Au Pair in Britain :: What is an au pair ?
AU PAIR WORK AND JOBS IN THE UK AND IRELAND
WHAT IS AN AU PAIR ?
The au pair scheme is a cultural & language exchange programme under which any European Union (EU) member and any unmarried person aged between 17 and 27 from a qualifying non-EU country can come to the UK to learn & study the English language and live as a member of an English-speaking family. There are no age limits or restrictions on marital status for an EU citizen wishing to live & work as an au pair or au pair plus/junior mothers help. If you are not from a European Union country, please refer to our Visa Advice page to see if you can legally come to the UK or Ireland as an au pair.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM YOUR HOST FAMILY
Your host family must provide you with your own room and cover the cost of your food. The host family must also pay you weekly pocket money in the range of 70-136 a week depending on your hours of work. Pocket money is payable in full, in cash or by bank transfer if you have a bank account, at the end of each working week. In exchange you must carry out the childcare and housework duties specified by the host family and work for number of hours agreed with your host family. Details of acceptable tasks and working hours can be found below. However please remember that this is a flexible livein cultural exchange arrangement so you should be flexible and not rigidly counting every hour and minute that you consider to be work.
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. 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 daycareare 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.
WHAT IS AN AU PAIR ?
An au pair undertakes to live with an English speaking UK-based family for an agreed period of 3-24 months. Their duties include helping with the children and light household chores for a maximum of 25 hours per week or an average of 5 hours per day during term time. In exchange for their help Au Pairs must receive full board and lodging, including their own room for their exclusive use, and weekly pocket money of at least 70 a week outside London (orat least 80 per week if you live in London). They must have two days completely free from daytime work, ideally the weekends.
However if the host mother or father have jobs which involve weekend work, it is possible for the Au Pair's day or days off to be given during the week, subject to prior agreement.
In addition to their daytime working hours, week night babysitting on up to two week nights is accepted at no further cost to the hosts, provided advance warning is given. However weekend babysitting should be paid extra and optional or by prior agreement.
Au pairs may work longer hours during school holidays provided they are paid extra (up to 136 a week to avoid tax and national insurance issues) and covered for all their out of pocket expenses while going on trips or outings with the children.
WHAT IS AN AU PAIR PLUS ?
Sometimes the normal 5 hours a day or 25 hours a week may not be enough for a busy family with one or more working parents. In this case you may wish to consider anAu Pair Plus. However please note that the same restrictions on sole charge of babies & small children under 2 apply as much to an au pair plus as to an au pair.
An au pair plus undertakes to live with an English-speaking UK-based family for an agreed period of 3-24 months and to help them with their children and light household chores for around 26-35 hours per week. While an Au Pair Plus can work more than a normal au pair, time should be made available for the au pair plus to attend language classes for at least 4-6 hours a week. In exchange an au pair plus must receive minimum weekly pocket money outside London of at least 80 for a maximum of 30 hours and 85-100 for a maximum of 35 hours per week (if you live in or very near London you should pay at least 85-90 for a maximum of 30 hours and at least 90-100 for a maximum of 35 hours).
An au pair plus should have 2 days completely free from daytime work, ideally the weekends. However if the host mother or father have jobs which involve weekend work, it is possible for the Au Pair's day or days off to be given during the week, subject to prior agreement. In addition to their daytime working hours, week night babysitting on up to three nights per week is accepted at no further cost to the hosts, provided advance warning is given. However weekend babysitting should be paid extra and made optional or by prior agreement.
Au pairs pluses may work longer hours during school holidays provided they are paid extra (up to 136 a week to avoid tax and national insurance issues) and covered for all their out of pocket expenses while going on trips or outings with the children.
JUNIOR MOTHERS HELP
A Junior Mothers Help is similar to an au pair plus except that her maximum hours can be 40 per week. The rate of pay should be maximum 136 a week to avoid tax and national insurance issues. A Junior Mothers Help is not a nanny, nor is it the same as an experience full time Mothers Help. So the same restrictions on sole charge of babies & small children under 2 apply as much to a Junior Mothers Help as to an au pair plus or an au pair.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE HOST FAMILY
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 foryou - and pocket money. The size of the room provided for the Au Pair does not matter, provided it is pleasantly decorated and large enough to accommodate a single bed, wardrobe and adequate storage space. There should also be a few book shelves. A television is optional but the family should provide a CD/ipod player and internet access somewhere in the house.
Typical au pair or au pair plus duties include taking and collecting children from school or nursery/childminder and assisting with light housework and washing and ironing. The au pair will of course supervise and be responsible for school children out of school hours, play with them, make sure they keep to a routine, take them to after school activities, help them complete homework etc. She can also prepare a light meal for the children but will require some training in the kitchen in the early weeks. She can organise bathtime& bedtime if required. If the mother is at home or in the house she can help with playtime, mealtimes &bathtimes for babies & younger children.
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, cleaningout kitchen cupboards, inside fridgesetc. 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.
It is important to remember that this is not an Employer-employee relationship, but a cultural and language exchange based on mutual goodwill and respect. Your host family should give you training and allow you a settling in period after your arrival. They will show you around their home town, explain how to use public transport and take you to and from the childrens' school and your own English language school. In the house you be shown how to use all the machines and appliances. The family will also explain what household chores you will be responsible for. Once explained verbally many families will give you a written job description detailing clearly your areas of responsibility and your duties as well as the timings and various comings and goings of the household. Do not hesitate to ask your host family if you would like a written job description.
As an Au Pair or Au Pair Plus or junior Mothers Help you should plan 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. Ask your host family to help you find a suitable course in a convenient location. 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.