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Au Pair - views, tips, ideas - all welcome!!!

15 replies

becks5109 · 20/06/2005 10:35

We decided this weekend that we are going to get an au pair - we currently have a childminder and its a long story but husband drives our little one there and its an hour each way - madness we know but 6 months ago he worked just down the rode from the childminder so it was perfect - since then he's started his own business and now works from home and it exhausted by all the driving. We think an au pair is best for us as we really need someone on site to help out - husband works from home so he will be around to supervise and I work a 4 day week so she will get that day off plus weekend offs. I am planning that she will work Monday, Tuesday, Weds and Friday approximately 8 - 6 and do 1 or 2 nights babysitting a week. I will also want her to do some housework and ironing. I am planning on paying about £90-£100 a week (we live in central london) - do you think that sounds fair/about right? She will have her own bedroom and her own lounge with TV and stereo etc. Do au pairs usually eat with the family and do you buy them their own food or do they just help themselves to whatever is in the fridge/cupboard??? Any tips would be most welcome as I'm new to the concept!

OP posts:

goldenoldie · 20/06/2005 11:17

Becks - salary and conditions sound like a very good deal. You don't say how old your child is? I would be reluctant to leave an au-pair alone in charge of a child below school age.

You say DH works from home, if he intends to get any work done this still means she will be on her on child for extended periods of time.

The younger the child, the more experienced childcarer you need. Get someone who is already in the country, has worked for UK families before and your can follow-up references by speaking to old families on the telephone.

It may sound harsh, but ignore any one or agencies that try and send you girls with loads of experience in their own country. Unless it is an English speaking country (or unless you can sopeak their language and understand their system) you will find it very difficult to verify this, and it is not unknown for girls and agencies to embelish the truth in order to get the job.

You need to see them face-to-face to interview them. This also gives you a good idea of their English language skills, unless you are happy with your child quickly picking up and using broken English? You should also ask them what they would do in certain situations - ie. getting your child to eat vegtables (if they don't like them), or getting them out of the park playground when they don't want to go. There are no completely right or wrong answers - what you are looking for is their maturity and experience. Can they use persuasion, do they have any idea of what kind of persuasion is acceptable (do you want bribery with sweets everyday?), or appropriate with a child of that age (what will work with a three year old, won't work with a six year old).

Needless to say, you don't want someone who thinks it is OK to shout or use physical punishment or bully your child into doing things.

Give them an emergency situation (but don't call it that) and ask them what they would do? Say child runs into the road, or child falls off swing and bangs their head on the concrete, passing out for a minute of two? Or child had a very high fever?

If any or all of the answers sound like 'I would ask the father as he is in the house' this is bad news as it shows she has no idea of how to cope in an emergency, and in an emergency every second might count - and let's face it - your DH might not be there every second of the day, or an emergency could happen when she is out of the house with your child. Would you really want someone who would wait till they get home and chat with you DH before calling an ambulance?..............

In addition, girls familiar with working for families in the UK are also more likely to be familiar with things like how to work microwave, dishwasher, washing machine ect.

You may think it only takes five minutes to show someone how to use these appliances, but remember you are the one paying the bill when because they are not used to these things they 'forget' your instructions and leave something in microwave for 3 minutes instead of 30 seconds and it goes up in flames, or when they 'mistakenly' put delicates on a boil wash.

You need to think about what she will feed your child too, and what experience she has of preparing food. Will you child be living on chicken nuggets because that is all she can do. What is her food hygeine like? Does she automatically wash her hand before preparing food, or do you have to prompt her? Which means when you are not around to prompt it won't happen. Ditto with her making sure your child's hands are clean before eating too.

Don't forget to have a clear idea of how you expect someone to behave in your home. Do you expect her to eat with the family or are you happy for her to raid the fridge whenever she feels like it and take food to her room? Can she help herself to your booze? When her friends come round is it fine to open your best wine, or drink the last beers in the fridge?

Are boyfriends allowed to stay overnight, during the day, when you are there, when you are not there?

Smoking (what about her friends that might smoke?), phone calls, use of the car, what time should she be in at night - or are you happy for her to roll home at 4am after raving?

What do you expect from her before 8am and after 6pm, and on her days off? You need to be clear about this. On her days off is it OK for her to treat the place like a hotel - ie. leave her breakfast things on the table, ignore over-flowing rubbish bin, sit in the garden relaxing watching you sweating while you unload food shopping from the car?

Anyway - all or most of these questions you can ask her old families about. They will give you a good idea of her childcareing abilities and her personality - what she was like to live with.

This might sound negative - it's not meant to be. I have successfully used au-pairs on and off for seven years, and these are some of the pitfall I have picked up through bitter experience! Most of the girls I have used have been great - but you need to be really clear on how you see it working.

PS. The salary is good - I would lover it to £85 for the first 3 months then increase it to £100 if everything is satisfactory. This gives you both a break-clause too, and an opportunity to straighten things out, if needed, early on in the relationship.

Good luck


becks5109 · 20/06/2005 11:27

Thanks goldenoldie thats all very useful information - where do you normally find your au pairs from?

My little one is 1 year old.

We have an NCT friend who has an au pair from Estonia and so far it has all worked out very well for them so we are considering using the same agency.

Thanks for all the tips/advice - I'm going to print your message out and keep it for reference.

OP posts:

uwila · 20/06/2005 12:22

Lots of good advice already given by Goldenoldie. So I haven't a lot to add, but definitely recommend the book "the Good Nanny Guide". You can get it at Waerstones or order on Amazon.

I embarked on this journey of domestic employees when my DD way 1 (now 2). Our first employee was an "au pair" and I would just have to say the hindsight is 20/20. I thought that things like toddler safety were basic common sense and anyone over 12 could do the job... NOT SO! Please be careful whom you hire and CHECK REFERENCES! If I could do it over I would not hire someone who didn't have au pair / nanny experience. For example, she thought nothing of DD (at 14 months old) playing in a room on the first floor which had opened windows that were well within DD's climbing abilities. Used to scare the living daylights out of me! Thank God nothing tragic ever happened.

Also, make sure you hire someone who is mature enough to come and be your professional employee and not your teenager. Goodness knows with two working parents and a toddler, the last thing you need is a teenager.


Ameriscot2005 · 20/06/2005 12:33

8 - 6 four days a week is 40 hours, which is a bit much for an au pair plus (they usually work a maximum of 35 hours, compared to £25 for an au pair classic), but you will probably not have any trouble finding someone who is willing to work that number of hours.

The problem I see is that the au pair has to work a lot of hours in one stretch, and that is probably a bum deal for them in terms of just getting pocket money for it.

An au pair is meant to be able to attend language classes as a first priority on their time, and IME, this means 2 or 3 3-hour stretches per week in the daytime. You can obviously get round that issue by getting someone who is near-fluent in English, but I've found that these girls can get very lonely and bored if they don't have this easy route to friends. Obviously then, you would want to find someone who has friends in the area, and you are lucky to be in Central London in this regard.

I'd say that it should be possible to find the right girl, but you should not really be that hopeful of her staying with you for more than a few months as she isn't going to get a lot out of the experience other than a foothold into the country.

Au pairs are meant to be treated as part of the family, so yes, they do have their meals with you and you should provide any food that they are going to cook for themselves (eg their lunches)


goldenoldie · 20/06/2005 12:38

Becks - 1 is very young to leave with an au-pair?

I would say you need a nanny at this age, it's far too much responsability for an au-pair. Remember au-pairs are usually girls bewteen 17 and 27 who want to come to the UK to learn the language and earn some money, and being an au-pair is an easy way (they think) to do that.

These are not always/often girls who are interested in children - very, very few of them have chosen to work with children in their own countries - this should tell you something about them............

For such a young child I would def. only use someone who had already been a nanny with a UK family, with children the same age. A girl used to looking after school age children is unlikely to have the experience you need.

I have used agencies and the internet. If I were you I would cast my net as wide as possible - angencies are expensive, but worth it if they can find the right person for you.

PS. Remember to get a photocopy of their passport (page with photo and passport number) and keep this in a safe place. If they are not UK nationals this is your only security they are who they say they are. You will also need this for insurance purposes if you need to make a claim based on something they have accidentally done or if they have stolen something and done a runner - sorry, it does happen now and again.

You will need to check with your insurance company too - not sure if you have to declare her or if having au-pair invalidates any part of the policy - like if you get burgled because she forgets to double lock the front/back door?.............

Good luck

PS. Estonia - is it part of the au-pair agreement with the home office?


CarlyP · 20/06/2005 14:06

We have an au pair plus. works 7.30-6pm mon-thur and does housework when boys are asleep. has experience with babies in own country. unfortunatly she is homesick (try and get your au pair out to college asap to make friends!) but we have dfound another one who sounds fab, experience of 2 boys aged 1yr and 2yr (mine are 7mth and 18mth) and was aupair in germany for 18mths.



uwila · 20/06/2005 14:35

Becks, don't get too hung up on the use of the phrase "au pair". If you hire someone from within the EU, they can work 40 hours (or more) without restriction. If they live with you, then you are not obligated to pay minimum wage. I think the pay you are offering is fair. Who you want to hire, how much you wish to offer to pay her, and what her qualification are (or aren't) is entirely up to you. I realy good resource for researching your employer obligations is You will also probably want to contract either them or (nannypaye is cheaper) to do your payroll/taxes for you. And, at £100 per week the taxes are very low. There are people who are willing to work for this. You might start out with:


CarlyP · 20/06/2005 14:37

au pairs get pocket money and you dont have to pay tax.


goldenoldie · 20/06/2005 14:47

Agree with Ameriscot - don't expect them to stay for longer than 6 months - yes they will say that they will stay for a year or more, but in practice, as CarlyP points out, this rarely happens.

By employing a girl already experinced as a nanny in the UK she is also more likely to have a group of established friends - which is good news for you.

Au-pairs are supposed to eat with family, but again, I find in practice this only happens during the first couple of weeks. After that, once the are 'off work' they want to go out and do their own thing and not be stuck in eating with you.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Carly - Have you found a good agency?


CarlyP · 20/06/2005 14:49

they have been very helpful. obviously our first aupair wanting to leave is a bit of a prob, but that wasnt their fault and its not like the au pair really wants to go, seems like she has abit of boyfriend trouble back home.

the agency is edgware & solihull aupair agency. womans name is amanda (i live on essex/herts borders)


Ameriscot2005 · 20/06/2005 15:07

I'm not sure if I think £90 - £100 is reasonable for this job. When I get an au pair plus in September, I will pay £100 for 35 hours, which I think is fairly standard.

I'm sure it will be easy enough to find someone who will accept a 40-hour, all-day job for £90, but I think there's a big risk that they will get fed up with long, unbroken, hours on that kind of pay, especially if they discover more lucrative opportunities and compare with other au pairs.

It might be worth building an incentive into the pay structure - if she stays beyond xxx time and her work is good, then she will get a bonus or pay rise.


uwila · 20/06/2005 15:38

Yes, I suppoe you are right, it's a bit low. But I was also thinking that life in central London is a nice perk. (no offense to lovely Staines)


uwila · 20/06/2005 15:41

Also,I don't really thinkBEck is talking about an Au Pair. I think what she needs is a sort of entry - level nanny. Perhaps someone who has been an au pair with charge of babies/toddlers who wishes to become a nanny now. Probably someone from the EU who speaks English well and is familiar with London culture (how to get around on the Tube, etc.).

She is not necessarily bringing someone into the country on an au pair visa, which is when pratices such as 25 hours per week and available english classes apply.


becks5109 · 21/06/2005 12:33

Thank you all for your replies - its made me realise that I think my DD is a bit young for a childminder at the moment so we have decided to go for a childminder that is near to where we live. I've already phoned one and fingers crossed as she thinks she can accommodate us!

Thanks once again.


OP posts:

catepilarr · 16/08/2006 12:19

do you know of yahoo au pair families group? lots of useful information on how to deal with aps from

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