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Help! What should au pairs get in London? URGENT

(381 Posts)
majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 09:00:51

I'm paying £80 pocket money, all food, own room with new tv, dvd and radio. 3 x 3 hours English classes a week, just paid £137 for 12 weeks. Original agreement was this would rise to £100 this month, but hours were from 2:30 to 8 pm, 2 kids one at school one at FULLTIME nursery. She has talked me into letting her knock off at 6:30, and to let her off most of the housework which is ironing. The other housework is done to the minimum, very passive and helpless about everything, doesn't seem to know how to change a bed, or hoover, or cook despite talking about it all the time. I am finding myself working non-stop doing housework as well as a full time job, and failing dismally at coping with either, with continual colds and a back injury. Now she wants me to honor the £100 part of the deal. Am I a mug? a slavedriver? Should I find someone else? Quit my job? Kill myself?

yuletide Mon 17-Jan-05 09:13:31

We live in Manchester and AP gets £70 One week and £90 another.( duties Vary) Like you everything else included. ( don't kill yourself!!) I have always paid basic £55 for 25 hours then increased it when she proves she up to the job.

I don't see why she should get £100 if she is not doing less than her orginal hours and not doing what is expected. It no good if you are not getting the benefits of AP. I think youneed to explain this.

good Luck

PuffTheMagicDragon Mon 17-Jan-05 09:20:38

I don't have an au pair, but just from reading your post she taking the p* IMO. She should shape up or ship out! Must be v stressful for you. Hope you get things sorted.

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 09:33:13

I was spoiled by my previous Polish lady, who left to work in a friend's restaurant. She came from a family of 6, and knew how to get things done! No way would she walk past a pile of toys or kid's books on the floor, never mind MAKE one! or leave the hoover in the middle of the room and go to bed! This one is an only child like me, (I would never hire one of those if I had thought to ask ) and is rather mopey and whiney with an overweight problem (I can see why now!). I already have 2 dds, and don't want to adopt this one, in fact they are more helpful (age 4 and 2). I hired her after 2 others fell through at very short notice. Does anybody think I could do better for this amount of cash? Can't afford more, and am missing our 3rd bedroom more than I expected too. She doesn't smoke or drink and is reliable with the children so far, they are fairly happy-but I'm not.

binkie Mon 17-Jan-05 10:16:30

There are two things here - the pay rate, and the competence issue. I don't really know about pay rates - have you checked bestbear.co.uk or greataupair.com and seen what they suggest as going rates? (Think she'd be an "au pair plus" if working more than 25 hours a week, & they get more - but see what the sites say.)

But I don't think that's really the issue (apart from of course you shouldn't increase her pay when she has arranged to decrease her work). I think, & sorry if this sounds bossy, you need to draw up a list of what your last au pair did for you, decide what of that it is right for this one to do (just in case the deal was different) and then have a serious sit-down conversation with the girl. If you get an unhelpful, defensive response, then it's probably replacement time, as it's never going to get better. If you get a semi-helpful "I'll try" type response, then you need to decide if you have the time and energy basically to train her - but you mentioned not wanting to adopt, so perhaps in that case also she should go.

I can't believe it should be so hard to find someone for your job - sounds like a dream!!

Tanzie Mon 17-Jan-05 11:34:07

I think the competence issue is more of an issue than the pay. I would say to her that you will honour your part of the contract (ie pay her more) if she will honour hers (ie do what she is paid to do). You cd then point out that she is not honouring it at the moment. She is PAID to do a JOB, not to sit on her arse all day. My last au pair was lovely, but needed very firm guidance as her Mum and sister had done everything for her - eg she didn't know you needed to put soap powder in the washing machine to get the clothes clean!!

I am an only child and think my parents brought me up to be very independent - I learned to cook at an early age and had to clean (only dusting and hoovering) for my pocket money. They were very keen that I shouldn't be spoiled!

Tanzie Mon 17-Jan-05 11:36:04

And I know - easier for me to say than for you to do it! But I do think her conditions are pretty good for an au pair. And let's face it, the money she gets is hers to do what she likes with - she has no outgoings (and no stress). I don't get GBP 500 to fritter away on myself each month (I wish...!)

Ameriscot2005 Mon 17-Jan-05 12:05:17

I'd get rid of someone with attitude. I went through a very similar situation with my last au pair, and try to muddle through thinking it would get better - but it didn't.

You have to remember who is boss - you have to pick what is important to you, and let her work around it. If it doesn't fit with her language classes, she needs to find another family.

5.5 hours per day is probably around £60 per week minimum, and she should pay for her own language classes.

If you want to keep her, you really need to formalise her duties and then give her a couple of weeks to get her act together. There is no way you should give her £100 + language classes - that's obscene!

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 12:30:01

The duties, including working until 8pm 4 days a week (Fridays are off for her as well to make up for that) are all laid out in the same contract, where I said the pay would rise in January, and I have just made a wipe-off tick list she has to complete before she goes off duty. Obviously if she is going to hold me to the contract then I have to hold her to it too. Basically now I have to re-negotiate the whole thing, since I verbally let her (after initially saying no) reduce her contracted duties. I guess I'm really wondering if I pay too much or too little for London, and you guys have answered that (too much if anything). The more fundamental question is, are APs any use really? How many would I need to go through before I found one who isn't spoiled by her mummy? (My own kids are expected to help me before they get ANYTHING they want from me, heh heh )

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 12:40:31

Also there is the meals issue. I make healthy food, mostly steamed fresh veggies, roast chicken, pasta, fish, simple grilled meat, salads and fruit for dessert usually, sometimes a crumble. The children and DH love it. I provide lots of variety so there is always something someone likes. We try to have a nice time, no arguing or anything seems to happen. WE'RE NICE, HONEST!! She and the previous one wouldn't eat with us. Am I justified in asking that she please sit with us at mealtimes? Esp when dh away. Should I try to find an AP that genuinely eats anything as they all say they do on greataupair?

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 12:41:29

Ameriscot, what kind of attitude do you mean please?

Tanzie Mon 17-Jan-05 12:58:37

My last AP used to ask what we were having before deciding if she was going to eat with us! I said that I thought this was extremely rude and she should decide in the morning - before I knew what I was going to cook. I also said that if she didn't eat with us, I was happy for her to eat with the children, and what they ate, but did not want her "snacking" from the fridge or freezer so that come morning there was no milk, ham, cheese or bread, as happened on a few occasions. I also said that if she wanted to buy her own junk food, that was fine, but she should wait until the kids were in bed before eating - we don't do junk food here either (and she did have a peculiar penchant for microwaved burgers!!).

Tanzie Mon 17-Jan-05 12:59:19

God, I sound draconian! I am not, honest!

binkie Mon 17-Jan-05 13:10:15

I do think you are entitled to expect her to eat with you, at the very least on her "on duty" days (presumably there are two days a week when she's off) - au pairs are supposed to be learning English and that's the very best time to practice, I would have thought. Certainly it's how I learnt my French ... those exchange family meals ...

I can't believe anyone wouldn't want your food. There must be bigger issues here. Maybe she is generally lost and unhappy, nothing to do with you. Did you find her through an agency? Could you have a word with them?

(Oh, just an aside: it rather depends on how much pocket money is being paid of course, but I think that if I had an au pair I would stand them the language class fees.)

Ameriscot2005 Mon 17-Jan-05 14:07:26

My au pair experience is limited to just the one au pair, and that didn't work out. It wasn't a disaster (she wasn't a druggie or a thief), but she just didn't like being an au pair. I think I'd describe her as self-centred more than anything. I've spoken to lots of more experienced mums since then, and feel that I know where I went wrong, and I'm confident now that I'd be able to recognise any problems early on and rectify them.

So, Majorstress, don't be disheartened. There are lots of good au pairs out there!

I see a lot of the same behaviour in your au pair as I had in mine. So if I were in your situation, I'd give her one chance to up the standard of her work, or let her go. I wouldn't talk about money at the moment, because presumably a raise is contingent on her doing good work (otherwise you'd have paid her the £100 from the start). She's also cut back on the hours, so it's only fair for you to cut back on the pay (which I imagine she'd find intolerable).

I'd say that my au pair, despite being 26, was still very much a little girl and she seemed to have no idea of working for an employer and the responsibility that that entailed. I think one of the mistakes I made was in being too nice to her early on, giving her "time to settle in" and not clearly communicating the standards I expected, and it was very hard to up the expectations a few months down the road. I think if I had set expectations right from day 1, then she would have grown up on the spot.

It's normal for au pairs to eat with you, but as an adult, she can choose whether she wants to or not. If she is serious about learning English, she will realise that this is one of the best times to speak with real English speakers. My au pair was picky about food, but everyone I've spoken to says that you should not go out of your way to indulge them - some concessions, yes, but not to the point where you are modifying your meals just to suit the au pair. Again, you have to communicate food expectations with them up front, even before they arrive.

As for London rates - I don't think it makes a big difference where in the country. We live just outside London, and this is a lot harder on the au pair's pocket money than living in London itself because of the cost of travelling in every weekend. You've already taken care of the real costs of London living (accomodation), so you shouldn't need to give her a "London Weighting".

I think you are "safe" on £80 - no one could call you a slave driver. And overly generous by paying for language classes on top of that - especially by paying the full cost up front (some people pay half-cost, some pay a bonus on completion).

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 14:28:16

I think I am already so fed up I would like to find another ASAP. It took months to sort out this one though, and I don'want her to leave right away.

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 14:37:27

The real problem was starting off on the wrong foot, I was in a crisis by the time she came, the house a mess and my first time with a very young barely-4 year old starting school, I just wasn't prepared for the trauma. I was way too nice and now don;t know how to assert myslef, I'm a useless manager att eh best of times and either sulk myself, or lose my temper. Any time I try to teach her anything, one or both kids strikes up the band! She's very hard to train, and I can't mind the kids and run the whole house at the same time.

Ameriscot2005 Mon 17-Jan-05 14:44:24

Yep, it can be hard, but now you know what the pitfalls are, you will get off to a much better start next time and hopefully end up with a much better arrangement.

What I am doing for my next au pair is putting together a ring-binder with everything I can think that she'd need to know about the family, the house and the local area. That way, she can always refer to it on her own if I am not around or if she didn't understand what I said.

If you've now made the decision to let this one go, you are probably feeling happier already. I know that's how I felt.

Good luck!

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 15:18:45

Boy oh boy is she lost and unhappy, and I'm sorry about that, but I need help, I can't re-habilitate someone else's child right now! It's a shame, but really my life is being sucked out of me. Definitely there are weight issues, starvation and binge eating going on. this is not a job, more some kind of free holiday spa I am providing as far as I can see.

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 15:24:12

I think with the next one I will give them the money for the English classes but as part of the pay, so they count it as part of the pay they are getting and don't just forget about it. Or maybe an aussie or someone like that would be better (can't have too many visa problems, that's what foiled my first attempt after much time and expense, to get a qualified English teacher with good grades and very lively, but not from EU). I myself don't spend anything on ME, my clothes are in rags, my hair always needs cutting; I never go out at all, anywhere except to work; I would love to have £80 to spend every week! It is a cheek, isn't it, to want £100?

binkie Mon 17-Jan-05 16:15:35

Yes, I see, serious issues. Replacement time - in both your interests.

If visas have been a concern I'm guessing you recruited from abroad. You could look (via gumtree or similar) for someone who's already in the country? Sorry if that's a dimly obvious suggestion.

Just a note from my experience: I'm not sure that you would find Aussie/NZer for your job, as with no need to attend language school they'd be generally looking for full-time work at a full-time (non-au pair) rate.

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 17:36:31

That's probably true, though we had a lot of interest at the time from people who wanted more time to themeselves. I did recruit from abroad on the advice that AP who are already here and want to move, obviously wish to leave their current post for a better job, own car richer family etc.; might be a bad'un themselves; or are just tourists who will up sticks anytime to see a new neighborhood. Also they already have friends or boyfriends, that's why they want to stay, but haven't been here long enough to realise that just being in the same city doesn't mean it is easy to see your friends when that city is London, with it's poxy expensive transport. Anyway I doubt it matters that much, the second one who fell through WAS already here, I offered her the job, she accepted then her sister called the day before she was to start to say she didn't want to be AP and had gone home to her country. That was the day before my mother had to return to the US, leaving me with no care at all for brand new schoolgirl.

There must be a way to do this without going insane.

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 17:38:08

Ameriscot, are you trying to recruit an AP now? What are you doing in the meantime?

Ameriscot2005 Mon 17-Jan-05 17:49:43

Yes, I am recruiting now. I had a lovely Bulgarian girl all set up, and her visa was refused , so it's back to square one .

I'm a SAHM, and can do everything I need to do without any help.

majorstress Mon 17-Jan-05 17:54:39

I'm trying really hard to calm myself down so as not to have a confrontataion tonight over this pay issue-she just asked me again! I had to get my copy of the contract this morning from my office at work, and I explained yet again that she had to speak with me after the children were in bed (as 2 year old shouted 100 times that something FALL DOWN!!!). She usually disappears into her room each evening at knock-off time (now 6:30) and never reappears until 7:30 the next day , and looks horrified if I knock to tell/ask her something. Then I got annoyed because dd1 still cannot operate the video herself, when I let her go off to watch tv to give me a break, and I still have to do it for her (and AP looks on cluelessly). Now my face is all red with rage-not very conducive to calm discussion! I have been at work all day (8 am to 4 pm) with sick people shouting at me, and my back is killing me, the GP thinks it is a damaged disc. DH is away all week for work. Tomorrow I have to take a day's precious annual leave for dd1 for her MMR booster and she is a serious crybaby, and I have to keep Hyper dd2 most of the day as I cannot drive for 3-4 hours taking her into and out of work nursery. Will still be expected to have completed this weeks work as if
I didn't have a day off (that's the modern NHS, no backup). Going off to hide in bedroom and either meditate, or cry. freezer meals tonight I think!!) and maybe from now on! maybe APs will eat those.

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