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Au pair just quit...

(70 Posts)
sometimesinthefall Wed 22-Oct-14 11:51:39

Just that, really. She was great until last week and then things went from bad to worse. Having had trouble with our last three au pairs, clearly some adjustments are needed. The post is very easy - mainly after-school pick ups and holiday care for two well-behaved kids, nice town with a big au pair community - but I find the girls are inclined to ask for unreasonable things rather than enjoy what is on offer. I feel sometimes that this is a free for all and many of them are just looking to get as much as they can (the previous one mainly enjoyed a 5-month jolly on the local bar scene). Our soon-to-be-gone au pair has complained that she wasn't allowed to work in her free time (due to the NI implications for us; she never made it clear that it was important for her), that she didn't have use of the car (the insurance quote for her came back at 3,000 and it was not indispensable) and that we didn't chip in for her English classes (I simply forgot!!). She also seemed very upset when we asked her not to bring in friends during her work hours. Any practical advice as to how to make a better start next time - except not forgetting money I promised?

Mum2Pea Wed 22-Oct-14 12:24:00

how are you locating your aupair? we use aupairworld so that we can choose

find it good as can then be VERY specific of the role and what is included and what is not

we are very flexible on time in lieu, expect them to eat / use anything in the house
we also dont insure on our car, don't allow friends during work hours (unless they are also an aupair with similar age charges), dont pay for english classes and dont allow them to work for the same NI reasons

we receive 100s of applicants each time, have then whittled down via specific questions and have had 2 successful year long placements

i think the main thing is, dont be afraid to be choosy and to be clear on expectations so for those that the role is not suitable, they know and take themselves out of the selection process

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 22-Oct-14 13:33:54

First of all register as an employer with HMRC put your next AP on payroll through their RTI software. You will be beneath the tax and NI threshold, but if they want to get another job they can without any NI implications for you as you are the first employer so get all her allowances. I do this with current AP and it has worked really well.
I have to say I think forgetting to contribute to her English lessons is one that you should never allow to happen again, if you are going to agree to pay. I don't contribute.
The AP who went out a lot did they ever let you down as a result of their going out. If they didn't, what they do in their spare time is up to them.
If a car is not going to be avaliable make it clear right from the start I have had three APs who didn't have a car knew this from before they arrived and it was never a problem.
Once an AP has accepted the position with me I send an email containing the full job offer as I would employing anyone else. This helps to remove any confusion at the outset.

Unexpected Wed 22-Oct-14 16:04:53

Sounds like a lot of miscommunication to me. You need to be really, really clear, in writing, about what the position involves and what will be offered. Some aupairs are fairly experienced, if not in childcare, at least in having had a job previously, but some are away from home and "working" for the first time and need a lot of hand-holding.

It is fairly usual for aupairs to want to work if they have a lot of free time, although many seem to clean or do babysitting for cash. If you offered her use of a car, then you needed to investigate costs before doing so. If you made it clear that it wasn't on offer, then she was being unreasonable. Forgetting about the English lesson contribution on top of that was probably the final straw for her.

sometimesinthefall Wed 22-Oct-14 16:11:06

Thank you both.

Mum2Pea - I have been using Aupairworld throughout. I thought I knew how to find good au pairs but reading your suggestions has confirmed my hunch that I tend to be a bit too kind and need to set out clear expectations in order to avoid mutual disappointments. The 'screening questions' which you mention would be of great interest to me.

Lonecat - I am not sure I want to go through the trouble of registering, certainly not without a good discussion ahead, but thanks for the advice. The kind of situations I seem to end up with is that I'll go out of my way to help with this kind of initiatives, and then the other job starts taking precedence over childcare, especially during holiday. I felt bad about the class money, but it was alleviated by a £10 pay rise/ week when we saw how great she was. Regarding the old au pair, actually I'd be interested for your opinions. She had about 10 hours to do most weeks. My little one (age 3) was shy with her at first and so she gave up very quickly approaching him, meaning minimal work on that front. Her social life did not interfere massively but for instance we'd come back from an evening night when she'd been babysitting, and find her all ready to go out and rushing out the minute we came in. She's get up hungover around 2 pm most weekends and then go out again, sometimes asked us to move our engagements because they interfered with her plans, etc. So it all conveyed the message that work was a chore and she was always counting down to get out of the house. I don't mind the latter but I am desperate to get an au pair who is keen and professional. Is this unrealistic?

OhReallyDear Wed 22-Oct-14 16:24:24

But sure enough, when she baby sat, the child was sleeping, so she had the right to get ready. You wanted her to hold your hand and put you to bed?

She had the weekends off? She can sleep as much as she wants then, and go out as much as she wants.

For your current Au pair, I can understand why she would be upset if shes accepted a job where she was promised a car, but it was cancelled after you asked for a quote and she was promised a course you forgot to pay.

I know the Au pairs are not always angels or victims, but I am often surprised at how some people talk about their au pair like they don't have full human rights because they live under their roof...

As long as she doesn't bring people if you don't want, what she does with her time off is her problem. And if she is promised something, she should have it.

OhReallyDear Wed 22-Oct-14 16:27:49

And Au apir are not professional. For 10 hours a week, wouldn't it be better to have a nanny or a childminder. then you can expect professional and you don't get annoyed by what they do in their free time

morethanpotatoprints Wed 22-Oct-14 16:35:53

Maybe making sure your future au pair receives what you offer, the English lessons that your previous didn't have.

A use of a car is practically essential and it isn't the au pair fault that your insurance quote was too high.

Not suggesting what they do in their free time. if they do go to bars in their free time this should be fine as long as they are able to do their job well.

Au pairs don't demand a high wage because they aren't professionals, you would probably pay much more for a professional cc worker.

Unexpected Wed 22-Oct-14 16:48:19

I don't think anyone here can determine whether the use of a car is "practically essential" - particularly given that the OP says the aupair in this instance didn't particularly need a car for her job. Certainly if you live in the middle of a large city, having to drive rather than take public transport is probably more a hassle and not favoured by aupairs at all.

sometimesinthefall Wed 22-Oct-14 16:48:38

Okay, points taken.
All in all, an au pair costs £1000 a month so it is fair to expect some respect, if not professionalism, in exchange for that. I don't expect to 'be put to bed', why would I, but a minimum handover is not asking too much.
My au pair have all had English lessons and for what it's worth I always make sure they can attend them during the kids' holiday. A car is not practically a necessity when everything is within walking distance and I ascertained clearly prior to hiring that she was fine with walking everywhere.
That remark about full human rights is well out of line. And yes she did bring people I didn't want to see into my house and expected to be allowed with them whilst looking after my kid. Good for you and your au pair if you allowed this.
It's a case of miscommunication - that I'm willing to allow.

hollie84 Wed 22-Oct-14 16:56:51

If your school aged children are in bed, what kind of handover did you need?

It sounds like this is an issue of expectations. You are paying pocket money to a young person who wants to travel, learn English and probably party a fair bit too. You aren't going to get a professional childcarer.

sometimesinthefall Wed 22-Oct-14 17:01:25

Er, pocket money AND board and lodging in the South East.

hollie84 Wed 22-Oct-14 17:02:36

A professional live-in nanny would get board and lodgings and about 4 times what you pay your AP. Good childcare is expensive.

sometimesinthefall Wed 22-Oct-14 17:05:29

So the option is to have a teenager who just thinks about getting pissed as often as possible or a super-expensive nanny? Great. I sure need to lower my expectations then.

hollie84 Wed 22-Oct-14 17:07:43

What other option were you looking for?

Au pairs generally aren't coming here because they desperately want to look after children for low pay. You can definitely expect them to be honest and reliable babysitters and to do some chores, but it would be silly to expect them to behave as a nanny would.

TimeWarp Wed 22-Oct-14 17:08:01

What sort of personality are you drawn to in an au pair sometimes? I wonder if there's something about your 'type' that is likely to make them more dissatisfied. For instance, I tend not to go for very earnest people or those who are a bit idealistic about children, mostly because my DC would be a horrible shock to the system for someone who genuinely believes that all children are like their lovely placid nieces and nephews.

My best au pairs have been ones who have a good reason to need to learn English (rather than just not really knowing what they want to do with their life). I generally go for people who have worked with groups of children, eg as a swimming instructor, football coach or summer camp leader. My current au pair was a part-time tae kwon do teacher. I like it if they have lived by themselves for at least a short period. I pre-warn them that DS is rude and oppositional and they will have to be able to ignore him and not get wound up, and that DD is very shy and they will have to be patient and not crowd her. My au pairs tend to be older as the car insurance is cheaper for over 25s.

Have you considered a male au pair? I've had good experiences with both men and women, but I find when recruiting that the men are actively choosing to be an au pair because they enjoy being with children whereas the women sometimes think of it as a default 'easy' option.

JubJubBirds Wed 22-Oct-14 17:12:51

Would a live out nanny be a better option perhaps? Would you be intetested in pursuing that next time?

RoseyHope Wed 22-Oct-14 17:17:26

May I poke my nose in to suggest that we au pairs are not all lazy teenagers? grin Some of us are doing it for reasons other than learning English and traveling.

Hard to come by, though. wink

elastamum Wed 22-Oct-14 17:21:39

There are plenty of good au pairs out there wanting to come to the UK. I think you have to clearly define the job and what you are looking for and interview against some very clear criteria as to what is important to you. I used to send a contract with a very clear list of duties and house rules so everyone know where they stood before they arrived. I also registered them for NI and tax

I have always had au pairs over 22 as they are cheaper to ensure and I agree they need a reason to be here otherwise it wont work out. We did have one male au pair who was only in it for the money and whilst he was very efficient he hardly ever spoke to my children, so they didn't miss him when he left!

When you add up, board, pocket money (£100pw as we are rural), insurance and petrol they aren't that cheap. We don't have an au pair at present as my children are now teenagers and my part time housekeeper is much more efficient and will do the occasional school run when needed.

Hogwash Wed 22-Oct-14 17:22:09

OP, I have no experience of using childcare beyond babysitters, but I wondered whether a mature student would be a good idea? Someone who sees it not as party time but a roof over their head and an opportunity to work a bit in exchange for somewhere to study>? I don't know how the hours would fit.

sometimesinthefall Wed 22-Oct-14 18:32:36

Thanks, ladies. Lots of practical advice here, which is much appreciated, starting with managing everyone's expectations and especially my own. Looking above a certain age and a certain profile is a great idea too. I have thought about getting a childminder or a nanny but I do like the au pair system for its flexibility and above all, the cultural exchange. There are many great au pairs out there - had several before but not lately, and clearly haven't brought the best out of them either.

Artandco Wed 22-Oct-14 18:46:58

£1000 a month for an au pair working 10 hours a week? Surely is cheaper to pay a live out nanny.

Pay live out nanny £15 an hour, still only £150 a week, or £600 a month. Save £400 and get house back

FlappertyFlippers Wed 22-Oct-14 19:47:25

Hi, do you have a really clear and detailed contract with hours, duties, expectations, etc in it?

I don't actually think age is a huge factor in finding a fabulous au pair, we currently have a fantastic one who is20 years old but seems incredibly mature and competent for her age (far more than I was at 20!), however we have also had a 26 year old who was ok, but not fantastic. However I'd check that they have spent at least a year living out of their childhood home so they are aware of housework, etc.

I think that the reason they are coming to the uk is far far more important than their age. It turned out that the 26 year old had recently split up from her long term boyfriend and was just looking for a way to escape her life back home, she was moody, unmotivated and a trial to live with ( luckily she was a summer au pair only on a 3 month placement, but we were all relieved when she left). Our current au pair speaks excellent English but is very keen to polish it to perfection, and the best way for her to do this is to live in the uk.

I'd also recommend looking for au pairs who have younger siblings (who are around the age of your dc) so that they are used to playing with kids of that age.

OldCatLady Thu 23-Oct-14 09:38:07

I agree it would be A LOT cheaper to hire a professional nanny?

But I suspect there may be a little bit of exaggeration in your £1000 p/m estimation.

Blondeshavemorefun Thu 23-Oct-14 10:11:12

If you really only use 10hrs a week then get a nanny - certainly won't cost you £1000 a month - seems slightly Ott !!!

If you offer something rather paid lessons or a car you need to follow through. So check Insurance first or have an older person over 25

If your child was asleep whats the problem
In ap getting ready to go out?

In her spare time - a lot of 10hrs a week - course she will want to earn extra money or go out

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