Last Summer when our Daughter started school for the first time we had a dilemma, both myself and my Husband were not finishing work until 5pm, so who would collect her from school? Should we send her to after school care or think about getting someone else to collect her from school instead? We looked at the various options and came to the conclusion that an Au Pair may be the answer to our needs. Luckily one of my friends had recently hosted two different Au Pairs. So I spent a bit of time quizzing her, then with a bit of insight and advice I was able to get on and start the search for someone who would fit into our family.
What is an Au Pair?
An Au Pair is a young person between the ages of 18 to 30 years old. They are usually unmarried with no children. They are travelling abroad to live in another country on a temporary basis. Au Pair actually means “by mutual agreement” in French. They come and live in your family home free of charge and you also provide the food for their meals. In return they act like a ‘big Brother’ or ‘Sister’ within your family.
What does an Au Pair actually do?
Like any member of your family an Au Pair is expected to help out with the daily household tasks. For example this can include: taking your children to and from school or nursery, helping with homework and playing with them, assisting your children with tidying their rooms, preparing the children’s meals and washing and ironing their clothes.
How many hours should they be working?
30 hours per week including baby sitting. They are entitled to at least one day off a week.
How much do you have to pay them?
Au Pairs are not payed a salary, but instead you provide them with weekly pocket money. In the UK this is in the region of £70-£85 per week, however some families do pay more.
Where do you find one?
There are many agencies that will find an Au Pair for you, but they will charge a substantial fee, however this does take the hassle out of your search and checks.
Or you could like I did use one of the numerous search sites that connect you with various applicants for a a reasonable membership fee. However bear in mind that you will need to put in a lot of time and effort to find your perfect fit.
What sort of qualities or qualifications should you look for?
Firstly ensure that they have the relevant entry visa requirements to work in the UK or consider EU nationals only. Make sure that they do have some childcare experience. Talk to them either on the phone or ideally on Skpe and make sure that their English is up to scratch, especially if you have young children they are going to have to be able to communicate effectively. Check if they had done a paediatric first aid course.
What checks should you make on them?
Ideally you should do a Police Check on them from the country where they live. Also some sort of reference either from a previous employer or at least from a School or College they have attended. I also asked for proof of home address and birth certificate or ID card. It’s also a good idea to ask them for an emergency contact or who their next of kin is in case of emergencies.
Should they sign a contract?
Yes it is a good idea so you can get everything down in writing and then both parties know what is agreed. You can find examples of these online.
My top tips for helping your Au Pair settle in
- Before your Au Pair arrives send them some information about the local area you live in. Perhaps suggests websites they could visit to get more information to familiarise themselves with where they are going to be living and things they might want to do.
- If your Au Pair is going to attend college while in the UK to improve their English, suggest some reputable colleges they could attend?
- Start to draw up a timetable or make a spread sheet which outlines what the families daily routine looks like. For example what time does your child get dropped off or collected from school. Does you child attend after school activities? If so when and where? Make it easy for them to see what is expected of them.
- Explain to them how the local transport system works. As we are based in London I made sure our Au Pair had a fully loaded Oyster card and I explained how she could top it up.
- Think about providing them with a pay as you go mobile phone. I think most families I know have. Make sure you explain how they top it up.
- Try and find out if anyone else in your area has an Au Pair? That way they can be introduced to someone who is in a similar position to them.
- Make sure their room is welcoming and has all the essentials, bedding, towels ect..
- On the day they arrive try to put them at ease. It can be quite an overwhelming experience coming to live in a new country. We took our Au Pair out for a meal the first day she arrived. Why not think about asking your child to make a welcome card!
- Write a list of all the foods that your child like or dislikes and think about what sort of cooking you expect from your Au Pair.
- Do discuss how you expect your Au Pair to discipline your child, remember they come from a different culture and also may not have had this much responsibility before.
We were so lucky as this was our first experience of hosting an Au Pair. Laurie was 19 years old so I was a bit apprehensive that she was so young and was wondering about her level of experience. She came from the South of France and from the moment she arrived I could tell that she was a caring and mature person. She really connected with Amelia from the minute she arrived and would spend hours sitting on the floor playing with Amelia’s toys.
Laurie stayed with us for just over three months and this was always the plan as she wanted to go back to her family for Christmas, plus she had plans to Au Pair in Italy the following year. I feel that not only did Amelia benefit from having a ‘big Sister’, but myself and my Husband also gained by learning more about the French culture and way of life.
Laurie became part of our family and when she left we really missed her. We have stayed in touch and she is coming to visit us for a weekend soon. We had a very positive experience and I would really recommend hosting an Au Pair if you are looking for extra help with your family!
If you are looking for more information then have a look at the Gov UK Website.