We aim to give families the best chance of finding the right au pair to suit their needs. Please find below our list of the most commonly asked questions that we have received from families.
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.
An au pair is a young foreign person who works for and lives as part of a host family. Very often an au pair becomes a 'big sister' within a host family and will usually eat meals with the family and join in many of the family activities and outings.
Au pairs travel to another country to improve their foreign language skills and to gain a new cultural experience. Typically au pairs are young women between 17 and 27 years old (although in some cases they may be a little older and now more than ever males are choosing to become au pairs also).
An au pair will take on a share of the day-to-day duties of the family in exchange for board and pocket money.
Duties and responsibilities of an au pair will vary from family to family.
A family with very young children will have very different needs to a family with school-going children or a family in which either the mother or the father is at home will have very different needs to a family in which both parents work full-time. The most important thing when deciding what your au pair's duties and responsibilities are is that you agree these with your au pair from the very beginning.
- Work up to 25 hours per week in the United Kingdom, and 30 hours in Ireland.
- 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.
- Have 5 free evenings per week.
- Get 1 week paid holiday per 6 months.
The length of time an au pair stays with a family should be agreed from the beginning.
In Ireland and the UK this can be as short as 2 months for a summer au pair and in this case a college student on summer break, may be a suitable option. In general an au pair will stay with a family for between 6 and 12 months but can stay for as long as 2 years.
According to European Legislation, light housework to be undertaken by the au pair is normally looking after children and general housework (such as light cleaning, help in the kitchen, tidying). In all cases it is prohibited the 'au pair' is forced to do heavier housework (such as mowing the lawn).
An au pair is not obliged to drive but a family who requires an au pair to drive will have this in their profile. When discussing au pairing duties at the beginning of the au pair stay, driving duties should be agreed.
A standard au pair is an au pair that works up to 25 hours per week in the United Kingdom and 30 hours per week in Ireland.
An au pair plus is an au pair that works longer hours than a standard au pair. An au pair plus can provide sole charge for your children during this time. An au pair plus will often be suitable for a family in which both parents are working and they therefore need someone to look after their children for a longer period of time. An au pair plus will generally have more childcare experience than a standard au pair or they may have been an au pair previously.
A demi au pair works shorter hours than a standard au pair. This type of au pair may suit a family with older children who may only need a small amount of supervision after school or a family in which one of the parents is in the home full-time. A demi au pair position may suit an au pair from outside the EU, who has a student visa and must study for a minimum of 15 hours per week.
A Mother's Help will usually be aged over 20 years old. She can work 8 to 10 hour per day and English is either her mother tongue or she will be fluent in English and therefore does not need to attend English classes. She will have 1.5 to 2 days free per week, and will do 2 evenings of babysitting per week. A Mother's Help is not considered to be an au pair as she is not on a cultural exchange programme.
The au pair would usually pay for their own travel expenses and English classes unless otherwise agreed with the host family.
If your au pair is from the EU or EEA they can apply for a European Health Insurance Card or EHIC (formerly the E111 form). This allows the holder to access necessary healthcare in the public system of any EU / EEA member state or Switzerland if he or she becomes ill or injured while on a temporary stay in that country.
Your EHIC card will be valid for up to 2 years and there is no charge for the EHIC card, it is a free public service. The card does not cover the cost of treatment in a private setting.
Au pairs travelling to the UK and Ireland should take out their own travel insurance.
The only legal document that an EU/EEA citizen must present on arrival in another member state is a doctor's letter confirming that they are in good health and this must be dated within 3 months preceding their start date as an “au pair”.
It would be recommended that you get a childcare reference from your au pair before you make an offer.
It is up to you and your au pair whether you wish to agree an au pair contract. While there is no official au pair contract for the United Kingdom or Ireland, some families prefer to have a contract as it gives a sense of security. Other families 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 an au pair contract, you can find some contract templates here.
If the au pair is already in your country, invite her around to your home to meet her. This way she can get to meet your children and get an idea of how your home works. The more you know about each other and what is expected from both parties, the better the whole au pair experience is likely to be.
For an au pair who is coming from abroad, talk on the phone or Skype the au pair as many times as possible to iron out any potential problems when she arrives. For example if you need an au pair to drive make sure to confirm that the au pair has a full driver's licence and that she is willing to drive when she comes to live with you.
Again au pair duties and responsibilities should be outlined and agreed from the very beginning to ensure that the au pair stay works out as well as possible. Ask the au pair for any relevant references in particular from any past childcare experiences.