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Is this reasonable for an au pair job? And when should I start recruiting?

(84 Posts)
SamSmalaidh Tue 02-Oct-12 17:53:55

I have never employed an au pair before but have read recent threads about expectations with interest!

At minimum I need someone to:
collect 3 year old DS from nursery around midday
take him home and feed him lunch (sandwiches, beans on toast etc)
play with him, maybe take him swimming, library etc until I get home around 4.30pm

Ideally I would also like someone to:
clear up breakfast things/tidy up the kitchen daily
keep on top of DS's laundry
run the hoover round up and downstairs at least once a week
occasionally hang out washing/put washing in or out of dryer
babysit once a week
maybe do a few hours on a Saturday morning every month or two so we can lie-in

Does this sound reasonable for an au pair?

I need someone to start doing childcare probably from end of August/beginning of September 2013, so was thinking they would arrive mid August to give them time to settle in. We will be away all of July 2013. With that in mind when should I start recruiting, and should I invite candidates for a trial weekend?

Rasher38 Sun 07-Oct-12 12:06:23

If you are really clear in your advertisement what you need and what you can compromise on - then you will get a guage on interest. Given economic difficulties elsewhere in Europe many people are looking at au pair options that might not previously have done so. This is about them using a 'lean' year work wise to usually boost their English skills. With aupairing its really about getting the right match - you have your wish list and the au pair will have theirs - if you pay attention to this then you both come out of it a winner. I found recruiting this year that there were alot of people looking who were excellent candidates. Be clear what you have to offer too - if you are in a city thats a bonus; how much of a social life will they easily access etc. Given you know when you want them I wouldnt be opposed to recruiting earlier as people do look with a view to forward planning. Although too early and they might say yes but be a no show, good luck with it

DowagersHump Fri 05-Oct-12 21:27:32

I think that sounds fine, Sam. You didn't mention in your OP that your DH would be working from home and while I understand that does mean that he's working, it does mean that your AP won't be sole charge in the sense that there is no one there in case things go tits up.

I work from home a lot of the time - I don't need to be here for DS's sake but it was an added reassurance when his babysitter/nanny first started working for us smile

SamSmalaidh Fri 05-Oct-12 20:46:41

Thanks everyone for your input, it's been very interesting to read so many different views.

I think we're going to offer the position as 11.30am-4.15pm 4 days, with one day 10.30am-4.15pm with the extra hour child-free to put a wash on/put clothes away/tidy and hoover DS's room (or as much as can be done in an hour!). It will still involve 4.5 hours of sole charge childcare a day but DH will be in the house and on hand if necessary. Also going to include one night babysitting a week, though we may not use it, but it could be a Friday or Saturday.

I'm planning to start looking in May I think.

jumpingjane Fri 05-Oct-12 20:17:24

I think it sounds fine apart from possibly the Fri eve/ Sat morning. Do you mean every Fri/ Sat or just once a month or so? Every week would be unreasonable as she will want to socialise/ go away for the full weekend.

ProudNeathGirl Thu 04-Oct-12 13:12:38

For comparison - our au-pair (10 years ago) got the kids ready for school, with the help of DH, after I had left for work. She then walked them the 10 mins to school. The day was her own, to attend classes, meet friends, as she wished, but we expected her to keep both DDs bedrooms clean and tidy (and her own), and to hoover, iron, dust and generally tidy up round the house occasionally - she was allowed to do this when she wanted during the week, as long as it was done (we aren't big on housework in our house! smile)
She collected the DDs from school at 3.20pm and looked after them until I or DH got home. One day a week she took them to swimming lessons after school. Very occasionally, when we were both late home from work, she cooked a simple and light tea for DDs.

She baby sat one fixed evening a week, and occasionally a couple of times a week. We didn't pay extra for that, but if she already had plans on an evening we needed a baby sitter, we would allow her to invite her friends round.
For really good au pairs, who integrated with the family, and did extra stuff without being asked, we rewarded them by paying for bus fair home for a holiday a few times a year (most of them were Czech, Slovak or Polish).

The au pair system is great - we made a few life long friends of our au pairs, and have been to visit them in their home countries whilst on holday.

dikkertjedap Thu 04-Oct-12 11:37:33

I agree that it is really important that the au pair gets something out of it.

We have had lots of au pairs, many came from families where a university degree would not necessarily be considered. Several have enrolled in university after having stayed with us for a 1 to 2 year period. We are still in touch with all bar one. Many still come over at least once a year.

I think it is very rewarding to have a young person in your house to whom you can make a difference and who makes a difference to your life and especially the children's, as well.

We tend to take our au pairs with us on all our trips (unless they really don't want but that has never happened yet), including abroad, not really for any childcare purpose (because we prefer to look after our kids when we are on Holiday) but because it gives them opportunities which they otherwise may never have.

DowagersHump Thu 04-Oct-12 11:16:11

Interesting point Harriet. That's exactly to me what having an AP is about though (the way you're thinking about it) - making it a really mutually beneficial relationship rather than an employer/employee one.

That to me is why APs are so much cheaper than other forms of childcare - that they're getting something out of it over and above childcare experience.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Thu 04-Oct-12 10:52:40

It's certainly much easier for the HOST FAMILY to employ a well off au pair who already speaks English. It is in no way the moral high ground to stick to this population of young people looking to find an AP role.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Thu 04-Oct-12 10:36:59

It would be great to be able to take someone with quite basic English to advanced intermediate in a year.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Thu 04-Oct-12 10:35:27

Dowagers

On that basis though, I would feel much more comfortable employing western APs because they don't have a massive financial incentive to stay.

We've always done this. Our APs come from Germany, have been well educated and are from well off families. They certainly don't need the job or the money. People who speak good English and have had loads of opportunities already leave us speaking even better English, having had some great experiences.

I have actually struggled a bit with this, thinking that maybe it's right we offer the opportunity to someone who has had fewer opportunities growing up, that we make some sort of 'investment' in a young person in this way, including possibly paying for the language school.

So you see this is the other side of the coin to employing someone from a country which is less economically well off than the UK - not everyone is looking for a 'slave' who needs the money. If I had more time to spend with an AP, I would hope I would be incliend to do this.

MrAnchovy Wed 03-Oct-12 23:40:41

"This is not true because she is not your employee in the strict sense of the law"

Actually she is your employee in the strict sense of the law, but I agree with everything else you say - if she feels that she is getting a raw deal compared with other APs she knows/comes into contact with, she will leave, and rightly so.

blueshoes Wed 03-Oct-12 23:03:50

Dowager, once an aupair is in UK, her attractiveness to other host families in the UK goes up dramatically. Some aupairs, even after some fairly nominal aupair/childcare experience, including the Eastern European ones, start to ask for rates on Gumtree approaching nanny's.

All my aupairs, including the one from Romania, had their own laptops and mobiles. I offered them a free one in my ad but none of them needed it. They know about aupair facebook and pretty much can access a lot of information on their own. Certainly they must exchange information about the perks and treatment by their host families. I don't think aupairs are necessarily as vulnerable as you have in your mind.

DowagersHump Wed 03-Oct-12 22:49:44

That's true to an extent but my cousin was stuck in a remote village with little money, no public transport and a hideous family. She couldn't leave.

That was a long time ago, before the advent of mobiles etc. On that basis though, I would feel much more comfortable employing western APs because they don't have a massive financial incentive to stay. The person who posted on that other thread that said they always employed Romanians made me feel v uncomfortable.

blueshoes Wed 03-Oct-12 22:29:47

dik: "Others may suggest that you come to an agreement and that is it. This is not true because she is not your employee in the strict sense of the law so you are not going to be able to enforce your agreement."

Absolutely. Anyone who has used aupairs are all too aware that aupairs can pretty much leave any time they want and there isn't much the families can do about it. All you can do when hiring an aupair is give them as clear an idea about their responsibilities and hours and reach a mutual agreement. This means they are more likely to stay than if the family sprang a Fri babysitting arrangement on them, but it is still no guarantee they will stay if it does not work for them down the road.

So all this talk about exploitation goes right over my head. If anything, I find myself at the mercy of aupairs. Hence, I pay a lot of attention to the aupair's profile and find out what they want out of their stay and try to meet it to mutual satisfaction. It makes no sense for me to try and force unpalatable terms because hey, I would just be shooting myself in the foot.

dikkertjedap Wed 03-Oct-12 22:16:20

I don't think that it will work long-term to have your au pair working on Friday night and Saturday morning. I think that the risk is that you get a desperate girl agreeing to your terms and once she is here, she will get to know other au pairs (and thus other families) and may leave at short notice. You are stuck then.

Others may suggest that you come to an agreement and that is it. This is not true because she is not your employee in the strict sense of the law so you are not going to be able to enforce your agreement.

I have had many au pairs. We are still in touch with au pairs from years and years ago and we get many new au pairs on their recommendation. I have found that the best way is to make sure your au pair is happy and feels a valued member of the family, through:

- well defined tasks, including precise working hours
- not too much cleaning (she is not your cleaner after all)
- clear suggestions how to occupy the child(ren) and what to do or not to do
- making sure that she has a nice room
- making sure that she has access to internet/skype/phone
- making sure that she has plenty of time to socialise
- allowing her to have friends/sisters visiting and staying overnight during the weekend
- giving her the full weekend and Friday evening off
- not more than two evenings babysitting during the week
- giving time off for courses, including during the day which can be quite inconvenient for the host family
- including the au pair in family activities (eg days out, dinners out, film, theatre etc.)
- I would pay at a minimum £75 plus travel allowance and phone card per week, several au pairs we have paid £100 after three months because they were simply worth their weight in gold and brilliant with the children

I also would give yourself plenty of time to find an au pair. If you go through an agency I would say three months in advance.

blueshoes Wed 03-Oct-12 21:22:51

YuNo, you must bear in mind that the rates you are quoting are for a professional cleaner or even a professional nanny.

Aupairs are not skilled and very often, their cleaning leaves a lot to be desired which the host family is generally happy to put up with if the aupair has good rapport with the children.

I am sure your aupair will be very pleased with more pocket money. However, I don't really think the amount you pay correlates with the quality of aupair that you get. You will find that many families with good aupairs will be naturally inclined to be more generous and flexible but are also somewhat wary at the start because you do end up with timewasters as aupair hiring is not a science and all too often a hit and miss affair.

YUNoSaySomethingNice Wed 03-Oct-12 19:58:45

Paying £7 an hour for cleaning is very cheap. Most people pay £9 or £10 and £100 a week for board is what you would charge if you are wanting to make a profit. It won't cost you anything like £100.
I think £75 for 25 hours work including cleaning and evening and early morning work to be very very cheap. I do understand this is not unusual though. I just find it a bit tight. If it were me I would pay more and hope to have a happy and hard working AP. Alternatively, I wouldn't ask her to do cleaning.

MrAnchovy Wed 03-Oct-12 19:39:59

Many people find the term "pocket money" patronising and that does not accurately reflect the fact that you are paying the AP (and providing board and lodging, bus pass, phone etc.) in return for the work she does for you and your family. This forms a contract of service and makes her an employee, and the money you give her is wages or salary (and is of course subject to income tax and national insurance if over the thresholds).

Pocket money is something given freely to a minor child: the child may be expected to do some chores in order to 'earn' the pocket money, but there is no intent to form a binding contract on either side.

blueshoes Wed 03-Oct-12 19:31:29

The pocket money is also fine for the hours you state.

blueshoes Wed 03-Oct-12 19:31:04

Agree with Harriet. Friday night is prime socialising night for aupairs, so making Friday babysitting and Sat morning duties a regular thing won't be attractive. I am sure occasionally upon pre-arrangement is fine.

Also I don't see any objection to an 18-22 year having sole charge of a 3 year old for 4.5 hours. Of course, you would keep an eye in the early days but if all goes well, that should be fine. All my aupairs would have been up to the task.

SamSmalaidh Wed 03-Oct-12 18:09:45

In terms of pocket money I was thinking £75 a week for 25 hours, so with the value of the room and board (approx £100 a week) it works out to around £7 an hour.

SamSmalaidh Wed 03-Oct-12 18:03:58

I'd like to have the option of going out one night, and probably some lie-ins. And if DH takes over some of the childcare (eg. on a monday) he'll probably need to catch up on work at the weekend so it would be good to have some Saturday cover.

Ottillie will you explain what you meant about the au pair needing to get something out of the experience?

OttillieRidiculous Wed 03-Oct-12 16:39:04

You want to go out every Friday night and have a lie in every Saturday morning?

LadyHarrietdeSpook Wed 03-Oct-12 15:30:03

Your initial schedule was fine. I don't think you need to rejig.

On the revised one I don't think many APs would be very happy committing to the saturday am thing, with Sun and Mon off.

I would just go with what you originally suggested.

YUNoSaySomethingNice Wed 03-Oct-12 15:16:13

It depends how much you are going to pay her. I think a lot of AP are paid very little for the number of hours they are expected to work.

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