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What are typical working hours for an au-pair - is all day care unusual?

23 replies

Belgianchox · 27/03/2007 17:04

Hi, we will be moving as a family to France soon, and will require childcare for my children. At the moment they both got to a childminders here in belgium, where we are all very satisfied with the level of care they receive. In france however it seems it will be very difficult to arrange similar care, and the creche in the town we are going to has no availability. So i was wondering about getting an aupair, but i'm not sure what kind if working hours they would accept, and what is reasonable to ask. Any thoughts? In the beginning it could be just part time childcare as i will be working from home partime to start with, but long term we will definitely need full time care for our children. any thoughts would be appreciated.Thanks!

OP posts:
Millarkie · 27/03/2007 17:32

Don't know how it is in France but in the UK au pairs are only meant to work 25 hours a week (35 for an 'au pair plus') and should not be left unsupervised with under-3s.

You could try a live-in nanny - generally more expensive than an au pair and will do childcare/child-related tidying/washing only.

MadamePlatypus · 27/03/2007 17:41

In theory au pairs are supposed to have time during the day to go to language classes.

Eleusis · 27/03/2007 17:44

All day sole charge five days a week is too much for an "au pair". However, you could hire the same person, call her a "nanny" and all would be well. There's too much emphasis placed on a title.

Sorry, but I don't know anything about employment law in France so can't advise things like whether she is an employee, how many hours, etc. Although France tends to be rather on the socialist side of things when it comes to employment. So, I would definately recommend check out the employment law, tax implications, holiday pay, sick rights, maternity law, etc. before I hired anyone.

Actually, I wonder if you could manage with two au pairs, each one working 25-30 hours per week.

MadamePlatypus · 27/03/2007 17:49

I think that if you hire an aupair through an aupair agency, you can expect an extra pair of hands, and hopefully that the owner of those hands will be quite sensible. You may also be taking on somebody who is on their own in a strange country, who doesn't speak the language very well and who may expect you to act like a second mother to them. If you hire a nanny you are expecting training and or experience, and their private life is really their own affair.

Eleusis · 27/03/2007 17:53

Okay, and a candidate comes along with two years experience of working in a nursery, and has been a live-in au pair for 12 months... is she an au pair or a nanny? Shades of grey if you ask me. This person could turn out to be a great nanny. But, many people would say she is an au pair.

MadamePlatypus · 27/03/2007 18:05

I think thats somebody who wants to be a nanny using an au pair agency to get a job. The reason I make a distinction between the two is that I was an au pair and I came across many other aupair/employer situations where the whole thing broke down because the employer wanted a nanny, but took on an aupair and then was surprised when the au pair either didn't want to work extra hours or wasn't that experienced.

On the other hand, I think that there are quite alot of eastern europeans with alot of childcare experience trying to find work in the UK beneath their abilities as aupairs, so I suppose that is a grey area.

Eleusis · 27/03/2007 18:10

Well, every nanny had a first job. I'm just saying that you should look at experience and job description more than the job title.

Obviously, the employers you refer to did not communicate the expectations of hours, and the au pairs who took the job did not communicate their expectations of hours.

Belgianchox · 27/03/2007 21:10

thanks for all the replies. I really don't want to take advantage of any one which is why the question. An aupair for me would have to have had some previous experience, with children under 3, and also ideally have at least a basic grasp of french if she's to be left alone with the children. For her own sake as much as anything!

So by the look of things its more a nanny i should be looking for then? Or its really not the name that counts but putting out clear expectations on both sides?

OP posts:
MadamePlatypus · 27/03/2007 21:31

I know this is an American site, but this is where I am coming from when I am talking about an aupair. To me an au pair is somebody on a gap year looking for a cultural experience. A nanny chooses child care as a career.

Most countries have either visas for au pairs, or student visas which allow the holder to work a certain number of hours if they are a student. I think France operates a student visa scheme.

Eleusis · 27/03/2007 21:59

Belgianchox, you could always give us more specifics. Age of kids? Hours of work? Expected duties? Etc.? And then we could better advise what kind of experience you should be looking for.

My example earlier was a description of the experience my current nanny had before she came to work for us. We call her a nanny. She is lovely in many ways. But she is leaving us because her visa is running out.

Belgianchox · 28/03/2007 09:15

Well my children will be 1yr and 2.5. In the beginning it would be just mornings or afternoons, as I will work part time from home. After the first few months I will have to look for part or full time work, in which case hours could go to 5 full days maximum. My plan is to put my daughter (2.5) into the local nursery a couple of days a week, this is all the availability they have at the moment, so it wouldn't be full time duty with both children. I wouldn't expect any housework opn top of this.

OP posts:
Eleusis · 28/03/2007 09:27

I would look for an au pair with some childcare experience. You can spend a the first few weeks/month sharing the care with her and consider you will be providing a bitof on the job trianing. But, also look for someone who is old enough to take a bit of initiative and can carry on when you depart.

I once hired a "nanny" (who in retrospect was better suited to an au pair position) who used to send me a text at work in mid afternoon asking me what she should make for dinner. Like I have time to dictate a recipe via text message when I'm at work??? No, work it out yourself.

Anyway, I would look for some level of professional childcare experience of toddlers (nursery, childminder, nanny, au pair, mother's help -- not looked after a little brother) and I'd look for someone who has lived in someone elses house (i.e. au pair experience).

I believe much more in the click factor and personality than I do in formal nanny training/qualifications. And I don't think nanny agencies are to be trusted. I avoid them like the plague.

ScottishThistle · 28/03/2007 09:36

You could advertise for childcare & make it clear you want somebody with experience rather than qualifications/titles.

The main difference would be that your Employee would be called a Nanny & you should expect to pay her a lot more than you would an Au Pair.

sunnyjim · 28/03/2007 09:39

You do get people on au pair sites with childcare experience that are a step ebtween a traditional au pair - ie gap year and only babysitting experience and a Nanny.

I think the key is to be very clear when you recruit about the hours and expectations. I'd say you need at least 1 yr f/t experience of care of children under 3 - that could be 2-3yrs p/t in nurseries, a couple of years of au pairing or similar, you decide what works well for you.

Then you need to be clear about the hours, so sole care from 9am-1pm, shared care from 1pm-5pm. To include, childrens food, bedtimes, outings etc.

I've had one girl apply to be our au pair who has 5 years experience of babysitting a 1 yr old and a 3 yr old (now 4 and 6)including daytime care. She ran a 'creche' two summer holidays running for under 5's of friends (taking 6 children for 9am - 3pm 3 days a week). She has spent 2 months on a summer camp for 4-8 yr olds and she has 6 months experience of p/t work in a nursery for under 3's.
Plus last summer she was an au pair for a month abroad.

I'd happily give her sole care and a f/t job!

ScottishThistle · 28/03/2007 09:58

Agree sunnyjim, before I even went to do my NNEB at 18 I had 6mths nursery experience, 4yrs Babysitting under 3's, 6yrs semi-parenting younger siblings & 7wks working in a summer camp...I did my NNEB course because I knew it'd give me a wider choice of Nanny positions & for no other reason.

Eleusis · 28/03/2007 10:08

You could hire her as an au pair and then when you get a job, promote her to nanny and change the employment status accordingly.

Issymum · 28/03/2007 10:11

As far as I can see 'au pair' has really ceased to be a useful definition. Before European laws about free movement of people, the term 'au pair' defined a job category under which young people from certain countries could legitimately work in the UK. Those young people (and older ones too) from the original European member states and the newer accession states are now entitled to work in the UK on whatever terms they and their UK employer determine. So it seems to me that the factors you now need to consider are:

  • Given the au pair's age, experience and training what would it be reasonable and safe to expect the 'au pair' to do? Irrespective of title, you might be concerned about leaving an under 3 year old all day in the sole care of a 19 year old with no training, experience and a poor grasp of English language or UK systems. You might be totally relaxed about it if she was mid-20s, experienced and reasonably fluent.

    Are there any legal considerations? I think* that if an au-pair lives in, she is not subject to the minimum wage legislation, but is she lives out, she is. You also need to consider tax. Below a certain threshold (£95 per week?), not only does income tax, NI and employer's tax not apply, but you don't have to inform the Inland Revenue of the arrangement. Beyond that, you will become emeshed in the tax system.

  • What is the market norm. I think the market norm is 25 hours a week for around £50-£60 and 35 hours a week for around £70-90.

    Please please tell me if you disagree as these are the assumptions I'm working on!
ScottishThistle · 28/03/2007 10:17

I as a British Nanny however went to work in Milan with a child whom had no knowledge of english, it wasn't a problem!

Obviously not suitable in a all cases but I've never quite understood families who take on a spanish/italian/french speaking Au-Pair & don't take advantage of the fact she can teach their child a 2nd language!

Eleusis · 28/03/2007 10:50

Issy, she is in France.

Issymum · 28/03/2007 10:57

Aaah! No attention to detail here. I think the same comments pretty much apply though whether in France or the UK.

Belgianchox · 28/03/2007 13:58

Hmm, lots of food for thought!

Eleusis - think that's a great idea to hire, train and then promote to nanny status further down the line.

Issymum - obviously i wouldn't want to be leaving my children in the care of an inexperienced 19yr old, that's why all the questions here. i'd be much happier if they were with an experienced 20somthing.

ScottishThistle - thanks for the input. With regards to language, what i meant is that the person should have english mother tongue for the benefit of my children (they are half french-half english but growing up in a mostly french speaking environment)but be able to manage a little french for everyday interaction outside the home.

Anyway, i think it's becoming clear that it's actually a nanny that i need, or a quite experienced au-pair. Does anyone know of good web sites to search for nannies?

OP posts:
ScottishThistle · 28/03/2007 14:03

Sorry, I wasn't actually referring to your language requirements but I didn't speak any Italian when I went to work in Milan.

It may narrow your choices if you specify basic french in an advert if it's not really that important iyswim.

You could try Nannyjob website.

Eleusis · 28/03/2007 14:37, or is also good but tends to be more UK focussed.

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