providing food and accommodation for your au-pair. Some families also offer to help contribute to the costs of English lessons depending on the cost, especially if you live in a more rural area.
Where can I find an au-pair?
Au-pairs in the UK generally come from the EEA. There are many au-pair agencies set up to provide assistance to families looking to engage an au-pair. These agencies are privately owned and are not run by the government. The British Au-Pair Agencies Association ( www.bapaa.org.uk) was established to set standards for the au-pair industry and to promote au-pair programmes. The website contains guidelines for au-pairs and their host families on typical hours, pocket money and the type of duties that are expected of au-pairs. Au-pair agencies should be registered with the BAPAA to ensure high standards.
What are the regulations with Au-Pairs from outside the UK?
If your au-pair is an EU or EFTA citizen, they can enter the UK on a valid passport or identity card. No entry visa is needed, as freedom of movement applies to all EU and EFTA citizens. There are no restrictions with regard to the duration of stay or residence.
If your au pair comes from another country (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan), then she would have to apply for a Tier 5 visa at the British Embassy. For this purpose, they need an au pair contract. The Tier 5 visa is usually issued for a period of 2 years. Additionally, the work permit au pairs receive under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme is automatically valid for 24 months. Au pairs entering the UK on a visa need to register with the police within the first 7 days upon their arrival. This will be noted in their passports. The webpage of the UK Border Agency will provide you with all necessary information about visas.
Finally, au pairs can enter the UK on a student visa. To apply for a student visa at the British Embassy, the au pair also needs to present her au-pair contract. The visa is usually issued for a period of 2 years. Therefore, the respective au pairs do not need to contact the Home Office after having stayed with their host families for 6 months. For a student visa, your au pair should provide (a) evidence of having sufficient maintenance (funds) available to finance their stay in the UK and (b) evidence of enrolment on an English language course lasting no less than 10 hours a week.
What do I need to consider when hiring an au-pair?
Bear in mind that au-pairs will need to be security cleared and checked if they are looking after your children. It is just as important to make sure that you have the right au-pair as it is to make sure you have the right nanny or nursery. It’s a matter of character so consider this when selecting from your short list of au-pairs. You need an au-pair who will get on well with your children, but still be able to maintain discipline. You also need someone who can form a good personal and working relationship with you as they will be living in your home as part of your family for a while.