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Stressing about Au Pair

(39 Posts)
MrsJones100 Wed 07-Nov-12 12:39:08

To all you veteran host families. I have applied for a job that would only be possible if we had an au pair for our 9 and 11 year olds. This would be a first for us and I am not so sure if my requirements could be met. So this is the story I would be doing 12 hour shift work, so au would have to be up at 6.15 to start school runs (two different schools), she would have to drive. We could only offer a small bedroom and the shared family bathroom, however the overall is not small. Her English would need to be good enough to help my 9 year old DS with homework, and cook reasonably well. Would this be a chance in a million finding someone to rely on for all this. Also would I have more back up and less hassle using an agency rather than au pair World.
Would really appreciate any thoughts.

fraktion Wed 07-Nov-12 16:01:06

It's doable - there are plenty of mature drivers with good English at the moment. Space isn't necessarily a problem. Many au pairs from continental Europe will have grown up in apartments. Plus your chances are hugely high if you're open to a bloke.

Less hassle? Not really with an agency as you still need to double check their checks. The upside is the AP will have all their ducks in a row.

More backup? Possibly. That all depends on the reason it didn't work out. In theory they should find a replacement but that effectively means recruiting all over again.

What you don't say is what kind of area you're in, what activities there would be, public transport links, other au pairs, English classes (or other classes) at a local college etc.

Are you prepared to share you living space? Do you have emergency backup if they flake out? How long would this arrangement last? Have you thought about the extra costs? What will happen in school holidays?

What kind of lead time do you have on this?

Grr. Long post now lost!

Question is how many hours do you need AP for each day? You pay for 25/30 hours a week, ie 5 or 6 hours a day. We use AP for about 2 in the am (gets up about 7am, leaves boys at school 9am) and about 3 in the pm (collects 3.30 and I get home 6- 6.30).

We haven't had a big problem with English - but ususally have French APs as I am fluent. Cooking can be a bit hit and miss (I admit to being a control freak) and driving can reduce the numbers of APs available. You can stipulate it, but the possession of a driving licence does not immediately translate into someone you will be happy to drive around English roads with your children. When we needed a driver, we gave several lessons! The other thing to consider is where you live. If London, and near a college, you may have more chance of success than in the sticks.

Smaill bedroom and shared bathroom should be fine. Do you have wifi? That will probably be of more interest!

We have always used an agency (Pebbles), but it costs c£25/month, and so AP World may be more attractive. Frankly, I have been happy with the agency, and when we have had problems, they have always been helpful and sorted things out.

Good luck!!!

MrsJones100 Wed 07-Nov-12 21:04:55

Thanks for all this info. We live in London on the Picadilly line and yes we have Wifi. It could not be a conventional week in terms of hours. If I was on a night shift for example and my DH away she would have to be around. However when it came to my seven days off from the block of night shifts she would be pretty much free. This is all very scary life changing!

andagain Thu 08-Nov-12 09:26:10

Hi,
I don't think you should have too much difficulty recruiting a suitable au pair.

But I do think you will need to pay above the average rate to compensate for the unpredictable hours (and what I assume will be much longer hours during school holidays). I would also base the pay on whatever the most common number of hours worked will be (say 25) and then look at the hours monthly and if the hours worked were well above the average then top up her/his pay for that month.

Be as detailed as you can in your contract so there are no ambiguities and reasons for resentment when they face a long working week.

But I think as long as you are very clear what the job is like and make it worth while for them with slightly higher pay and if possible some perks, it won't be a problem to recruit.

FWIW We have a 24 year old au pair who drives, cooks and doesn't seem to have problems with us all sharing just one bathroom. She has been with us for 9 months now and she is fantastic!
I have always recruited via APW and always fly them over for a test run weekend before offering the job.

StillSquiffy Thu 08-Nov-12 10:21:03

ITs easy but you need to have a much bigger wish list, which you then break down into nice-to-haves and must-haves. Then you need to think about what their wish list might be and how many boxes you can tick.

EG. You need a driver. That means you need someone over 21 (otherwise you will struggle with car insurance- up to £5k extra with some insurers if under 21). If you need someone to help with homework they need to be not just fluent in English, but a graduate too.

So with all of those must-haves you might need to be flexible on other things. Do they really need to be able to cook reasonably well? Or just be able to rustle up an omelette and cook some sausage and mash? Do you need a girl or could you have a boy instead (will make a huge difference in the quality of applicants you get, as there are tons of male APs looking for jobs, but good girls tend to have lots more choice open to them). How long do you want them to stay for? 6 months appeals to people dong stuff before getting on with their real jobs, longer appeals to those who don't really have a life plan yet. There are pros and cons to having people stay for longer vs shorter periods of time (not least the headache of replacement) so have a think about that. Also, do you want them to be a 'mate' to your DCs, or a pseudo-parent? That will affect the CVs you should be looking at.

Then there's things you need to think about to make your job more appealing. Can you offer gym membership? use of car? Oyster card? Are you going to give them a double or single bed? Will you let their friends visit and stay over? When they're off duty is there a separate sky TV so they can watch their stuff without it bothering the rest of you (think America's Next top model for girls, UEFA footie matches for the boys). If not, how flexible will you need to be yourselves?

IME agents are great at finding you young girls with driving licences and reasonable English who are not long out of school and looking for a life experience. Most of them (again, IME) haven't lived away from home before and that is primarily why I personally don't use them - I don't want to run the risk of hiring someone who expects to be 'parented' themselves. Using Greataupair or aupair-world is a hassle, but means I can sift out the unsuitable ones easily. If you do the DIY route bin ALL applicants without a European passport or some other right to reside (some commonwealth countries are ok). - Don't even look at the profiles of non EU non commonwealth, because you will not be able to hire them except on student visas which will be too restrictive for what you are looking for.

On the plus side, having au pairs around isn't that huge a shift, and my DCs have loved it - always someone there to play on trampoline or have a game of chess with or kick ball round the garden. There are lots of really nice, really normal young adults out there, and most of them make your lives soooo much easier (I have mine doing the family shop, taking pets to the vet, sorting out deliveries and suchlike. Bliss)

MrsJones100 Thu 08-Nov-12 12:44:41

What a fantastic wealth of experience, I feel more uplifted about this than previously. I was planning on offering over the average wage but hopefully time off would average out, as I would get seven days off after a block of night shifts, so I would try to give them much more time off then.

Do you think a plus side could be no toddlers, just my 11 year old DD who is not home from school until 6.30pm and my DS finishes at 4pm?

My main concern is that the DC's will not suffer in anyway I would rather the house goes a bit to pot. Would you say to definitely avoid AP with no AP experience?

andagain Thu 08-Nov-12 13:24:04

I personally don't think having a previous AP experience is necessary but I would prefer someone who has lived away from home, or if they still live at home then it is a kind of semi-self sufficient existence, as in they are used to looking after themselves (perhaps have a job, even if part time, and are not waited on hand and foot by their parents but contribute to the household). But I think you can find these things out in your skype interviews.

StillSquiffy's advice is brilliant, start from there. Write a list of everything you can think of, from what their duties will be, to how much time you would be happy for them to hang around with you in the evening. If you allow them overnight visitors, then specify when and for how long. Don't think anything is trivial. If you haven't had anyone living in your home before it will be a big change. But if the person is a good match for you it is brilliant!

My APW advert is very detailed and once I get an au pair, apart from the contract they get an appendix which is kind of a rule book but really just telling them how we live and what we expect of them. I am happy to email them to you if you think it might assist.

fraktion Thu 08-Nov-12 13:44:12

I would say if your requirements are a bit non-standard you are better with someone who hasn't APd before, as they may have a very set idea of what happens based on the previous family.

Definitely agree about living away from home though.

MrsJones100 Thu 08-Nov-12 14:03:43

Yes fraktion very true that would be the flip side of a first time AP. Do APW supply a type of contract or is this done totally off your own back therefore would it be legally binding in anyway and if not whats the point.? That would be great andagain to look at your contract and appendix. New to this, how do I give you my email privately.

fraktion Thu 08-Nov-12 14:27:59

It would be legally binding. APW don't supply a contract (and don't trust any info on their site).

Do a bit of reading around employment, PAYE thresholds etc. an au pair is just the same as any other employee so you can use the business link interactive tool to create a contract or adapt a nanny one from somewhere like Nannyjob.

andagain Thu 08-Nov-12 14:42:22

Hi,
I have sent you a private message. You will get a little red dot next to your inbox (top of the page next to "log on" button) on your mumsnet page when you log on.

LittleCloudSarah Mon 07-Jan-13 17:58:10

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

MrsJones100 Thu 10-Jan-13 12:59:42

Would be interested in your thoughts, if its possible maybe you could word it differently.

MrAnchovy Thu 10-Jan-13 13:36:20

If its been deleted it was spam. If you want to think about using an agency you probably want to get an unbiased recommendation rather than pick one that is so desperate and/or underhand that they go around spamming forums for business don't you?

MrsJones100 Thu 10-Jan-13 14:16:39

Ah, didn't realise this. I thought it was maybe they had named an au pair looking for work or bad mouthed an agency.

MGMidget Thu 10-Jan-13 14:24:22

Fedupwithemployment, I used the same agency as you the first time we had an au pair and wouldn't use them again. I definitely prefer Au Pair world for choice and calibre of candidates and we have had much better results.

MrsJones100, the legwork required initially is more with AP World rather than an agency but once you get your system going you can filter out reasonably easily and be left with a good quality shortlist. With older children I think you have a good chance of attracting a more academic type who may not be so much of a natural with young children but will have good English and the ability to help with homework. I find that we are often faced with a choice of a younger au pair with low level academic qualifications who claims lots of childcare experience with young children or the more mature, more academic au pair with excellent English but virtually no provable experience in childcare. They may be taking a break to improve their English before doing an international business masters for example. They may claim to have done some babysitting but don't have any references. In your case the latter could work out well as you probably don't need someone with lots of childcare experience for this age. However, these types may not want to stay for year - at best you might get them for an academic year of about 9 months. Many would want to stay for six months.

Being in London near a tube line makes the job very attractive for an Au Pair so you should have plenty of choice, although needing a driver will narrow it a lot. Many girls in their twenties with a driving license may have relatively little hands on driving experience as they may not have afforded their own car so I would definitely try to quiz them in detail about how much driving they have done, whether they have had an accidents etc.

MrsJones100 Thu 10-Jan-13 14:33:45

Thanks for that I think I will go the Au Pair world route. I feel the biggest
hurdle in changing my life is this Au Pair stuff. All advice very much appreciated.

Interesting MGMidget. We have had 8 APs over 5 years, and 3 have been poor, and the agency always sorted things. The others were good with a couple of outstanding APs. I guess it is what you know and what works for you.

MrAnchovy Thu 10-Jan-13 15:04:58

Didn't spot the detail - you may have to change your car unless it is a really low insurance group already and only go for au pairs over 21 to get the insurance costs down, and even then you are probably looking at over £1,000 additional cost in London. Get a few quotes to get an idea.

MrAnchovy Thu 10-Jan-13 15:22:20

11 year old will want to be/should be travelling independently now/soon anyway and AP can accompany 9 YO on public transport.

You don't need a graduate for primary school homework: French and/or Spanish (our 9YO does both) is more useful.

"We have had 8 APs over 5 years, and 3 have been poor"

What on earth are the agency doing? You would get a better hit rate from choosing from AP world at random! Spend the money on flying them over for a trial weekend instead and get that hit rate to 80% (some of them start out fine but fall into bad habits once they settle in - often after finding a boyfriend - so you will never get to 100%).

MGMidget Thu 10-Jan-13 15:31:40

Yes, fair enough fedupwithdeployment! You've obviously used them a lot more than me. I switched to AP world and wouldn't go back. I think whether APs are good or not can be a bit of a lottery whether using AP World or an agency as in both cases a great deal of the selection process depends on the AP answering questions honestly as well as the host trying to give a clear picture of what the job entails. I have learnt it is good to probe a lot on important points as I think APs can give quite a lot of bog standard answers that they know you want to hear. Hence I prefer to do the questioning myself and also to check references myself which somewhat reduces the benefit of using an agency anyway. I also think it is important not to oversell the job and set the au pair up for disappointment - you don't really know how the job is being sold by an agency so again I prefer to be the one communicating the job spec. Also , the choice is so much bigger on AP World if you have an attractive job to offer and if it goes wrong you are not locked into an agency contract with a limited choice of replacements.

MrsJones100, a few things to probe on (if they matter to you) are whether or not they really don't smoke at all (I learnt this the hard way and have since realised there are quite a few smoking au pair candidates who claim to be non smokers), their experience with children and whether they can provide references, domestic experience/skills and food preferences (the standard response is to say they 'eat everything' but not always true) plus what experience they have really had of living away from home (some will claim it or talk it up it because it's what you want to hear). Also, their academic and work history - lots of fudging of dates/experience. It may not matter to you but I think au pairs who have a consistent track record of seeing things through rather than dropping out of courses or jobs may be a better bet.

MrsJones100 Thu 10-Jan-13 18:05:20

I would love not to need a driver, apart from cost, a bit nervous for them to be driven around by someone not used to our roads. Problem is my 11 year old has to get to the school coach for 7.15am so red bus could be risky and my 9 year old's school does not have a good transport link. Also getting to various other activities. No, graduate not necessary just pretty good English.
Whilst browsing AP world, one family would only take applicants already in the country, as they like to interview at least three times. She is a policewoman.
I know this would greatly reduce responses, but is that such a bad thing weighing up the advantages of AP already being here and so would therefore have experience of living away from home and more than likely have other families here as references?

MrAnchovy Fri 11-Jan-13 00:30:05

APs already in the country:

1. Lots of them need a job because they were sacked from their last one.

2. The rest of them need a job because their current/last one was exploiting them so the reference you get will be at least as bad as in 1. above. They are in demand because there are relatively few of them around so you will have to at least match the best offer they get and be ready to have them start tomorrow otherwise they will go elsewhere - which they might do anyway if they get an offer nearer their friends/boyfriend/favourite suburban fleshpot/night bus.

Having said that the best AP we have had was already in the country in an exploitative job. We were lucky - she saw our advert and rang us up, within 48 hours she had met us and moved in having been thrown out on the street.

So it is possible, but it doesn't IMHO increase the liklihood of getting a suitable AP against Skype and a trial weekend, and seriously limits the pool of applicants - particularly if you want to have someone lined up for some time in the future rather than straight away, and aren't offering a "standard" package or great accomodation.

Follow Squiffy's advice and see where "already in the country" fits in your list of priorities and restrictions.

MrsJones100 Fri 11-Jan-13 09:35:15

I can not thank you enough for all this advise. Such important points I had not thought of. To have an AP already here does make a few meetings easier but
a big concern is an AP never having driven on our side of road. One already here may have more experience of this. I can see from your advise real pros
and cons on both sides.

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