Parents all over the UK are having to re-think their childcare options as nurseries and schools close during the coronavirus pandemic. Traditionally, one of the most flexible methods of childcare has been the au pair, especially for families who just need someone to bridge the gap between schools finishing and parents coming home from work. With many schools predicting a returning on a part-time basis through the next term, here’s everything you need to know if you’re thinking about hiring an Au Pair.
Au Pairs – The Legal Position
Au pairs are legally classed as members of the family and not as a worker, employee or freelancer. As such, au pairs aren’t entitled to employee benefits such as holiday pay or minimum wage. Au pairs usually get pocket money of around £80 per week and are provided with board and meals by their host family. Au pairs should not be treated as full time workers; the law states that they can be asked to do light housework and childcare such as babysitting or picking children up from school. Au pairs generally have time during the school day to attend English classes, or study at a local college.
Finding an Au Pair
There are many established agencies across the UK who specialise in matching au pairs with host families in the UK. Families pay a fee, and in return the agency will carry out all of the required background checks on the au pair. However, a successful au pair arrangement often depends a lot on your personal relationships. Most families will want some level of control over interviewing au pairs, and it’s easy to do this over video conferencing platforms.
Some key things to think about when interviewing au pairs are:
- What is their level of English? Can you communicate effectively in either their native language or English?
- What duties do you expect them to do?
- What experience do they have of looking after children?
- What are their plans for their time in the UK in terms of studying or travelling?
- Can they drive?
- Does the au pair smoke?
Not every au pair relationship works out, and this is usually down to a mismatch between what the host family wants, and what the au pair expects.
Most au pairs will happily produce proof of school qualifications, show a copy of their driving licence or a first aid certificate. Criminal records checking is a trickier matter. Any individual in the UK can apply for a basic DBS certificate, which shows their current and unspent convictions and cautions. For an au pair who has not lived in the UK previously, it’s pointless applying for a Basic DBS check as there will be no information about them. It is possible to ask for similar checks carried out overseas, which are sometimes called certificates of good character. Each country has its own rules about these checks, and all will contain different levels of detail. Just make sure you know what you are looking at before asking an au pair to jump through potentially expensive hoops.