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Free Au Pair Advice for Families

Advice for Host Families

Selecting an au pair

The Aupairinbritain.com website has been set up to enable families in the UK and Ireland to find agency free au pair matches for a small subscription charge. However the database relies on users completing their questionnaires fully. Some core information is compulsory to avoid obvious mismatches but other fields are optional. To give yourself the best chance of finding a suitable au pair first ensure you complete your own application form in as much detail as possible. Then, before you email, skype or call a potential au pair, double check that they match your main requirements. For example, is the start date compatible, is the au pair female or male? how long can the au pair stay? Is the au pair a driver is you require one? a non-smoker? a non-vegetarian or a vegetarian? allergic to any pets if you have them? A swimmer if you require one? Is the au pair willing to look after children in your own childrens’ age groups? Does the au pair have prior experience with these age groups (this is more important for babies and pre-school children though please see the rules on not allowing sole charge of children under age 2 here. Is the au pair willing to be placed in your area?

Interview questions

We highly recommend that, at some point during the interview process, you speak to your chosen au pair either on the telephone or via Skype. Having checked the basics before you contact them what should you ask the au pair during the interview process? Firstly, give them some general information about the members of your family, the place where you live & what’s available there, what your home is like, what kind of au pair accommodation you offer, any pets etc If you are doing this by phone or skype, speak slowly and always choose the most simple and basic vocabulary. The au pair will be nervous speaking to you in your own native language and will need time to get used to this and relax enough to take in what you are saying and be ready to speak also. Secondly, explain the requirements of the job in terms of what childcare and how much housework will be required. If there is a lot of housework it is important to be very clear on this point, especially if you do not employ an external cleaner. A good rule of thumb for household chores including any tidying, laundry duties, ironing or actual cleaning is maximum 1-2 hours a day over the 5 working days per week, eg 5-10 hours a week maximum. Any more than this is more than the average au pair would expect and should be agreed in advance. Thirdly, ask the au pair any specific questions you may have prepared for her. For example, how much experience does she have with children the age group of those in your family? What activities would she like to do with them? Does she have any experience with housework? Lastly, invite the au pair to ask you any questions he or she may have.

How to offer the position

At the end of the call, you may wish to offer the position to the au pair verbally there and then or to tell them you will get back to them with your decision by email. However you choose to offer the position you MUST follow up with an official email confirming the offer on the Aupairinbritain.com site by clicking on Confirm Job Offer under her profile and filling out and emailing the details to your chosen au pair. Unless you do this your au pair’s profile will remain visible for other family users to continue to contact her ! She could then get a better offer and pull out or let you down ! Once you make an official offer using the Confirm Job Offer button the au pair will be required formally to either Accept or Decline the offer by email. If she accepts the offer she will be matched by the site with your family and her profile will then no longer be visible to other families on the site, giving you peace of mind and the assurance that she is committed to joining your family. Once you have made an offer and this has been accepted you are fully committed to that au pair and may not continue to communicate with other au pairs on the site unless you withdraw your original offer first. If you decide to withdraw your offer you Must telephone the au pair to let her know your reasons. You must also click on the link in the acceptance email in your inbox stating that the offer is being cancelled. If the au pair has already booked and paid for his or her ticket in accordance with your discussions on arrival dates with them you will be financially liable to refund the cost of the ticket, so please be very clear about this when you accept or cancel an au pair.

Checking references

We strongly recommend that you check the au pair’s references before her arrival in your family. Host families are responsible for taking up the references of their potential au pair &, for their convenience, each applicant has been required to provide at least two references and a scan of at least one document confirming their identity. The system will clearly state if an au pair has not yet provided the required items of documentation to AupairinBritain. In such a case the potential host family is responsible for asking their potential au pair to supply these documents direct to them before deciding to accept them into their home. As the potential host family you accept responsibility for taking up the references before taking on your chosen au pair and also for the verification of their original identity document against the copy on their arrival. Each au pair applicant may also submit additional optional documents to the site. Again, if they are not available to them on the website, the host family is responsible for asking the au pair to provide any additional documents they wish to have. For example you can ask for a home country police check. CRB checks are only available for UK residents so au pairs can only provide you with a home country police check. You may also wish to ask for a medical certificate or letter from their family doctor confirming that there are no medical reasons why they should not work with children. The au pair has confirmed as part of the registration process that all the information given is to the best of their knowledge true and correct. The au pair has also stated during the registration process that they have never been found guilty of any crime and that they are medically fit to work with children.

Au pair travel

On acceptance of your au pair the next stage is to discussion arrival dates and points of arrival where it will be convenient for you to pick her up. If you are unsure if your au pair needs a visa check the information under Visas: Who Needs a Visa ?  The au pair will normally book and pay for her own travel. However it is perfectly acceptable for you to offer to pay for the flight should you so wish. You should indicate which airports are the closest to your home. However you should be as flexible as possible as flights may be a lot cheaper to some airports than to others. If the au pair prefers to fly to an airport which is a long way from your home to take advantage of cheaper air fares, you may wish to consider paying the difference in air fare so she can afford to fly to your local airport instead. You can also ask her to travel by inter-airport bus or train to your local airport or to take a bus to your local city or town so you can meet her there instead. You should always make the effort to collect your au pair on arrival. If this is really not possible you should offer to pay for their onward travel or send a pre-paid taxi. On the day it is a good idea to phone or text your au pair on her mobile to check that he or she will be arriving on time.

Trial periods

Although this is a cultural and language exchange programme and so there is no formal contract of employment, 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. Please see below for advice on some of the issues which can occur early on in a placement and how best to deal with these. 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 the au pair 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, an au pair cannot be expected simply to arrive in your family and perform right away. So take the time to give them whatever training & support they need and to monitor their progress in the early weeks.

With all the bad press that the au pair arrangement sometimes gets we hope that British and Irish host families will strive to set the standards and how to make an au pair feel like a valued and respected member of the family.  No au pair wants to feel like Cinderella, being allocated all the the tasks that nobody else wants to do with no thanks whatsoever, and an au pair must never be viewed as cheap labour or made to work unreasonably long hours. Au pairs are only cheap to employ because they are on a cultural and language exchange which means that they must receive benefits ( in terms of food, accommodation, pocket money and hospitality) equal the the help that they give their host family with their children and housework.  In Norway many au pairs from the Phillipines have been treated so badly that the Norwegian government has considered withdrawing from the au pair programme altogether !  We hope Britain and Ireland will never need to call into question their own participation.

Assessments

Even if everything is going well, regular reviews are to be recommended. Take the time to sit down and talk to your au pai after the first weeks with you and thereafter at least once a month. Aim to air and resolve any problems as you go along rather than allowing them to fester. This is particularly important with regard to the children. Ask your au pair how the children are behaving in her care. Encourage the au pair to tell you about any incidents or problems so that you, as the parent, can offer advice and support and if necessary talk to the children as well. The children must be taught to respect their au pair and the au pair must realise that in your absence they are in charge. Many au pair-family relationships fail because of a lack of communication and not working as a team with regard to childcare.

Warnings

If you feel that, despite giving your au pair plenty of training and support in the first month or beyond, he or she is not carrying out their duties properly or you have some serious concerns, direct communication and a completely frank and open discussion is the best and only course of action. Sit down with your au pair and explain as simply and as directly as possible why you are not satisfied or what your concerns are. Be very firm and direct in what improvements you need to see and give direct and clear advice on what they can do to achieve this. Listen very carefully to anything they have to say about any problems or difficulties they may be experiencing, particularly with regard to the childcare, and be open to finding and discussing possible solutions. It is vital for your au pair to feel listened to and not just criticised. Take care to praise your au pair for anything they are doing well so the discussion is not all negative. If the discussion is productive, arrange to reassess progress again in 1-2 weeks’ time. Until then monitor the situation and gently but firmly prompt or pull the au pair up on any significant lapses. If the discussion is less productive you may feel the need to give a formal warning that, if matters do not significantly improve, you will be obliged to consider giving them notice.

Notice Period

If after one or more months you decide to part ways, the accepted notice period is at least two weeks. The notice period should only be shorter in cases of gross misconduct or a complete irredeemable 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. If the two weeks’ notice is put in place an au pair should be permitted to carry out their duties as normal & should be paid as normal. Once a leaving date has been agreed by both parties, neither side should renege on this to suit their own purposes.

Language classes

Your Au Pair or Au Pair Plus or junior Mothers Help will need to 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. Your local authority Education Department should be able to provide a list of part time courses or tutors or ask at your central library. Most adult education centres offer part time classes as do many local colleges. Please also refer to our Language Schools Directory for details of possible language schools. As the host you are expected to help your au pair to find a suitable course in a conveniently located establishment. Classes at many local authority run schools are charged at a reduced rate to EU citizens but non-EU citizens must pay full price, in which case you may wish to consider contributing towards the cost. If your au pair is not able to afford the cost of attending classes in your area again you may wish to consider contributing to the cost to encourage her to stay with your family. A typical part time course requires the attendance of classes for around 4-6 hours a week as well as individual homework assignments.

Training & Settling In Your Au Pair

Keep in mind that that this is not an Employer-employee relationship, but a cultural and language exchange based on mutual goodwill. There are some simple measures you can take to help your au pair adjust and adapt more quickly to their new cultural environment and to your family and their new role. On arrival give your au pair a written job description detailing the timings of the household, including school pickup times etc, and his/her exact duties. This will enable them to grasp their role and work out where they fit in far more quickly. If you only give verbal instructions much of this will go over their heads due to adapting to the English language and feelings of strangeness from being a newcomer in a new environment. Providing written details as well allows an au pair to read everything in their own time and to translate parts if necessary with a dictionary. They can then ask questions if they are unsure about anything. In the first few days it is also important to show them how everything works and where everything can be found in your home and to introduce them to the local area. Go with them by public transport or on foot and show them how to get to the childrens’ school, help them enrol for their English language course and take them into town.

Homesickness

Homesickness is common in the first few weeks. Be sympathetic but try not to keep bringing up the subject of homesickness too often. Instead allow them to work their way through it in their own time. Be positive and upbeat, give plenty of encouragement and leave it at that.

Driving

Do not introduce any driving at all for the first two weeks. When the au pair is still in the intensive cultural adaptation period it is simply too much and most au pairs will 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 the au pair will be more settled into their role. However most are nervous of driving on the opposite side of the road, so even then take them out for plenty of practice and pay for a few formal driving lessons if necessary.

Childcare

It is essential to help your au pair plan out what she will do with the children, both after school & during school holidays. She does not know your local area and what is on offer and will need support on what to do with the children both indoors and out. In term time plan in some daily quality time with the children for her by drawing up a list of activities to choose from after school every day. Get the children involved in deciding what they would like to do. A daily after school activity with the au pair will help break the ice so they can relax in each other’s company and start to bond. Ensure the daily after school activity takes place by banning TV and games consoles for until at least 5 pm. Even if your children are used to a lot of tv or computer games they will soon start to enjoy their quality time with their au pair and build a relationship with her. The activities do no need to be expensive or time consuming. Simply adjust to your budget, time constraints and what is available locally. Below are some ideas of easy after school activities for the au pair to do with the children but you can make your own similar list taking account of your childrens' ages. Encourage the kids to try new activities even if they think they won't like them as once they get started they may be surprised at how much they enjoy doing something different !

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

During school holidays break up the week by booking the children into a few activity camps or a play scheme and help the au pair to plan activities for the rest of the week.

In families with more than two children or smaller children a ‘divide and rule’ philosophy can often help. For example a full time mother can ask the au pair to take one child out or play with one child while she attends to the others, then the next day allocate one of the other children to her. This one to one time between a child and the au pair can prove invaluable in the child accepting and becoming used to the au pair and in the au pair building a bond with each of the children in the host family.

House Rules

It is important to set house rules for the au pair. Include rules about coming in late at night, mealtimes, securing and locking up the house when going out (au pairs can come from places where there is little or no crime), saving energy, tidiness etc You should also lay down clear rules for the use of your home telephone line and the internet. Personal use of the internet should not be permitted during the au pair’s working hours, especially when she is responsible for the children, unless it is needed in the course of her au pair duties.

Food & Accommodation

As part of the arrangement, the host family must provide full board, including enough food for three meals a day and any reasonable food products which may need to be purchased specifically for the au pair, and pocket money. It is a good idea to encourage your au pair to write the items that she would like for herself on the weekly shopping list so you can purchase these with the weekly shop. Don’t forget that, while the rest of the family may be out at work or school all day, the au pair will be at home and needs something for his or her lunch !

Free Time

Most au pairs will at first spend more of their free time at home than you would like. But once they have found their feet and begun to make friends they will be out and about. Before you know it you will hardly see them at all during their free time as they get into the habit of meeting their friends, travelling up to London or down to the sea coast. So it is important to respect the au pair’s free time. Give her as much advance notice as possible if you need her to babysit in the evenings and avoid asking her to babysit on her days off. Don’t insist that she return home unreasonably early at the weekends and be sure to give her a house key. However you are entitled to object to your au pair keeping very late hours during the working week and au pairs should be encouraged to exercise restraint in this regard.

Au pair accommodation

Au pairs must also have their own room for their sole use. The room can be small as long as it is pleasantly decorated and large enough to accommodate a single bed, wardrobe and adequate storage space (a divan bed is a good way to provide extra storage). There should also be book shelves and enough clothes hooks. A television is optional but you should provide a CD/ipod player and internet access somewhere in the house. Many au pairs now bring their own laptops so it is advisable to have a wireless internet connection in your home. If possible a small desk and chair in the au pair’s room is desirable.

British Pocket Money Guidelines & Working Hours (for Eire please pay 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 pound90-100 for up to 35 hours per week

*Families in London normally pay an extra money pound5-10 per week.

*1-2 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 the host parents work at weekends, in which case two other days must be given free of all work

* 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

Au Pair Visas

See the Au Pair Visa section

UK Police Registration

EU nationals do not need to register with the British Police. If it is necessary for non-EU nationals to register with the police they have this requirement clearly stamped in their passport. To register, they will need their passport and two passport size photographs of themselves. If they are staying in the Metropolitan Police Area they 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 4.30 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.

Doctors, dentists and NHS treatment

As long as they are living with you as one of the family, au pairs may register as normal with any general practitioner and receive treatment on the National Health Service. However they may choose to take out emergency repatriation or dental insurance. If they do not have dental insurance it is best to register them on arrival with your nearest NHS dentist.

Holiday Entitlement

EU Working Time Regulations also apply to au pairs. It is accepted that au pairs be given the statutory minimum paid holiday entitlement of 20 days paid holiday per year (1.66 days per month) plus all the bank holidays on a pro rata basis. If you require the au pair to work on a bank holiday, another day's paid holiday must be given in lieu to compensate for this. Bear in mind that if your au pair is only staying 6 months the entitlement will be halved and if she is only staying 3 months only a quarter of it will apply etc If your au pair is not staying or has not stayed a full year enter her start date and weekly hours worked into the calculator on the following link to work out exactly how many days' paid holiday are due: http://businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/layer?topicId=1079427399 The amount of pocket money the au pair will receive for paid holidays will be the amount that they would normally be paid for those weeks. If an au pair has not taken all her paid holiday entitlement by her last day with your family, payment for this must be added to an au pair's final pocket money. In other words, if an au pair has been unable to take all her paid holiday entitlement the correct amount of extra pocket money must be given in lieu of this untaken holiday on her last day of work with your family. As the host family you must inform your au pair of how much paid holiday she will be entitled to and specify the times that would be most convenient for her to take holiday and any times when it will not be convenient for her to do so.

Holidays

Holiday times must be mutually agreed in advance by the host family and the au pair. However an au pair cannot be obliged to take her paid holiday at the same time as the host family if for some reason is it not possible or convenient for her to do so. Pocket money must be paid in full should the family take a holiday and not require the services of the au pair during that period. An au pair cannot be obliged to go home at 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 cover the cost of her 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 she will be working eg looking after the children, babysitting or doing housework in the holiday home. It is a good idea to keep a holiday sheet showing the dates of any paid holiday taken and with the au pair's signature.

Visa & Border Agency Advice See the Visa Advice page