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Au Pairs

Is an Au Pair the right option to support your family?

The current economic climate means many mothers have no choice but to return to work. Mothers in this situation face the dilemma of having to make suitable childcare arrangements and also having to juggle the demands of running the home. This has meant more families are considering engaging an Au Pair for the first time as a support option to help them address this dilemma. This article looks at the pros and cons of engaging an Au Pair to help families to decide whether an Au Pair would fit their situation. Having an Au Pair living in their home suits some families and equally would not suit others.

To start with let us look at what is an Au Pair ?

For an Au Pair it is an opportunity to experience life in the UK and to learn/practise their English skills. Living with a family gives an Au Pair first-hand experience of your family culture and an opportunity everyday to practise their language skills. You are required to provide an Au Pair with their own room in your house and they should be allowed time to attend the local college to study English.

In return for an Au Pair sharing your family household and also for receiving pocket money, the Au Pair will provide support to the family by looking after children and undertaking light household jobs. The normal expectation is that an Au Pair will provide support for up to 30 hours per week, which includes any babysitting.

Au Pairs are typically between 18 and 27 and mainly come from other countries in the EU. Several years ago, Au Pairs were subject to Home Office Immigration requirements, however except for Bulgarian and Romanians this is no longer the case for EU nationals. The current expectation is that an Au Pair receives pocket money between £65 and £70 per week.

In addition, the British Au Pair Agencies Association (BAPAA) recommends that an Au Pair is given four weeks holiday per twelve month period. If the Au Pair placement is for a shorter time, holiday should be calculated pro-rata at the rate of 1.66 days per month. Pocket money should also be paid during the holiday period.

So that is the basic outline of the Au Pair option and hopefully you have got the impression that it is very much a quid pro quo arrangement between the Au Pair and the family – they meet their needs and you meet yours. The success of an Au Pair engagement is normally measured by whether the Au Pair stays with your family as long they had originally intended or longer.

Before you decide if it is the right option for you it is worth examining in more detail at the implications of an Au Pair arrangement for both you and the Au Pair. You might want to consider using an Au Pair Agency to help you through this decision and also to provide access to potential Au Pairs.

The positive aspects of an Au Pair arrangement include:

  • The flexibility available to a family to be able to design the support they need to suit their specific situation; mixing household and childcare support to suit their specific circumstances
  • Your children can be looked after in their own home and Au Pairs can walk with them to drop off or pick up from school
  • Your children also have the opportunity to engage with a young adult from another country and to find out more about another country’s culture. Au Pairs like to talk about their life back home as whilst they are here they have to adapt to our way of life
  • It can fit very well if you are considering part time or if you work different hours each day
  • You do not have to pick up your children when you are tired after you leave work on the way home and normally you will have some flexibility if you are a few minutes late

The limitations or downsides of an Au Pair arrangement include:


  • Loss of privacy for you and your partner; as you will be sharing your home with a young adult who will want to be included as part of the family and meals. You might find it more difficult to get time together after the children have gone to bed. You should consider including an evening of babysitting to allow you both to go out for some privacy
  • Your Au Pair will not normally be trained in childcare and are not recommended to be left in sole charge of any children under the age of three. A nursery or nanny should be considered if you have children of this age
  • Your Au Pair is not a substitute for a cleaner and are likely to leave if they are asked to wholly undertake household chores for 30 hours or more a week
  • Your Au Pair will want to meet other Au Pairs whilst they are here and you should be prepared to allow them to invite them around to your house when it is their time off. Your Au Pair Agency should assist you to put your Au Pair in touch with other Au Pairs. If your agency is a member of BAPAA, the will have access to a “Friends” website
  • You will still need to have a backup arrangement for the times when the Au Pair is off duty or on holiday or sick. Ideally, an Au Pair option fits well with having grandparents as a backup option

So hopefully this article has provided you with an insight into engaging an Au Pair. It could be an option that suits your family and equally it might not suit you. Having an Au Pair is a quid pro quo arrangement where give and take is needed by both the family and Au Pair.

Au Pair Agencies have plenty of experience of helping families through the process of engaging an Au Pair and also to be on hand to help if things are not going to plan.

Caroline Jones
Bunters Ltd - Au Pair Agency