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Au pairs, eating out and take aways

(53 Posts)
Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 14:10:18

We have our first au pair starting soon. Obviously I want to be welcoming and I understand au pairs eat with the family but I'm unclear on two things.

First, we often get takeaway once a week. Fairly pricey local restaurant which delivers. What do people do about their au pair's food when they get takeaway?

Second, we usually take the kids out to lunch at the weekend. On the au pairs first day we will be going out to lunch and inviting her and paying for her but subsequently I don't expect to pay for her accompanying us if she chooses to do so (she would not be required to come, just invited if she is bored). How do I handle this?

hettienne Wed 11-Sep-13 20:23:37

You get to pay her less than minimum wage because she lives as part of your family and shares in family meals - that's the legal loophole!

If you want to avoid buying her a takeaway, then explain up front that you and your DH will eat later/alone on a Saturday night so she can either eat with the children or get herself something.

If you invite her to lunch on the weekends, then pay for her. If you don't want to pay for her, don't invite her!

Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 20:27:07

To be fair it's not less than minimum wage when you factor in the normal rent for a loft suite in our part of London, plus all bills taken care of, plus all food, plus £90 a week, all for 20 hours work. But I take your general point about pay.

NomDeClavier Wed 11-Sep-13 20:31:14

Accommodation offset doesn't take into account what normal rent would be though. The Govt just sets a rate whether that's central London or the Outer Hebrides, a loft suite or a box room.

hettienne Wed 11-Sep-13 20:31:37

The legal offset for accommodation is pretty small when it comes to calculating minimum wage - £35 a week or so.

pukkapine Wed 11-Sep-13 20:35:53

We've had 6 au pairs - we've always included them in take aways and if they join us on a meal out/day out we've paid. It's part of treating them as a member of the family which is really crucial to you feeling at ease with them in your home/family just as much as it is for them.

Artandco Wed 11-Sep-13 20:42:16

Artijoke - a full time live in nanny in London can be on £600 net a week. If live in accomadation and food still paid for exactly the same as an au pair except they are paid per hour rather than 'pocket money'

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Wed 11-Sep-13 20:45:35

The whole point in au pairing is not cheap childcare, accomodation provided. It is to allow a non national to experience life in another culture and in exchange they provide nanny-lite child surveillance and a bit of light housework.

hettienne Wed 11-Sep-13 20:47:22

£600 net a week for a live in would be extremely generous though.

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Wed 11-Sep-13 20:51:18

What I mean is that it is not to be seen as a cheap nanny. It's a cultural exchange. When I was an au pair they had a full time housekeeper/cook, plus another chef who came in for special dinners. I was a big sister who did the school run and supervised homework. I also helped tidy their rooms and babysat a couple of nights a week. THAT is as much as you should expect. It was actually hard to fit in with a family at 18 in a foreign city.

Artandco Wed 11-Sep-13 20:55:02

Hett- sure £600 is high end, but the point is whether someone pays £50 or £500 a week, the accomadation being provided isn't really that much off set. The majority of high end nanny employers want a live in nanny for convience of late/ early finishes/ overnights etc, not to save on costs .

£90 seems low for London also even as au pair. Does that include a full travel card ontop? ( as they would spend Half that otherwise on tube)

MissStrawberry Wed 11-Sep-13 21:05:09

You sound quite up yourself with your "pricey restaurant food" and "she'll have a good year I think." If you begrudge her enjoying nice food occasionally and a nice job maybe you shouldn't have help.

Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 21:23:04

Thanks for some of your advice. I'm signing off this thread now as I find the aggression and judgemental tones of some posters quite astounding.

kangarooshoes Wed 11-Sep-13 21:55:16

Include her and pay for her. And trips out to the zoo, afternoon tea etc.

Strix Thu 12-Sep-13 09:10:36

I am surprised at the number of people insisting an au pair is strictly a cultural exchange where the au pair lives as an additional member of the family -- effectively another child to be responsible for. If that is how the host family wishes to establish the relationship I guess that's fine.

It's not what I do, and not what several of my friends who also have au pairs do. My au pair is an EU citizen. She is not here in the UK on any Au Pair visa. She is treated as my live-in employee (and indidentally I don't take employer advice from Wikipedia... surely you jest?).

We don't exclude her from outings or take aways. Part of her job is to prepare food for the children, and to eat with them so she can lead by example on matters of nutrition and appropriate table manners. I get home from work at about 7:00pm after they have eaten. I fend for myself at that point. DH works away during the week so he is not there most evenings. I hae three children who are at time very hard work. When the day ends she heads up to her room to sype with her boyfriend / mates. Its always like this, with all of our au pairs / nannies. Some hang round in the kitchen and chat with me while I make my dinner, and some go out. But, we have never done mealtime, and no one has ever complained.

In our house, the difference between an au pair and a nanny (and we have employed several of each) is thus:

A nanny comes with experience and training and is expected to hit the ground running wothout a whole lot of guidance from me. I expect her to be well informed on all matter of child safety, appropriate toddler care and education, etc. I also expect her to be well versed in the employee / employer relationship. This means I expect her not to be surprised that I expect these things.

An au pair works fewer hours, may be asked to do non-childcare related tasks (say, picking up my shirts from the cleaner), and generally requires an awful lot of direction / training.

So, we used to have a full time live in nanny. We had two small children who were not yet in school. Now we have one small child (aged 2 1/2) and two in school (aged 8 and 10). We have an "au pair" and a childmindre who looks after the toddler while the older two are in school. In practise this au pair is somewhere between an au pair and a nanny, and she is paid somewhere in between as well. She is not "cheap childcare" but her pay does reflect her level of experience. And her hours are fewer than they were for our full time live in nannies.

I think in any job, your pay reflects your experience and level of expertise. And it is perfectly fair for someone to make less money as an au pair than as an experience nanny.

I hope this is helpful and clarifies some of the differences of an au pair and a nanny from an employers perspective.

Oh, and the au pair visa is a thing of the past. So, I really don't require the French translation for an arrangement which no longer exists, either in the home office (or whoever issues visas) or in practice.

Strix Thu 12-Sep-13 09:17:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrswishywashy Thu 12-Sep-13 09:33:11

This is where I get confused as an au pai legally has a definition in regards to au pairs in fact I think in the UK only two countries are eligible for an au pair visa. Maybe there needs to be another category or as Strix mentions "live in employee". Although I'd just like to see anyone looking after children be called an in home carer maybe even nanny. Nannies starting out in their career do fit in the job description you define strix and therefor I wouldn't class as an au pair at all.

If you are employing an live in carer then as long as you meet all legal requirements especially relating go tax, holiday pay, fair pay for work, a written contract then that's fine you can also have the carer eat separately as long as you provide food. The problem is the word "au pair"!

mrswishywashy Thu 12-Sep-13 09:37:08

Basically as you say the au pair visa is a thing of the past so let's not use the word at all. It leads to confusion and murky waters on expectations. Use live in carer, or nanny, or mothers help and make it clear that they will be treated as a employee from the start.

But please do make them feel at home, I've worked in a variety of homes for the past 15 years and there is nothing more upsetting or unsettling to feel out of place.

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Thu 12-Sep-13 09:47:23

The wiki link was not employment advice, was just a definition of what an au pair is intended to be. It's a shame that it has turned into a way of getting cheap childcare, it really wasn't supposed to be like that.

kronenborg Thu 12-Sep-13 13:50:23

"Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 14:10:18

1) What do people do about their au pair's food when they get takeaway?

2) [at a weekend family lunch out]...I don't expect to pay for her accompanying us if she chooses to do so (she would not be required to come, just invited if she is bored). How do I handle this?"

this thread has meandered about with respect to what "should" or "shouldn't" be included with respect to au pairs. PERSONALLY, i think it entirely depends on the way your family operate.

specifically, with respect to question 1, if your au pair eats with the family every day (and i have no idea what your particular arrangements are) - then it would seem completely reasonable that if you wish to have this as a special family meal WITHOUT the au pair, even as a weekly occurance, then this seems to be totally fair, so long as she is aware, and understands the reasons why, and she has provisions in the house to sort herself out with something else to eat.

specifically with request to number 2, if she is not working at weekends, then again, PERSONALLY, i would neither expect nor wish for her to attend a family lunch out - inclusion of the au pair in family activities is great (within reason), but dependence of the au pair on the host family is something altogether different, and i would encourage her to have her own interests and activities during her time off.

clearly inclusion of the au pair in 1 & 2 also does have some cost implication for the host family, which may be a greater or lesser consideration depending on the host family's finances.

irrespective of the opinions aired on this board, or any definition of the term "au pair", or preconceptions of the role past and present, it is a fact that plenty of au pairs are not included in family activities, and some NEVER are given the opportunity to eat with the family. i'm not commenting on the appropriateness or otherwise of this, its just the way it sometimes is - if you are including your au pair in other aspects of family life, then keeping one or two meals a week as special time for your partner and children, this is absolutely your right.

on the other hand, the more you include an au pair within your plans, and the the more flexible you are, one would hope this would be reciprocated.

regarding the more general off topic comments about au pair pay & benefits, i think the pay levels are pretty well established (give or take), as are the benefits, and these are (again, in my opinion) fair given the level of experience and skills required for an au pair to do their job - so the big variable is the way things are going to work within that particular host family, which is something that should be established as much as possible during both the interview process, and the induction, to avoid problems downstream. easier said than done, i know.

good luck with whatever you choose. whatever anyone here might have you believe, there is no right or wrong, and i hope some of the more aggressive responses here haven't/won't deter you from posting. noone is born a "professional" host family, and we all can learn from each other.

MrsDibble Thu 12-Sep-13 20:26:07

I think you need to include her in your takeaway definitely. However, she might not always want to join you, and may decide to make something else.

I think with the going out, you should invite her but make it clear she does not HAVE to come - it is an invitation. But I think you should pay for her if she does come. As others have said, she will probably be out quite often on weekends. You will almost certainly find that after a little while she does not want to spend all of her time with the family and will be quite glad of some time to herself on weekends, even if she is not out.

I don't think you have to include her in everything you do on weekends - for instance I recently took my daughter to Legoland on a Saturday but couldn't possibly have afforded for the au pair to come too - it would have doubled the price as we had a two-for-one for my daughter and myself. But I think when it comes to food in particular you should include her.

MrsDibble Thu 12-Sep-13 20:33:06

however, I agree with Kronenberg also that there is no fixed right or wrong - just trying to think of what would make everyone most comfortable.

I think after a week or two you could easily get away with saying re: the meals out "we would like to do this as a family" - probably as long as you invite her sometimes she will understand that you need some family time alone.

The first au pair we had was away all weekend, ever weekend staying with a cousin so we were a bit spoilt for family time. However, on the other hand we always felt terrible if we asked her to babysit on a Saturday as a result, because we knew she wanted to be somewhere else, even though it was part of our original agreement that she would do this from time to time. So there are always pros and cons to every arrangement.

MrsDibble Thu 12-Sep-13 20:39:07

Final thought - our first au pair also hated nearly all food and therefore made her own most of the time!

She started off eating with us, and I tried to make vegetarian food etc during the week which was fine for me, but it just petered out and she preferred to do her own a bit later, which would just be something like toast or hot chocolate. This was all fine as it didn't really interfere with me.

However, new au pair likes everything, although she doesn't eat large portions, and it has actually be really nice to have her eating with us - I've been making Thai food and things because she isn't familiar with it and it's been quite fun. She even tried Marmite, which I've never seen a French person do before. OK she didn't like it, but I admired her for trying!

So again, I'm just saying all kinds of arrangements can work out.

(You can probably tell from this, if you've read my earlier thread, that things have improved with new au pair a lot since the other day!).

MGMidget Sun 15-Sep-13 10:50:51

I would expect to invite AP to be included in both 1 and 2. Unless she is a big eater the additional cost for an extra person in a takeaway won't be that high. I agree though that you could plausibly make it a 'date night' just for you and DH if you explain in an advance what you are planning and have other food in the fridge or the AP. definitely not ok to have takeaway for the DC as well and not include the AP.

At weekends it's likely your AP will be out with friends once her social life is established so, although you should invite her to join you for meals out, most of the time she will have other plans.

TootiesFrootie Sun 15-Sep-13 12:31:27

I would include the AP in takeaways and meals out. It would be mean not to include her.

mikulkin Wed 18-Sep-13 16:26:06

Artijoke, I am sorry you encounter agression. Your initial questions did sound a little bit judgemental, but you were clear afterwards that you are willing to listen, so no need to be agressive!

When it comes to Sunday lunches, my experience is that au pairs feel lonely and would like to join family's activities in the first weeks of their arrival. So i take them with us and pay for them. It lasts maximum 4 weeks, and then they are out of the door before we even make plans as family or having very late lie-in after partying the night before.

On take aways I always include them too mostly because of the smell around the house.

Strix, I also come home around 7, sometimes even 8 and both aupair and DS have already eaten by that time. We live in the same house and whether she is your employee (which I don't think she is, but it is another story) or part of the family I find it strange to get food in with all the smell around the house and not let her it eat.

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