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Novice Host Family- Au Pair arriving next Monday - Words of Wisdom please!

(14 Posts)
ancientgeordiegirl Mon 28-Sep-09 19:52:38

hi I'm getting my first au pair on Monday and would like to glean any words of wisdom that I can from all the MNers. I have already looked at the board for dos and don'ts re au pairs, from that I've got the idea that I should look after her quite intensively for her settling in time, provide her with a handbook re duties, house rules, useful info etc. What else do I need to do?

I have found her through a contact - met her twice already (with her mother!) and she seems very suitable. As I haven't used an agency should I put an informal written agreement in place? She doesn't have visa issues as she has a EU passport and she has family in London (where I'm based) so I'm hoping she won't suffer from homesickness too much. I'm at home all the time and basically just need her at the crunch times at the start and end of the day to help with school run and bedtime (baby #3 due in 11 weeks).

What I'm looking for is more advice on au pair "etiquette" - do I need to cook for her every night or is it enough to tell her to help herself (within reason to the fridge), is it reasonable to give her a week night curfew (as she is only 21, living away from home for the first time and I need her on duty at 8 am each morning!), Can I politely make it clear that I will want couple time with my husband in the evenings from about 8.30 so that she doesn't hang out with us all the time? I know that how I start out will make the difference between a happy au pair and unhappy one but want to get the balance right!

Many thanks for getting to the bottom of this ramble - hope someone can give me a bit more of a clue.

cheapskatemum Mon 28-Sep-09 20:15:23

Others may disagree, but from the fact you've mentioned the above things: couple time and curfew, they are important to you and so, yes, I would include them in your written agreement. I always cooked for my APs every weekday night, but left them to fend for themselves at weekends. The downside to them helping themselves to whetever's in the fridge is that your idea of "within reason" might differ considerably from theirs. Oh and many of my APs were happy to cook a regional speciality from their country occasionally. We all miss my last APs "Spatzle" (should have umlaut over "a"!).

dal21 Mon 28-Sep-09 20:47:30

Hi OP - my advice is that if you have requirements, then put them in writing so that they are very clear. I wrote up our requirements/ house rules before our au pair accepted the job - my view being that the whole adjustment to living together would be made far easier if we were honest.

In these requirements, I asked our au pair to keep late nights (Mon to Thurs, later than 9.30-10pm to an absolute minimum). We wake at 5.45 so dont need someone coming in at midnight waking everyone up, plus the au pair starts work at 7am.

Re. the couple time, I made it clear that weekends were family time (although she would be welcome to join meals if she wished to) and we plan to invite her out on occasional outings. But re. getting evenings in general to yourself, your best bet is kitting her own room out with DVD/ TV and internet access. If she has her own tv to watch and computer to surf the internet with, I dont think you will see her come evenings.

The best bit of advice I saw on here a few weeks back was to ensure that every night you spent some time discussing how the day went and how she is finding things...and equally how you are finding things. Nothing worse then letting resentments boil up.

Millarkie Mon 28-Sep-09 21:20:21

I don't give my au pairs a curfew - but I ask them to text if they are going to be out past 10.30 or overnight. If they are too tired to do their jobs then next day then I will talk to them then...but since they only have to stay awake for an hour to get the kids ready and then they can go back to bed for most of the day I've not had any issues so far.
I also don't ask them to give us space in the evenings but I do provide tv/internet etc in their rooms and I've never had one prefer to sit with dh and I whilst we have fascinating 'old people' discussions when they could be MSNing their friends or watching their own tv.
I cook for mine during the week (since I'm cooking for the kids anyway) but I give them the option of fending for themselves if they want (normally they eat with the kids for the first month and then branch out with their meals). Latest au pair tends to eat dinner with us at weekends (other au pairs tended to be out and about til late at weekends) but she is lovely so we like having her around.

nbee84 Mon 28-Sep-09 21:38:28

This is what booreeve put about evenings, which I thought was worded quite well;

I stipulated in our house "rules" that we could have dinner together etc...but that from 9pm she should repsect that we are a busy couple and that we do require some privacy.

Julesnobrain Mon 28-Sep-09 22:28:00

We cook for the AP every night and she has dinner with the children which is at 7.30pm M- F. On Sat and Sun I give her the option of eating with the kids at 5pm or making her a dinner which can microwave at a more suitable time for her, which they tend to prefer. We say we are always around for talking, watching telly etc until 9pm and then we go to the sitting room (Private) and they are welcome to go to their room (Tv/ full sky package/Laptop/broadband/DVD etc) or sit in dining room (more tv). We have found they prefer to be off talking to their friends than stay with us 'oldies' but making it clear at the beginning definately helps as when they first arrive we find they are keen not to appear rude so you almost need to let them know its OK for them to have their own time.

MuffinToptheMule Mon 28-Sep-09 22:45:02

No need for a curfew unless late nights are affecting her work or disturbing the family.

DadInsteadofMum Tue 29-Sep-09 09:55:37

You do need to have a written agreement in place, firstly as it is a legal requirement for any employee and secondly because it protects both sides in the event of disagreement, for example from your side it defines gross misconduct that can result in summary dismissal.

I don't think a curfew is appropriate for an adult, if my employer imposed a curfew on me I would be less than impressed, on the other hand if I turned up late or sleepy every morning they would say something (or at least they will when they notice).

As I say frequently on here make time to speak to them in the first few weeks, and make sure it is a too way conversation not inly you telling them what went well and what needs to improve but listening to what they enjoyed and what they found difficult.

Now that I have put internet into their room (at first it was just access to the family computer in the lounge) I never see them in the evening as other have said MSN with mates vs reruns on Dave, no contest.

ancientgeordiegirl Wed 30-Sep-09 09:04:50

Thanks for all your messages - re the curfew issue I will discuss it with her but perhaps not go so far as "imposing" one on her - basically we live in a small terraced london house so if she was coming past midnight a lot that wouldn't be good as she'd wake us up and my husband gets up at 6 am everyday.

Dadinsteadofmum - what kind of things do you put in your written agreement - duties etc are easy enough but I'd be at a loss to put more. It is sufficient to have wording on a A4 piece of paper and just get both of us to sign and date it? If she goes on holiday (e.g. her sister lives in London and she will probably want a week over christmas with her) do I still pay her?

DadInsteadofMum Wed 30-Sep-09 22:40:19

m - yes -as a n employee under UK law she is entitled to 28 days paid holiday per year - pro rated for shorter contracts, and that should be in contract - along with:
Pay
Notice period
What constitutes gross misconduct.

ancientgeordiegirl Thu 01-Oct-09 07:22:17

Dad - thanks again I've now gone off and found this www.universalaupairs.com/family/about_au_pairs__nannies.html#Statement which I found helpful - as I'm not paying her £95 a week I don't need to worry about sick pay but tbh if she was upstairs in bed sick I'd pay her as normal as she is an extra pair of hands rather than someone for me to rely on so that I can work outside the home. I'd not thought about holidays but will now cover those in the written agreement. Did you/ Do you pay for your au pairs language course or is it sufficient just to help them sort it out and find a suitable school for them? The latter is what I've done so far. When I was an au pair (20 years ago) I paid for my language course myself but don't know if that was normal.

Metrobaby Thu 01-Oct-09 09:17:11

It's your decision whether you want to contribute, in part or in full, to the language courses or not. Personally I don't, but some families do. Also bear in mind some Au Pairs may not end up going to a language course. If you do pay for a course, consider what would be the effect if say - worst case scenario - your AuPair left within a month.

BonsoirAnna Thu 01-Oct-09 09:20:28

I don't think you can give a 21 year old girl a curfew, but I do think that you can expect her to be in bed by 11 pm in order to be rested enough to perform her duties.

And if you want her to clear out of the living areas by 8.30 pm, you need to ensure you have put a TV, DVD, computer etc in her room.

DadInsteadofMum Thu 01-Oct-09 10:27:07

Exactly that - help them find but the cost is down to them.

The £95 per week is the threshold for Statutory Sick Pay, what you are prepared to pay them while they are sick is a different matter.

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