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Become An Au Pair in the UK | Au Pair job UK | Choose a host family

Online Support Tools for Au Pairs

How to choose a host family

AupairinBritain.com  enables you to view and search for a host family in the UK free of charge. However when using the site please Always put your SAFETY FIRST. To begin with ONLY communicate with any family THROUGH THE SITE.  NEVER contact any family who asks in their profile to be contacted direct instead of through the website. Any family who asks this is LIKELY TO BE A FRAUDSTER WHO AT BEST IS AFTER YOUR MONEY AND AT WORST MAY SERIOUSLY ENDANGER YOUR LIFE. Communications through the site can be monitored for safety. Of course once you have exchanged a few emails through the site and feel confident that the family is genuine you can exchange contact numbers and emails at this later stage.

To give yourself the best chance of finding a suitable host family please ensure that you complete your application form in as much detail as possible. If you are not happy with the matches provided in My Matches, Edit your profile to vary the results. Second, before you email, skype or call a potential host family, double check that they match your main requirements. For example, Is the start date roughly compatible? Do they want a female or a male? How long is the au pair stay? Do they need a driver ? Will they accept a smoker if you are a smoker? If you are a vegetarian will they accept this? Are you allergic to any pets they may have? Do they need a swimmer and do you swim? Are you interested in looking after the ages of children in that host family? Are you happy with the location the family live in?

Types of host family

Make sure you search for the right kind of family for you. For example, do you only want a host family where you will look after children or would you prefer and adult family with only housework and pet care? Are you really good with babies and small children or are you more comfortable with children aged 4 plus who attend school ? Would you like to be a companion and a helper to an elderly person? Don't rule out locations outside the London area just because you are unfamiliar with other parts of the UK. Be open minded and consider families based in other areas who may be perfect for you, then go online and google the town or city where they live. There are many beautiful towns and cities outside London with lots to offer a young person.

Safety Issues when choosing a host family online

Aupairinbritain.com makes every effort to ensure that only genuine legitimate families register. However you are completely responsible for asking questions and screening out any unsuitable families. If you are suspicious about any host family please report them to us immediately. To protect yourself do not trust any host family who offers to arrange a free visa or to pay you a large sum of money or an excessive amount of weekly pocket money. Never send money to a potential host family who asks you to send them money to pay for a visa application or for any other reason. Always ask for a landline phone number either at the family home or their work and check that the number is genuine and that the person who answers is the person you have been in contact with. Always speak to a host family in person by phone or on skype and never accept a host family who has only communicated with you via email. Ensure you have a full address for the host family before you leave for the UK and Ireland and check on Google Earth that the address is a genuine one. Make sure that you know the full name (name and surname) of your host mother or father and that you know exactly who is meeting you at your point of arrival. Give the contact details of your host family to your parents or to a close friend before you travel.

Interviews

When you speak to or skype a potential host family always have a list of questions ready. Make sure you ask exactly what duties you will be expected to do and what your working hours will be. Ask what you will be expected to do with the children and how much sole charge you will have. Be especially careful to ask this if the host family have babies or preschool children. It is also important to be very clear on how many hours of housework you will be expected to do per week and what will be involved. If the family does not employ a cleaner will you be mainly responsible for the housework? How much time will you spend ironing per week? How much cooking will be required and will training be given?

How to accept a host family online

If a family offers you the position by phone or on Skype please make sure they also confirm the offer officially by sending you the offer online at Aupairinbritain.com. When this happens you will receive an email notification from Aupairinbritain.com confirming that the family have offered you the position. You would then need to log in to Aupairinbritain.com to officially accept the position by clicking on the acceptance button. When you do this you and your host family will be matched by Aupairinbritain.com and neither of your profiles will be visible any longer to other site users. However you will still be able to log in and see your Matched family’s profile and they will be able to log in and see yours. If you ever need to look for a new host family you can easily do so by Editing your profile to make it visible again.

Travel

Once a host family has made you an offer and you have accepted it you are fully committed to that family and may not continue to communicate with any other host family unless you first cancel your acceptance. If for any reason you change your mind and wish to cancel your acceptance you Must call your host family to let them know. After this you will need to login and reinstate your profile in the event that you wish to look for an alternative host family. Once you have accepted a host family you must reconfirm with them the date on which they wish you to arrive and find out where they will be able to meet you. Do not buy a ticket without checking the details first with your host family! Make sure the airport you are flying to or other point of arrival is close enough to their home for them to be able to pick you up. If you will be travelling by bus or coach from your point of arrival to another location where the family will meet you make sure you arrive early enough in the day for there to be plenty of buses or coaches running. If you are unsure if you need a visa to travel check our Visa advice section.

What to expect from the host family

The host family must provide you with your own room, cover the cost of your food and pay you weekly pocket money according to the guidelines below: British Pocket Money Guidelines & Working Hours (for Eire you will receive the Irish equivalent)

During Term time

At least UK money pound70 for up to 25 hours work per week At least UK money pound80 for up to 30 hours work per week At least UK money pound90 for up to 35 hours per week *Families in London normally pay an extra money pound5-10 per week. *1-2 week nights’ babysitting can be included at no further cost to the host family * Free time is normally two days off per week, preferably at weekends, unless your host family works weekends in which case your free time will be on other days of the week * School Holidays: any extra hours should be paid extra up to a maximum of UK money pound136 a week to avoid British tax and NI issues. For Eire please check current government guidelines.

Au Pair/Au Pair Plus/Junior Mothers Help Duties see Au Pair Programme

Language courses

As an Au Pair or Au Pair Plus you can attend part time English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes for on average 4-6 hours per week. The local Education Department should be able to provide a list of part time courses or tutors or ask at the central library. Most adult education centres offer part time classes as do many local colleges. Your host family should help you to find a suitable course in a conveniently located establishment. Please also refer to our Language Schools Directory for details of possible language schools. A typical part time course requires the attendance of classes for around 4-6 hours a week as well as individual homework assignments.

Settling In

When you are new to a host family they will explain and show you your weekly duties both around the house & in relation to the children. Work out a regular routine so that you can use the time you have available to accomplish the tasks you are given. If you are not sure you have understood what you are meant to be doing or how or when to do it, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If you still are not sure you have understood and will remember everything, ask the mother or father to write down detailed instructions so that you can translate and read through everything. Ask your host family also to show you around their home town and how to use the local public transport.

Childcare duties & issues

Au pairs or au pair pluses are best suited to families with parents who have school age children aged 3 and over or to families with younger children where at least one parent is at home full time or working from home. Looking after English children will be more difficult and challenging, not least because of the language barrier, but also because they may behave differently to the children you are used to at home. Some children may have had a lot of au pairs already and may even have got into some bad habits with some of those au pairs. Your job is to show them that you are in charge when their parents are not at home and that you are your own person. Do a fun activity with them every day after school to break the ice and learn to relax in one another’s company. Think up a list of fun things to do and pick one to do every day. Ask the parents to support you in not allowing the children to slump in front of the television or a games console every day after school but to do at least one activity with you instead. Never go to your room & leave the children unattended or sit at a laptop or PC by yourself when you are meant to be spending time with the children. Never hold long telephone conversations with your friends during your working hours when you are supposed to be spending time with the children. Keep the conversation short and arrange to call the person back, or for them to call you, during your free time. During your working hours with the children you should always be with them and doing fun with them. Of course they will have to do homework as well but there should always be time for a bit of fun with their au pair ! Here are some suggestions of fun activities to do with the children:

Bake a cake or some chocolate cookies

Bike Ride

Short nature walk or trip to the park

Board games

Go roller blading or ice skating (if available)

Bowling

Hide and Seek

Painting and/or drawing

Arts and crafts projects (use the internet or buy an arts & crafts magazine to gather ideas)

Dolls tea party (for girls)

Hair styling (for girls)

Dressing up

Play acting/making up a play

Choreographing a dance routine

Singing

Yoga or gym for children

Facepainting

Typical au pair childcare duties will involve helping get the children up in the morning and ready for school, giving them breakfast, taking them to and from school or to after school activities, ensuring they have an evening meal, helping with or taking responsibility for the bathtime and bedtime routine. Supervision and care outside school hours and in school holidays (you should be paid extra for any extra hours worked in school holidays). Your host family may also ask you to babysit on weeknights once or twice a week. As an au pair you are not a trained childcarer and so you should not be asked to take sole charge of children under 2 years of age if both parents work outside the home. However limited duties, such as evening babysitting and/or dropping off and collecting from full time daycare are OK for younger children. Au pairs can also care for children under 2 for limited periods before and after the daily nanny arrives for work or leaves for the day. Otherwise only limited part time sole charge of 2 year olds, for example the equivalent of care on two-three days per week, is acceptable if adequate training is given and the arrangement is closely and carefully monitored by the parents. If the mother or father is at home and does not work he or she can use their own judgement and common sense in deciding if and when it is appropriate to leave you in charge of younger children for short periods of time during the day.

Safety issues

For younger children always hold their hand when crossing roads even if they try to shake you off. Keep sharp objects and all medicines, electricals, hot drinks & chemicals out of the reach of babies & small children at all times. Never let a stranger befriend or gain access to the children in your care or give out your phone number or home address to such a person. Never leave children under the age of 14 years alone. NEVER keep personal records of yourself and your host family on web/blog or chat pages and NEVER post photos of your host family or their children online on a blog or webpage without the family’s express permission

Pet care

Depending on the type of host family the amount of pet/animal care will vary. If you have any animal allergies or fears, please check these will not be a problem in the host family you have chosen.

Medical and Dental Insurance

Au pairs can register with their host family’s doctor and receive free medical treatment on the National Health Service (NHS). However you may wish to take out emergency repatriation or dental insurance. If you do not have dental insurance it is best to register on arrival with your nearest NHS dentist.

Housework & general duties

Normal light housework duties can include tidying, washing and ironing, dusting, sweeping/mopping, vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen and toilets/bathroom and changing towels and bed linen. The amount of housework you will be asked to do and the type of work will vary depending on the kind of host family you have chosen (with or without young children). In some host families you may be the only person doing the main weekly clean. Other families may employ a cleaner once a week, so you will help keep the house clean and tidy in between the cleaner’s visits. In some families you will share housework duties with a parent. In families with children au pairs will not normally be asked to undertake extra work such as mowing the lawn, doing gardening, cleaning cars either inside or out or cleaning outside windows, wiping down skirting boards and paintwork, polishing brass or silver, cleaning out kitchen cupboards, inside fridges etc. Some Au Pairs however may undertake certain DIY and outdoor tasks or some of these other extra tasks by prior agreement. An Au Pair is not normally asked to clean any place of business or any home other than the host family's, unless you choose or agree to do this extra work and are paid the going rate.

Trial Periods and Notice Periods

This is a cultural and language exchange programme and there is no formal contract of employment but the accepted average trial period for an au pair is one month. It is highly advisable for both sides to use the full one month trial period. For the host family this time is needed to train and support the au pair and to give them a chance to adapt to a new role, family and environment and improve their language, domestic, UK driving and childcare skills. For the au pair it takes at least a month to adapt to the family, get to know its members, learn what works with the children and to adapt to a different routine, culture and way of life. Remember that each family is unique and every au pair is a unique individual. So a certain amount of coaching is necessary for you to understand and carry out what your family requires. With all the cultural differences and the differenced in upbringing and background that come into play, you cannot be expected simply to arrive in a family and get everything right straight away. So take the time to take whatever training & support the family is offering, do your best to understand what is expected of you and don’t panic if a few things go wrong or you have the odd stressful day. Just keep doing your best and eventually everything will fall into place. If after one or more months you do want to go home or to change host family, the accepted notice period is at least two weeks. If the two weeks’ notice is put in place you should do your best to carry out your duties as normal & should be paid as normal during that time. Once a leaving date has been agreed by both parties, neither side should renege on this to suit their own purposes. The notice period should only be shorter in cases of gross misconduct or a complete breakdown in the family-au pair relationship. In such a case a family may opt to pay the au pair two weeks’ full pocket money in lieu of notice and the cost of external accommodation during that period.

Good Communications

It is absolutely vital to communicate with your host family and to let them know nicely and calmly if you have any problems, worries or issues. You need to be open and honest about how you feel. If you are unhappy with your household chores, struggling with any aspect of the childcare or unhappy about your relationship with any family member, or the hours of work, location or the pocket money are a problem for you, talk to the family about it and see if they are open to finding a solution. The worst thing you can do is to bottle it all up and let it fester.

Privacy issues (being discreet)

Always try to be discreet and to give your host family some private time when they need it. This does not mean you have to rush off to your room as soon as the parents come home and take over the childcare. It just means being sensitive and considerate and allowing the parents and their children one to one time when appropriate. If you witness an argument or any tension between family members do not be alarmed. It will no doubt blow over.

Driving in the UK

Do not attempt any driving at all for the first two weeks after your arrival. When you are still in the intensive cultural adaptation period it is simply too much and you may feel pressured and unable to cope with driving so early on in a placement. It is fine to introduce some driving practice from weeks 3 & 4 onwards by which time you will be more settled into your role. You may naturally be nervous of driving on the opposite side of the road so, when you do start driving, ask your host family to take you out for plenty of driving practice and for a few formal driving lessons with a qualified instructor if necessary. Then go out and practice on your own as much as possible before you take on driving the children.

Food

Food is a tricky one and the food may be very different to what you are used to at home. It is important to try as much as possible to adapt to the diet of your new country and to taste as many new dishes as possible. You will often be asked to cook for the children and most often to eat with them as well so ask your host family to show you what the children like to eat and how to prepare it. At weekends and on holidays or if the family take a family meal together on weekdays, try to eat with them as much as possible. It’s a great time to speak English and to chat and get to know them. You can ask the host family to buy some specific food items for you but try not to ask for anything that is not easily obtainable in the national supermarkets. If the family are out all day at school or work and don’t have lunch at home, make sure you have asked for some food items that you will enjoying eating during the day for your own lunch.

House rules (late hours, locking up, use of the phone, house visitors etc)

Your host family will expect you to show care and consideration for their home. This means taking responsibility for certain things. For example, if you are alone in the house, always close & lock the doors and windows securely when you go out. Always tell the family when you are going out and check if it is convenient. If you plan to be out late, then make sure the family knows and text or call if you are going to be out later than expected or decide to stay the night at a friend’s house. If you come home late at night, be very quiet so as not to disturb the family. Switch the lights or the television off when you are the last to leave a room or the house. When you are alone with the children, make sure they do the same.Always tidy the bathroom or kitchen after you use them. Always ask to use the telephone and make overseas or long distance calls from your own mobile or use a special international charge card so that calls can be billed to your phone card. Only call mobile phone numbers from your own mobile phone, never from the house phone. If the family has set times for using the telephone for local calls eg after 6pm, respect them. Never leave the house to make a phone call without first checking if it is convenient for you to go out.

Home Sickness

Some homesickness is very common in the first few weeks or early months. If this happens try to distract yourself as much as possible by focusing on your duties, getting to know your host family and going out and making new friends at the local English language school. Go online and find a safe online website for au pairs and get in touch with other au pairs that way or on Facebook. Speak to your friends and family back home no more than once a week as speaking to them more often will only upset you and make you miss home more. Stay positive, be determined and the feelings of homesickness will pass.

Free time

Most au pairs have two days off per week, so enjoy your free time as much as possible. Go out and see as much of the country as possible, make new friends and have fun !

Holiday Entitlement

Au pairs normally get 20 days paid holiday per year (1.66 days per month) plus all the bank holidays on a pro rata basis. If you have to work on a bank holiday you should either be paid extra or another day's paid holiday can be given in lieu to compensate for this. Bear in mind that if you are only staying 6 months your entitlement will be halved and if you are only staying 3 months only a quarter of it will apply. The amount of pocket money you will receive for paid holidays will be the amount that you would normally be paid for those weeks. If you have been unable to take all your paid holiday entitlement the correct amount of extra pocket money should be given in lieu of this untaken holiday on your last day of work with your host family. Your host family will specify the times that would be most convenient for you to take holiday and any times when it will not be convenient for you to do so. Holiday times must be mutually agreed in advance. Pocket money must be paid in full should the family take a holiday and not require your services while they are away. An au pair should not be obliged to go home at his or her own expense &/or without pay or to take unpaid holiday while the host family is away. If the au pair is left to mind the family home the family must also cover the cost of their food as normal.If a host family wishes to take an au pair on holiday with them, it must be decided in advance if it is a holiday for the au pair as well or if the au pair will be working eg looking after the children and babysitting or doing housework in the holiday home.

UK Police Registration

EU nationals do not need to register with the British Police. If it is only necessary for non-EU nationals to register with the police if they have this requirement clearly stamped in their passport. To register, you will need your passport and two passport size photographs. If you are staying in the Metropolitan Police Area you will need to take these to the Overseas Visitors Records Office (OVRO), Brandon House, 180 Borough High Street, London SE1 1LH. The OVRO is open between 9am and 4.00 pm Monday to Friday. Au pairs who are not staying in the Metropolitan Area should contact the local police force for the address and opening hours of other police registration offices. A fee will be charged for police registration. In Eire non-EU nationals are advised to check any requirements with the local police.

Emergency Accommodation If you need a place to stay at short notice, the following emergency accommodation may be useful: For a complete guide to youth hostels consult a copy of the Youth Hostel Guide for England and Wales or visit their website at www.yha.org.uk There are 8 youth hostels in the central London area of which Earls Court is the largest. Please refer to the website for charges and for details of hostels in other areas. Rooms must be booked in advance by telephone.

Visa & Border Agency Advice See the Visa Advice page