Our Advice to au pairs
We aim to give au pairs the best chance of finding the right family to suit their needs. Please find below our list of the most commonly asked questions that we have received from au pairs.
Our advice is based on the Council of Europe's Agreement on Au Pair Placement. We have done our best to ensure that all our information is correct and up-to-date but if you have any comments please do not hesitate to contact us.
Many young women travel to a different country to experience the culture or to improve their language skills. Living and working as an au pair is a wonderful way to do this.
When living with a family, you will get plenty of time off to travel and enjoy all that the new country has to offer.
Attending language classes is a good way to get to know other au pairs and foreigners who also want a cultural experience while at the same time it is an opportunity to improve your language skills.
One of the nicest things about being an au pair to a host family is that you will be treated as part of the family. That means you will eat with the family and get the opportunity to go on some family outings or trips.
You will be treated like a big sister within the family and have some household jobs.
You should be given five free evenings each week to allow you and your host family to have some time to themselves.
As an au pair you can expect:
- Your own private bedroom.
- All meals provided.
- Pocket money of £70-£80 in the United Kingdom in exchange for 25 hours work per week and €80-€120 in Ireland in exchange for 30 hours work per week.
It is very important to discuss and agree your duties and responsibilities with your host family from the very beginning. An au pair often decides to accept or turn down an au pair stay based on the duties that the host family expects of her.
Some duties and responsibilities may include:
- Getting the children ready for the day including washing and dressing them.
- Bringing the children to and from school.
- Bringing the children to after-school activities.
- Helping them with their homework.
- Playing games and doing activities such as painting, baking etc. with the children.
- Bringing the children on outings such as going to the zoo, playground, beach, baby and toddler groups etc.
- Doing some grocery shopping.
- Preparing the children's meals and feeding them.
- Light housework such as tidying, cleaning, hoovering, emptying the dishwasher etc.
Each family is individual and will have different working requirements of their au pair. It is important that a working schedule be agreed from the very beginning so that no misunderstandings occur.
Your working schedule must be arranged so that you can also attend English classes in your free time.
For example if you attend English classes from 6-8pm on Tuesday and Thursday evenings then the host family cannot expect you to babysit on either of these evenings.
As an au pair you can expect to:
- Work up to 25 hours per week in the United Kingdom and 30 hours per week in Ireland.
- To do two evenings of babysitting per week (with a maximum of one of these to be at the weekend).
To have one full day off at the weekend and one full weekend off per month.
- To have 5 free evenings per week.
- To get 1 week paid holiday per 6 months.
Always upload a photo to your profile. Many families only look at the profiles of au pairs who have a photo of themselves on their profile.
Families often just skip over the au pairs that do not have a photo so always make sure to have at least one photo attached to your profile as this will hugely increase the interest your profile receives from host families.
Make sure to complete the About Me and Message to Families sections
In your profile make sure to fill in these fields. The more information the family has about you the more likely they are to contact you.
About Me should include any previous childcare experience, any study that you have done, what you are doing at the moment, your hobbies and interests and Information about your family.
Message to Families should include why you would like to be an au pair, the characteristics that would make you a good au pair.
If you are an Au Pair that smokes
In all cases, smokers are less preferred than non-smokers. If you have been thinking about giving up smoking, this may be a good incentive to help you with your decision!
Describe your previous childcare experience
Host families will almost always express a preference for those with documented childcare experience.
If you have childcare experience including babysitting, previous au pair experience or working with children, make sure to get a reference from this employer.
A host family may like to contact your referee so ask your referee if it's okay for you to give their contact details to potential host families.
If you have a driving licence
Some families will need an au pair to drive, particularly if they live in a rural area. If you can drive make sure you have a valid full driver's licence.
Au pairs from all EU member states or an EEA state, can drive in the United Kingdom and Ireland, as long as your driving licence is valid. The UK and Ireland have driving licence exchange agreements with a number of other countries but you will need to check if your country is designated for this licence exchange agreement.
In all cases you will need a valid driver's licence or an international driving permit.
It is up to you and your family whether you wish to agree an au pair contract. While there is no official au pair contract for the United Kingdom or Ireland, some au pairs prefer to have a contract as it gives a sense of security. Other au pairs feel that a list of duties is sufficient and are more comfortable with this arrangement as they may find a contract to be too formal.
If you wish to use a contract, you can find some sample templates on our au pair contract page.
Sometimes au pair placements don't work out for a number of reasons but don't be disheartened. This probably means that you and your host family were not the best fit for each other. Remember you and the next host family that you get could be the perfect fit for each other.
Before you decide to leave your host family maybe try to talk through some of the things that you are not happy about. If things do not improve it may be worth looking for your next au pair family. Do not be disheartened if this occurs as not all au pairs and families are the right fit for each other, but always remember that the right family is out there!