It may seem formal to discuss rules with your au pair but if the following areas are not discussed at the beginning of an au pair's stay, it can lead to disagreements and misunderstandings later. Every family does things differently and the following information is for guidance only. Some people like to write down the house rules so the au pair has a copy. For others this seems too formal.
This varies from family to family. Many families pay for an au pair's local calls but most au pairs will pay for long distance calls.
You need to discuss whether this is done with an itemised bill, whether the au pair should buy a telephone card from the newsagent or post office, whether you set up a prepaid account with a telecommunications company which has cheaper international calls or whether there is a private line for the au pair.
BAPAA agencies can provide an excellent o2 Your Country sim card, which gives preferential rates for overseas calls to landlines and mobiles.
Looking after the children
Remember that most au pairs have no formal child care training and may only have done babysitting before. Give the au pair guidelines about how to play with, look after and discipline the children and encourage her/him to discuss with you any difficulties she/he may have in this area.
If you have difficulties with one or more of your children there is a good chance your au pair will too.
Au pairs work 25-30 hours per week (generally 5 hours per day) plus 2 evenings babysitting. The hours can be split according to the requirements of the host family. Some au pairs will help in the home for maybe 3 or 4 hours in the mornings and then return in the late afternoon to assist with bath times / mealtimes. Other families ask for help only in the mornings or only in the afternoons, and the rest of the day can be free.
Duties of an au pair include light housework, cleaning, ironing, washing up at mealtimes and helping with the children. An au pair may be asked to take children to school, or collect them, and supervise them in a responsible manner in the absence of parents according to the instructions given. An au pair lives as part of the family. All food is provided and he / she must have the opportunity to attend a language school if he / she wishes. He / she must have at least one full day free per week to include the evening.
An au pair plus works as an au pair, but for 31-35 hours per week, plus 2 evenings babysitting. The hours are geneally split between morning and afternoon work but the additional hours per week are only for assisting with childcare duties.
There is still opportunity for attending language school; generally an au pair plus has 2 or 3 afternoons free during the week, although he / may still be asked to return home to assist with bath times / mealtimes. He / she must have at least one full day free per week to include the evening.
A Mother's Help has usually had some prior experience in childcare, but has had no formal training. A Mother's Help works for approximately 45 hours per week, plus 2 evenings babysitting. Duties would include childcare and light housework and generally he / she will be working for most of the day, with a break for lunch. Generally the families that require a mother's help have small pre-school age children and you will be expected to entertain and educate the child whilst undertaking the normal daily duties.
If your host family requires these longer working hours, then it will be harder to find a convenient time to attend a language course. However, please discuss these needs with your family and perhaps there will be the opportunity to attend an evening class rather than one that takes place during the day.
Please note that a Mother's Help is an employee and consequently, the salary will be subject to tax and national insurance contributions. This should be discussed with the family. Discuss your free time with your family.
A Nanny will have attended a full-time nursing or childcare course or equivalent. He / she will have formal training in childcare. A nanny will normally expect to have "sole charge" of the children in his / her care. A nanny will normally do everything for the children, including preparation of meals, care of toys and bedrooms, laundry, outings etc. This is a full-time position. A nanny's salary will be subject to tax and national insurance contributions. It is important that this is discussed with the host family.
Opportunities to earn extra money - If you have some spare time and would like to earn more money, we recommend that you discuss this with your host family. They may be able to help you; they may be willing to recommend you to their friends for bebysitting. That way, you know you will be safe and the parents will feel confident leaving their children in your care.
Au pairs must have free time every week to attend language classes. Discuss convenient days and times. Some families contribute to the cost of language classes.
- Is your au pair is allowed to have girlfriends and boyfriends over to the house during her time off and while babysitting?
- Does he or she have to be back at any particular time on weekday nights and on weekend nights?
- Is your au pair is allowed to have other au pairs over for sleepovers?
- Is your au pair allowed to have visitors from their home country to stay?
Rules on smoking
Make sure your rules on smoking are very clear. Is your au pair allowed to smoke in the house, in her bedroom, while babysitting? Is your au pair allowed to smoke in front of the children? If your au pair is a non smoker, are her/his friends allowed to smoke in the house?
Car availability and limits
The host family is responsible for insurance. The older the au pair the cheaper the cost of adding him or her to your insurance policy. It is often cheaper to insure an au pair from an EU country. Some families add the au pair to their company car policy to save costs.
Discuss payment of petrol.
Discuss use of the car outside the working hours.
Further guidance on "Au Pairs and Driving" is available in the sections containing information for au pairs and host families.
Holidays: As from September 2010, BAPAA recommends 4 weeks per 12 month period. Pocket money will be paid during this time. If the au pair placement is for a shorter time, holiday is calculated pro-rata at the rate of 1.66 days per month. The au pair should not be forced to take holiday to coincide with the family holiday.
Discuss whether the au pair will join you on your family holiday and will be working, in which case she/he should be paid. If she/he is not joining you on the family holiday, but is staying at home, she/he should also be paid and you may leave the au pair some jobs to do in the house.
Discuss au pair's holiday in advance.
UK Bank / National Holidays: BAPAA recommends that au pairs are to be given UK Bank / National Holidays as free time.
This is often needed in school holidays. What extra will you pay and what hours?
Discuss what happens on weekdays and at weekends. Who will the au pair eat with? Many families do not want to eat with the au pair every night but will have a few special meal times when they eat with the au pair. This varies greatly from family to family but needs to be discussed.
Discuss if your au pair has any special dietary requirements and which foods she/he can help herself/himself to in the house.
Does the au pair do all her/his own washing or put her/his clothes in with your wash? Are there certain times of day when it is cheaper to use the washing machine? Can the au pair use the spin dryer?
Is the au pair allowed to send emails home? If so, who pays? Is the au pair allowed to surf the web? When is the au pair allowed to use the computer?
Remember there is free internet access at most libraries and many colleges.