Study, work or travel in the UK. British culture and life.
Work as an au pair in the UK
|Type of work|
|Finding a job|
|Applying for a job|
|Pay and conditions|
Au Pair and Nanny's Guide to Working Abroad
Authors: Susan Griffith, Sharon Legg
Publisher: Vacation Work Publications
Date: February 2006
as an Au Pair
Author: Mark Hempshell
Publisher: How To Books
Date: January 1998
An au pair is a woman or man who comes to the UK to study English language
and culture by living with an English-speaking family. The au pair receives
food, a room and a small amount of money in exchange for helping to look after
the children and assisting with housework (for a maximum of 5 hours a day, 5
days a week).
A demi au pair (or demi pair) is similar to an au pair but works shorter hours (perhaps less than 3 hours per week) and is paid less.
An au pair plus works longer hours than an au pair (6 or 7 hours per day) and is paid more (usually both parents in the family are working).
A holiday au pair usually works during the school sumer holidays (from July to September) and goes on holiday with the family.
Most jobs are live in, meaning that you stay with your host family (host mother and host father). Some jobs are live out.
If you responsible for looking after a child alone, this is known as having sole charge over the child.
A nanny is a qualified child carer, responsible for looking after the safety/development/education of a family's children. Most nannies have obtained the CACHE (Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education: http://www.cache.org.uk) diploma or the former NNEB (National Nursery Examination Board) certificate.
A nursery nurse is someone who has been trained to look after young children (for more details, see the local government careers page: http://www.lgcareers.com/careers/profile.asp?74 or the website of the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses: http://www.pat.org.uk).
A childminder is somebody who works in her (or his) own home taking care of other people's children. Such people have to be registered with OFSTED.
A babysitter is someone who takes care of a baby or child while the parents are out, usually by going to their home.
A mother's help (or a parent's help) is a person (usually aged 16-20) who helps a parent with housekeeping and looking after the children.
A home help or housekeeper or domestic is someone who does housework such as cleaning (the job does not involve looking after children).
A nursery school or kindergarten (also known as pre-school in American English) is a school for children between the ages of 2 and 5.
A day nursery is a place where groups of young children are looked after during the day, for example while their parents are working.
A primary school is a school for children between the ages of 5 and 11.
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|Common types of work done by an au pair include:
- taking children to or from school, swimming/parties or other non-school activities, or to the doctor/dentist
- tidying up the children's rooms; dusting; vacuuming
- doing the washing-up (washing dishes)
- laundry (washing / drying clothes) and ironing
- helping at meal times; preparing the children's meals
- babysitting (looking after the children while the parents go out)
An au pair is not normally expected to look after a young child without help.
If you can drive, you should bring an international driving licence to the UK (see the Travel/Transport/Car section for more information about driving in the UK).
Au pairs are sometimes asked to teach their language to the children (especially French, which is the first foreign language in British schools).
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These are the rules about working as an au pair in the UK:
(a) If your country is a member of the EEA
(European Economic Area):
Nationals of most EEA countries are allowed to work or study in the UK, so you can work as an au pair if you want.
Some restrictions have been placed on citizens of Bulgaria or Romania who wish to work in the UK, so if you are from one of these countries you should check the current situation with the British embassy in your country. Both countries had au pair agreements with the UK before they joined the EU and EEA in January 2007.
(b) If you come from a non-EEA country:
Note that au pair visas are no longer available.
You may be able to work as an au pair in the UK if you are from a country which is a member of the Youth Mobility Scheme: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier5/youthmobilityscheme
(c) If you are a student:
If you have a student visa (taking at least 15 hours of classes per week), you may be allowed to work but the maximum number of hours per week you can work will be limited. See: Prepare/Visa
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Using an agency in your country
The IAPA (International Au Pair Association) is the international trade association
for qualified au pair agencies / companies.
To find an IAPA agency in your country, you can go IAPA's website at http://www.iapa.org, select "Organisations and Agencies", click on the "List of Members" link and select your country. Contact these agencies to see if they can help you to find a suitable au pair job in the UK.
Using an agency in the UK
There is a directory of au pair and nanny agencies at the REC (Recruitment
and Employment Confederation) website: http://www.rec.uk.com/regions-sectors/sectors/childcare/member-directory
You can also find agencies using Yellow Pages: http://www.yell.com (What? "Nanny & childcare agencies" or "Baby sitting & childminding services" Where? your town or the first half of your postcode).
Usually there are no charges for using an agency (the costs are paid by the family, not by the au pair).
There are many advertisements for UK jobs in The Lady magazine: http://www.lady.co.uk. See under Domestic: Situations Vacant in the British Isles in the Situations and Appointments section. The magazine is published every Tuesday and is available from newsagents. As well as replying to advertisements, you can pay to place your own advertisement in the Situations wanted section.
You should also check local newspapers, as well as noticeboards in the windows of local newsagents or in local supermarkets.
Examples of online source of job information:
You can search for available jobs and submit your own details.
You may want to check online job agencies. The most popular of these are listed on the page: Work/Search.
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What are the pay and working hours?
An au pair is usually given free food and accommodation, plus a reasonable
amount of money (usually between 40 and 60 pounds per week) for daily living
You can be asked to work up to 25 hours a week (up to 5 hours a day for 5 days a week) and may babysit up to twice a week. At least 2 days a week should be given to you as free time.
Au pairs from the EEA (European Economic Area) can choose to work longer hours for extra pay (an au pair plus job).
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Contact your agency if you have problems with your family
If you have a complaint about your agency, you can contact the Employment Agency Standards Office at the DTI (Department for Trade and Industry) at http://www.lowpay.gov.uk/er/agency/complaint.htm
You may also ask for help at your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau. See: Personal/Advice.
Avoiding common problems
These are some ideas about ways to avoid arguments with the children's parents:
- Smoking: Tell the parents if you smoke; if necessary, agree to limit this to your room or outside the house.
- Drinking: Avoid drinking while you are looking after the children, and don't drink alcohol that is left in the house.
- Privacy/space: Ask which parts of the house you can use and find out when the parents want to be left alone together.
- Telephone: Always ask for permission before using the telephone. Buy an international telephone card if you call abroad, and make sure that the parents know that you are paying for the call. It is better to buy your own mobile telephone to arrange your social life (see: Life/Telephone).
- Car: If you are allowed to drive the parents' car, always ask before using it. If you use it for yourself, offer to pay for the petrol (for example, by filling the petrol tank afterwards). Drive carefully: always wear a seatbelt and make sure other passengers do as well. If you damage the car, be honest about it - don't pretend that nothing happened.
- Friends: Make sure you know if you are allowed to invite friends into the house. Many parents do not like to allow your boyfriend or partner to stay overnight or to be with you while you are working. Occasional overnight guests may be allowed, but arrange this in advance with the parents and make other arrangements if they are unhappy about it. Avoid getting too close to the father, and avoid anything which might make the mother feel jealous.
- Late nights: If you plan to stay out late at night, tell the parents. Be as quiet as possible when you return and make sure that you lock the door safely. If you often stay out late, the parents may worry that you are too tired to do your job properly, you may disturb their sleep, or they may worry about your safety.
- Violence: Never hit the children because you are angry. Agree with the parents about acceptable ways of telling off the children if they are behaving badly.
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