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New to au pair world, give me your words of wisdom please

(22 Posts)
happydutchmummy Tue 02-Apr-13 11:46:49


I've just signed up to au pair world to find a lovely au pair for the summer months.

But I've just looked through a couple of the previous posts on here and it's full of exasperated parents despairing at their search process.

So I've decided to ask if any veterans have any tips, advice and general guidance for a newbie like me?

Thanks. X

MrAnchovy Tue 02-Apr-13 14:55:15

Decide what you you want, and what you will not accept, (within reasonable ranges) and stick to it. Be aware that there are many people desparate enough to consider work for which they have no aptitude or interest, and will say anything to get it. The best way to identify these people is usually a trial weekend.

Zavi Tue 02-Apr-13 15:30:46

A trial weekend - for a summer au pair, really hmm That 's overkill IMO.

Put as much info as possible in your original ad otherwise you will have to spend hours trawling through hundreds of responses.

Skype is great for getting a feel for those who live overseas. Arrange for a 2-week probationary period for the AP. If they are really awful or you just don't click you can part company at that point.

I would say avoid anyone who has never lived away from home - you don't want to end up having to babysit a home-sick babysitter.

Avoid those who will be leaving boyfriends / girlfriends around for same reason as above

Make sure they are fairly independent and out-going and that they sign up for English classes. They will make friends that way and that will help them to settle in enormously.

Be very clear about what household tasks you want them to do, and how much time per day they are likely to spend doing housework. Most APs don't really enjoy housework so don't dump stuff on them that you wont ordinarily be doing yourself at the weekend when they are off.

Treat your au pair with respect! Don't forget they are in a very vulnerable position. But so are you. Treat them more like a friend than an employee. After all, they are not an employee. Officially! Make sure your kids treat them nicely and with respect too.

MrAnchovy Tue 02-Apr-13 15:46:25

Oops, didn't notice it was for a summer au pair - yes a trial weekend would be over the top!

But this is a different market - plenty of genuine students/end of gap year candidates to choose from.

MrAnchovy Tue 02-Apr-13 15:54:00

"After all, they are not an employee."

Yes they are (unless their duties are insignificant), and if you pay them more than £109pw you need to register as an employer and operate PAYE; you must also have employer's liability insurance (which often comes with your home contents insurance, but you should check) and comply with employment regulations including minimum paid leave (12.07% of the time they work).

happydutchmummy Tue 02-Apr-13 16:22:26

Thanks for your replies

Zavi - I love the idea of a 2 week probationary period, hadn't thought of that but will definitely add that in.

Mr anchovy - you have panicked me with saying that they are an employee and that I need to look into paye and insurance! However I note that you put in brackets that it doesn't count if their duties are insignificant..... Please clarify what insignificant is! Plus I thought an au pair was like a member of the family, not paid a wage, but instead getting pocket money?

To give you a bit of an idea of what I am after....

I am pregnant and it's tiring and draining and I just want someone around the house to play with my dd for 3 days a week so that I'm not home alone with my 3 year old and she's stuck in front of cbeebies whilst I mulch on the sofa. No cleaning or other housework involved! Is that insignificant?


Zavi Tue 02-Apr-13 17:03:25

Au pairs are seen as being on a "cultural exchange" and are not therefore classed as workers or employees so the national minimum wage for instance does not apply to them as long as certain "au pair" conditions are met. I.e. they live with the family, the family provides their food and lodging free of charge, they get pocket money in return for help with childcare and light housework. Most, but not all, need to be from EU countries. Different rules apply to some other countries.

Im quite certain that under the normal rules of the au pair scheme they are not classed as employees and you will not be classed as their employer.

If they took up other employment whilst here that would be a whole other kettle of fish (!) but as long as they only work for you, and you provide them with food/lodging/pocket money then it is not classed as "employment" by the DWP.

That's the kind of thing that needs to be spelt out in a contract before they start I.e. that if they take up other employment the nature of your relationship with them is completely changed and you would have to start taxing them and charging them for food and lodging to boot!

If you don't want them to do that then make it a condition of their stay with you that they don't take up any other type of formal employment

MrAnchovy Tue 02-Apr-13 17:18:20

"Please clarify what insignificant is!"

I can't I'm afraid, only a court can do that by looking at the facts of the case, however there are no reports of anyone successfully arguing in any court relevant in the UK that an au pair is not an employee, or that an au pair is nor a worker (the term worker is used in most legislation deriving from European directives such as the Working Time Regulations).

An example of someone not held to be a worker was a person on a rehabilitation scheme to help drug addicts reintegrate into normal employment.

For PAYE purposes there is no threshold of materiality anyway - if you pay anyone anything for their services then it must either be self employment (which work as an au pair cannot be for various reasons) or employment. If the employee has no other job when they start work for you and they never earn £109 or more in any week (or £473 or more in any month if paid monthly) however you do not have to register for PAYE.

Employers Liability Insurance is a tricky one - the statute could be interpreted as appearing only to include those in "business" but courts have applied the law to charities etc. It is not worth arguing this one though - if your au pair slips on the stair carpet while on duty and injures her back you don't want to be meeting the claim out of your own pocket.

Scarletlips Tue 02-Apr-13 17:18:55

Just thought I would share this. kangaroo au pair is giving free premium memberships to UK families. It usually costs £26. I just agreed a spanish au pair and it cost me nothing. Not sure how long they have this offer for. I'll let you know how the au pair works out. She's coming in 2 weekssmile

MrAnchovy Tue 02-Apr-13 17:35:00

"then it is not classed as "employment" by the DWP"

Unfortunately the DWP have nothing to do with it. Tax law is enforced by HMRC - ask them if you can pay an au pair £110pw without registering for PAYE.

The requirement for Employers Liability insurance is enforced by the HSE - ask them if an au pair can do any work for you without £5m EL insurance in place.

Workers' rights are enforced by the legal system, ultimately by the European Court - ask them (as the UK Government did in Case C-294/06 Ezgi Payir et al v Secretary of State for the Home Department) if an au pair is not a worker.

MrAnchovy Tue 02-Apr-13 17:44:05

"...under the normal rules of the au pair scheme"

There is no au pair scheme in the UK with rules that have any status in law (the closest we come is restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian nationals working as au pairs for immigration purposes).

Zavi Tue 02-Apr-13 17:53:21

The info i gave is detailed on the DWP website. It is a current and relevant source of info in relation to this.

scurryfunge Tue 02-Apr-13 17:53:54

I've not had an au pair for about 8 years, so employment law knowledge is probably out of date for me. I agree with Zavi about getting them signed up at the college for English classes- they will meet new people in a similar position there. We also paid for a gym membership and the use of a car is useful, depending where you live. I always expected au pairs to be part of the family enjoying meal times, etc together. Be wary of someone who hides in their room.

SolomanDaisy Tue 02-Apr-13 18:01:39

happydutchmummy Tue 02-Apr-13 18:21:33

Wow, thanks for trying to clarify it. This is all stuff I'd have never considered. I'm feeling a bit naive now just thinking I could simply go and find an au pair online and that's the end of it.

We don't live in London so I am offering a wage that's under the £110 threshold, especially as there will not be a huge amount of work involved. But I will definitely add in a clause about them not taking on any other jobs because that seems like a whole lot of trouble.

Can anyone recommend a good place to get a basic au pair contract from (or post one on here if you have it on your computer). I can then tinker with this a bit to add in anything extra.

Cheers again

happydutchmummy Tue 02-Apr-13 18:53:08

Ohhh, just googled au pair contracts and there are plenty out there.

Another really old thread from 2009 came up too with examples of stuff to put in an au pair handbook came up as well. (Including stuff like the house rules, emergency phone numbers, maps of the local area, etc).

And having an au pair handbook seems like a genius idea! Just got to get round to actually writing one now.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Tue 02-Apr-13 21:09:18

It is much safer for you to operate, as Mr Anchovy says, as if they were your employee.

There was a case mentioned on here a couple of years ago when a host mother was in the process of letting someone go; the au pair had the wherewithal to get herself off to the CAB who advised her that she was an employee. Who's right? Who knows? The information on APs may be inaccurate/open to different interpretations. But who would want the aggro of going through an employment tribunal and being that test case.

cloudyatlas Thu 04-Apr-13 11:44:36

- write them a list of jobs at the start- they are not mind readers!
- make an effort to make them feel welcome, and show them around when they arrive
- give them a couple of weeks to settle in and get used to driving on the wrong side
- English classes are ideal for making friends
- give them some notice when you expect them to babysit
- give them the option of joining you for social stuff
- allow as much access to Skype as you can
- treat them like a member of the family- but allow them privacy (ours sleeps downstairs, we sleep upstairs)
- get someone over 21 if possible

Ours is lovely. We went through all her paperwork thoroughly and hen skyped her once to interview her. We had a good feeling about her and she has worked out well. We didn't get particularly involved with contracts- she signed something with the agency, and so did we.

fraktion Thu 04-Apr-13 22:07:21

That .gov page cited is wrong and currently being challenged. I wouldn't rely on it. Someone from the DWP didn't actually check the facts but relied on the au pair agencies association's interpretation, and their interpretation is to make life as simple as possible for the families who pay their fees and not worry about silly little things like legal rights and protection. The govt have fallen into that trap before but not learnt their (very expensive) lesson taught by the ECJ. Far better to acquaint yourself with relevant case law and treat them as an employee which is not complicated.

Most household insurance policies have ELI included. Just check yours does, if it doesn't check whether you can include it or give Morton Michel a call.

Most sensible people draw up a contract with their au pair. There are several on the net. PM me and I'll send you mine.

Most people don't pay above the threshold. Just don't go over £109pw and you'll be fine.

Most people don't fire their au pair with no notice - in fact most au pair employers agonise over whether they should correct something their au pair does wrong. Don't agonise, do correct, and unless they do something so heinous that it counts as gross misconduct (specified in your contract) give them the agreed notice (specified in your contract).

NoRoomForMeInMyBed Fri 05-Apr-13 18:34:34

What kind of paperwork do you ask your au pair candidates to supply? I have asked for a crb check in her home country which is easy for her to obtain, do you also ask candidates for references?

viktoria Mon 08-Apr-13 18:24:00

We have been using au pair world for the last few years and have found it great.
One downside to au pair world is when you get too many applications - while there is a standard letter to send to any unsuitable au pair, I found it quite time consuming to e-mail all the possibles.
I find it much easier now that we only consider male au pairs (fewer applications);
you can also restrict the number of countries where you want your au pair to be from - we never include anywhere outside of Europe. Legally it's just too complicated, and now we just get au pairs who are German speaking (as my son does German at school).

I generally never contact an au pair first, I wait for au pairs to contact us - after all, a good au pair is one who shows initiative.

Once they have contacted me, and they seem good, I send a very detailed letter, outlining all the tasks, what is important to us, what is unacceptable to us (smoking, having people come to stay, being disrespectful etc) - I generally put down really strict rules: we don't usually stick to all of them (for instance most of our au pairs have had friends/family come to visit and staying with us), but it is much easier to relax rules, than to make them stricter.

Some au pairs do not reply to this first letter (presumably having been scared off...). The ones that do, will get another letter asking for references - again, it's a good test on how organised they are, and once the references have been checked by us, we start skyping with the possible au pairs - at this point, it's usually no more than 3-4 possible au pairs.

While we have had some problems with au pairs (some are better, some are worse), most are absolutely brilliant - they are young people who quite bravely decide to go to a foreign country, which I think is very admirable. I think looking at them as an older son/daughter, or nephew/niece, is a good way to approach it.
Good luck.

MariePol Fri 04-Apr-14 12:08:02

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

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