Au Pair FAQs for Parents

AU PAIR INFORMATION FROM BRITISH AU PAIR AGENCY ASSOCIATION

Guidelines for Au Pairs and Host Families. Individual families may wish to improve on these benefits, but these should be offered as a minimum.

Nature of the Programme: The au pair programme is a cultural exchange programme. Au pairs must be welcomed as a member of the family.

Age: Traditionally, an au pair is aged 17 – 27, however an au pair without visa requirements (from EU) can be older.

Hours on duty: Au pairs can be on duty from 25 – 35 hours per week if they are from an EU country. This is limited to 25 hours per week and 2 evenings per week if the au pair is from Bulgaria or Romania. These hours can be spread out over 5 days per week. Longer hours are usually referred to as ‘au pair plus’. Many au pair agencies also offer ‘Mother’s help’ positions; this is not part of the traditional cultural exchange programme, as it usually involves longer hours and schedules can conflict with language classes.

Pocket Money: Pocket money must be minimum £70 per week for 25 hours, regardless of whether the minimum hours are worked. Many agencies recommend slightly higher pocket money. For 30 hours the minimum is £85.

Babysitting: Two evenings babysitting per week are included as part of the programme. Additional pocket money should be paid for any additional evenings.

Leisure time: The au pair’s schedule must provide sufficient time to attend language school, and the au pair shall receive two free days each week and should be offered one full weekend off per month.

Holidays: BAPAA recommends 28 days holiday per 12-month period, including Public Holidays. Pocket money will be paid during this time. The au pair should not be forced to take holiday to coincide with the family holiday. Holidays should be mutually agreed between host family and au pair.

UK Public Holidays: These are included in the recommended holiday and au pairs can either be given the day off or have a day off in lieu as part of their holiday allowance.

Light Housework: A list of suggested light housework tasks can be found below these guidelines.

Childcare:  An au pair is not permitted to have continuous sole charge of children under the age of two.

Room and board:  The au pair receives full room and board from the family throughout the stay.  The au pair must have her own private room with a window and not be required to share with children, and she should be given facilities to study.

Travelling Costs:  The au pair is required to pay their own travelling cost to and from the UK, unless the family chooses to fund this.

Insurance:  EU au pairs visiting the UK do not need additional health insurance as they are entitled to use the National Health Service.  The au pair may also wish to take out additional travel insurance to cover loss of belongings, repatriation in case of accident, death etc.

Language School and Costs:  Au pairs must be given enough time to attend language school.  There are many courses in the UK for EU members, which are more affordable due to government funding.  These are usually ESOL classes.  If an au pair chooses to go to a private school, they must bear their own cost, unless the family offers to fund this.

Written Offer:  Each agency shall ensure that the au pair receives a written offer from the family covering pocket money; holidays and what help would be expected.

The host family:  Each agency shall ensure that the family is suitable to host an au pair and understands the nature of the au pair programme, and that the au pair is there to help the family and is not in charge of the house.

List of housework tasks accepted as light housework:

  • Washing dishes, including loading and unloading dishwasher
  • Preparing simple meals for children
  • Keeping kitchen tidy and clean, including sweeping and mopping floors
  • Loading and unloading laundry into washing machine
  • Ironing for children
  • Putting washed clothes away
  • Vacuuming
  • Dusting
  • Making and changing children’s beds
  • Cleaning children’s bathroom
  • Everything to do with keeping their own room/bathroom clean and tidy
  • Light shopping (not the entire household shopping)
  • Walking and feeding pets
  • Emptying bins

List of tasks considered unsuitable for an au pair – Please remember, it is a cultural exchange programme, giving a young person the opportunity to learn about British culture and improve language skills through interaction with children.

  • Gardening
  • Window cleaning
  • Spring cleaning
  • Cleaning the oven, other than simple wiping out
  • Washing carpets
  • Washing the car
  • Weekly shopping
  • Pet training & Clearing up after untrained pets
  • Making parents bed*
  • Ironing for parents *
  • Cleaning parents’ en-suite bathroom*
  • Polishing silver and brassware*
  • Cooking the family meal, unless the au pair enjoys cooking and has chosen to do this for the family

*These duties can be included where there is less childcare and the children are out of the house for most of the day, if this is agreed in advance.

Au pairs should not be required to do housework such as ironing, when looking after children of primary school age or toddlers, due to safety reasons

Au Pair FAQs for Candidates

Q I am not happy with my host family, where can I get help?
A If you cannot resolve problems directly with your host family (which should be attempted first), contact the au pair agency that placed you with the family and they will be able to help you.

Q Why do I have to use an agency? Can I not just pick a family from an Internet site?
A You should never look for, or accept a family, that you have found on the Internet. It’s not a safe way to travel and work as an au pair.  Many agencies look after the same host families year after year; they know the families well and this ensures successful and safe placements. 

Q Do I need to provide the agency with a medical report and police check?
A A Medical report is essential and so is a police check.  It’s very important as it ensures that you are physically and mentally fit to work as an au pair and also that you have no criminal background.

Q Will the host family contribute to language school costs?
A Many families are happy to contribute, but this is not a requirement from the families. 

Q As an au pair, do I get paid holiday? If so, how many weeks?
A BAPAA recommends 4 weeks per year (or 1.66 days per month pro-rata if the placement is shorter than a year), plus 8 Bank / Public Holidays.  The matter of paid holidays should be discussed and agreed between you and the Host Family. The family must specify the Au Pair’s entitlement to paid holidays and must state when they can be taken or if there are any times which are inconvenient to them.  Holiday times are to be mutually agreed between the host family and Au Pair at all times. 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 he/she will be working i.e. babysitting.

Q As an au pair, will I have to work on Bank / National Holidays?
A Au pairs are to be given UK Bank / National Holidays as free time.

Q Romanian and Bulgarian Nationals – who is permitted to be an au pair?
A When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 they were given restricted access to the UK job market unlike when The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined in 2004. A Romanian or Bulgarian national is permitted to be an au pair in the U.K. as long as they are aged between 17 and 27 and have no dependents.  They are not permitted to work for more than 25 hours per week. They need to complete and return to the Home Office a BR3 form in order to obtain their purple accession workers card, which then enables them to work for a family in the capacity of an au pair.  Unfortunately, applications for the BR3 are currently taking 6-9 months to process.  We recommend that families contact the Border Agency for more advice.
The good thing about this scheme is that once an au pair has been with a family for 12 months then they are free to work anywhere in the UK.
Applicants older than 27, or with their own children, are not permitted to be au pairs in the UK. 
One option for older applicants is to enroll on the NVQ Childcare training scheme.  They can work for a family looking after the children and, if they are educated to below degree level, they can enrol on the training scheme for free.  They are assessed in the workplace, i.e. the family home and have to complete written assignments and projects, for which they can get help from their tutor.  They need to attend college only once a month on a Saturday and the college will be within 40 miles of their work placement.
The benefits of this are that courses start throughout the year, they last for 12 months, the families are happy because they are having someone who is being trained look after their children and, at the end of the course, you can either leave and get a good job in the UK, stay on and take the NVQ2+ training and get an even better job, such as a qualified nanny or supervisor of a nursery or you can return home to your own country with a recognised qualification.  There is also no age restriction so older applicants qualify for these positions. 
They may also work in the UK as self-employed workers but in order to do this they must register with HMRC (www.hmrc.gov.uk) and work for more than one employer.  They are also responsible for all of their tax and national insurance contributions and will need to complete a tax return each year and pay tax on the money that they have earned twice a year in January and July.  This can be quite complicated and many Romanians and Bulgarians end up having to pay an accountant about £400 a year to sort this out for them.  

Q What is the difference between an au pair, a mother’s help and a nanny?
A Au pair - The au pair programme is an internationally recognised Cultural Exchange Programme. It offers a young individual the opportunity to travel and live / work with a host family in a new country, learn a foreign language and experience the country’s culture. The au pair will work a set amount of hours for the host family, usually doing a mixture of childcare and light housework. The au pair may have some childcare experience and even qualifications, but an au pair is not a nanny and should also not be treated as a housekeeper.
Mother’s help – A mother’s help is a carer who has got a genuine interest in children, who works under supervision on the daily running of the household. The mother’s help will have at least 1 year’s relevant experience and / or a qualification. Duties regarding children will be according to their experience, the type of household and the ages of the children. An extra hand rather than someone who takes charge. Depending on the childcare responsibilities expected, they will be able to help around the house with light housework and run errands. If she is experienced and confident enough, she can take sole charge of the children at times. Unlike most nannies, mothers’ helps will normally do some light housework (dusting, hoovering etc).
Nanny - A nanny is a qualified and / or experienced childcarer who works in the setting of the family’s home, either live-in or out. The nanny is able to assume the responsibility of sole charge of young children. They are professionals and therefore expect a permanent contract with normal working conditions i.e. annual salary plus bonuses, overtime, paid holiday and their salary is subject to national insurance etc. Apart for doing childcare, they will usually only do child-related housework.
Please note that, for 2013-14, UK income tax is payable on income over £9,440 per annum.  National Insurance contributions are also payable on income above approximately £149 per week.  
Families are responsible for ensuring these contributions are paid. 

Q What advice can you give au pairs about driving in the UK?
A. If you are from an EU or EEA* Country (see list below), then you can drive in the UK with your home country licence. From most other Countries, provided your licence remains valid, you can drive for up to 12 months. To carry on driving after 12 months, you must have obtained a provisional British driving licence and passed a driving test before the 12 months lapses. For more information, visit www.direct.gov.uk
Before you drive in the UK for the first time, it is vital to be sure that your host family has arranged insurance cover for you with their motor insurer so that you are legally covered when you drive their car. BAPAA recommends that you ask to see evidence that your name has been included on the family’s motor insurance policy. As an adult, UK Law considers you to be a responsible person and you should only agree to drive if you are satisfied that you are insured!
BAPAA recommends that all Au Pairs who are required to drive as part of their routine are given a course of driving lessons by a qualified British driving instructor. The instructor will report to the family when he/she feels that you have reached the correct degree of confidence required.
Remember:

  • The controls in UK cars are on the opposite side
  • The roads are very different
  • The UK has more roundabouts and you have to drive clockwise around them.
  • Traffic coming from the right has priority
  • In the UK, we drive on the left hand side
  • The speeds are given in miles per hour (not kilometres per hour)
  • In built up areas, the speed limit is 30mph and in some areas 20 miles per hour
  • On B roads the speed limit is 60 mph and will soon be reduced to 50 mph
  • On A roads, the speed limit is 70 mph where there are dual carriageways
  • There are many speed cameras in use in the UK and speed limits are enforced very strictly. If you exceed a speed limit, you are likely to be traced by the Police and could easily be disqualified from driving or heavily fined
  • Double yellow lines mean no parking at any times. In some areas, your car may be clamped or towed away if illegally parked.
  • If you drive into Central London, you have to pay a congestion charge, which currently costs from £9 per day, depending on how you pay. For more information go to www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/congestioncharging.

Petrol used by an au pair in connection with work is paid for by the family, but most au pairs will have to pay for petrol for their personal use. This needs to be discussed at the beginning of the au pair's stay.
You can get directions of how to get from one place to another at the AA website www.theaa.com/route-planner/index.jsp
*Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden UK. Switzerland is not in the EEA but an international treaty means that Swiss Nationals have similar rights.

Q. I have an au pair helping me with my childcare – can I claim tax credits or childcare vouchers?
A. This will depend on your individual family circumstances; you should contact the HM Revenue and Customs for detailed advice

Q. How can my au pair (or nanny) become Ofsted registered under the voluntary registration scheme?
A. Follow the following link to download information from the Ofsted website:
http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/Forms-and-guidance/Browse-all-by/Other/General/Guide-to-registration-on-the-Childcare-Register/(language)/eng-GB
See below for general guidance on the process:

  • The au pair or nanny should call Ofsted and tell them that they want to become registered under the voluntary Ofsted registration scheme for home-based childcare.
  • Ofsted will send out a form in the post to be filled in.
  • The form must be returned with a valid First Aid Certificate.
  • Ofsted will carry out a police check (even if he / she already has a CRB).
  • If the person has lived in the UK for less than 5 years, then he / she will have to get a ‘good conduct letter/ certificate’ from his/her embassy which needs to be written in English or translated into English by an authorised translator. This depends on the country of origin of the au pair or nanny, so check with Ofsted first. Ofsted confirm that it is also acceptable for the au pair or nanny to get a police check from their country of origin and send it to Ofsted, but it must be an official document, on letter-headed paper, stamped and translated into English by an authorised translator.
  • Ofsted will then send through another form (called a verify form) that must be taken to the post office, together with a form of ID (eg passport) so that their identity can be checked.
  • The application fee, currently £103, must be paid.
  • Annually, on the anniversary of the registration with Ofsted, the fee becomes payable again, as long as the au pair / nanny wants to remain Ofsted-registered.
  • The au pair / nanny also needs a childcare (or similar) qualification from their home country, or from the UK, which has to be equivalent to level 2, or the au pair / nanny must enrol on a Common Core Skills and Knowledge course, by contacting their local authority.  Information about the eligibility of your qualification is available by contacting Children Work Force
  • Development Council on 0113 244 63 11 or 0300 123 1033.
  • The au pair or nanny also needs to take out personal public liability insurance – most households have insurance, but this will not necessarily cover the au pair or nanny if he / she has an accident.
  • The time take for registration is usually between 12 and 14 weeks; it often takes 6-8 weeks for the CRB to come back
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