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A Guide to Living with an Au Pair
Au Pair UK
Au pair UK

Written by Universal Au Pairs to assist both families and au pairs to achieve the most from an au pair placement..

Contents





Introduction

There are many things a family and au pair can do to ensure that the au pair placement runs smoothly and is a positive and rewarding experience for both the family members and the au pair. Having an au pair as a houseguest can be a highly rewarding experience for all involved. So we?ve put together some notes, which we hope will help you to start off on the most positive possible note.

What is an au pair?

Definition

The term ?au pair? literally means ?on equal terms?.

EU Au Pair
European Au Pairs

Eligible countries

Please click here to read about who can become an au pair, nanny or housekeeper in the UK.

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Before the au pair arrives

Letter of Invitation
Letter of Invitation

Letter of invitation

This letter confirms the terms of the au pair placement and is carried by the au pair to confirm the reason for travelling. Bear in mind that many au pairs will travel by coach and may have to pass through some form of passport control and/or customs check at borders en route and in addition to the UK. The letter confirms that the carrier is a bona-fide au pair.

Family communication

It is important that the family and the au pair work at developing a relationship prior to the au pair placement commencing. The work done up-front in building the relationship will pay dividends when the au pair arrives. It is recommended that the family write to the au pair including further information and photographs about themselves and their lifestyle. Most families and au pairs have access to email, and this provides an excellent low cost means of communication. The family should also make regular telephone contact to ensure that when the au pair arrives to stay with a family, he or she feels a part of an already developed relationship. These communications will allow the family to identify and allay any apprehension the au pair may feel prior to travel. It is always preferable to address any potential misunderstandings or inappropriate expectations as early as possible, and this makes for a more positive au pair placement experience for all.

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Preparing for arrival

Remember that the au pair is probably travelling away from home alone for the first time, and will understandably be both excited and apprehensive. The more the family does at this stage to think through fully the duties and house rules, the easier they will be to implement.

Living accommodation

You will have provided the au pair with a description of the living accommodation. Remember that this is probably the au pairs? only place of private retreat and should be as described to the au pair.

Timetable

Clearly there needs to be a level of flexibility from all sides in a domestic arrangement. However, do not underestimate the benefits for all parties in having a structured approach to the timetable. There are few things more likely to upset a relationship than one side not doing the things they agreed to, when they agreed to do them. The key, of course, is good communication on all parts.

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The first few days

Many au pairs will have travelled some distance to arrive in a foreign country. It is reasonable to give some time for recovery from the journey and to allow for acclimatisation to the new surroundings. You will find out much more about your new guest in the first few days. You will need to teach the au pair many things about the running of your household and the way your family functions. Conversely, you will have the pleasure of experiencing life through the eyes of a different culture and this will enrich your family also.

Language

You will have assessed the proficiency of the au pair's English as part of your selection process. However, you will need to give the au pair time to come to terms with speaking English every day. With your support you will see the au pair's confidence and ability improve dramatically in the first few weeks.

Induction to duties

It is well worth taking the time to be very specific about the duties you are expecting the au pair to complete. Do not underestimate the cultural differences that may be highlighted when you have someone new living in your house. If you like things done in a particular way, then these will need explaining and demonstrating to the au pair. Remember, the smallest of habits can lead to misunderstanding so, if you like the dishwasher loaded in a certain way because that works best, you will need to explain this. This area is particularly critical where an element of childcare is involved. We all bring our children up slightly differently, and you will want to ensure that the au pair reflects your desires and standards in all activities relating to the children.

Induction to Household

Over the first couple of days you should ensure that the au pair has a basic introduction to the household and particularly the operation and location of any facilities that you require the au pair to use in their duties, and also those available during the au pair's own time.

For example, the following may form part of the household induction: -

  • Household security: - locking doors, windows, setting alarms
  • Domestic appliances: - cooker, microwave, washing machine etc
  • Entertainment: - TV, DVD, etc.
  • Heating and lighting
  • Emptying bins, waste disposal/recycling
  • Etc.
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Induction to area

Again, in the first few days, the au pair will appreciate any time taken to introduce the locale, and particularly the local bus and train stations. It can be daunting to try and figure out a timetable and buy a ticket in a foreign country, so if an opportunity arises the au pair will appreciate being shown these facilities in some detail. The happier the au pair is in the environment, the more rewarding the au pair placement will be for the au pair and the family.

Registering with a Doctor

Au pair doctor registration

Assist your au pair in locating the local surgery and registering with them. This is important as it avoids delays and bureaucracy in the event that the au pair requires treatment during the placement. Registration requirements will be explained by the surgery.

Au pair language school

Local College/Language School

It is usual for an au pair to attend a local language course in order to improve the standard and proficiency in English. The au pair normally meets the cost of travelling to and from the school, and of any course fees, unless you previously agreed to meet these. Attendance of a course may require some flexibility in the timetable, particularly if the au pair is helping you for a number of hours in addition to the five hours per day. It makes sense to investigate the course location, cost, and timetable, prior to the au pair placement arrangements being finalised.

First Aid Training

We all know that accidents can happen at any time and there will always be that unguarded moment when attention is diverted elsewhere. Statistics show that a child dies everyday in an accident and that accidents are the single greatest cause of death among children and young people in the UK ? they put more children in hospital than any other cause; and yet the vast majority of parents and au pairs would not know what to do if a child or baby stopped breathing or started choking. Anyone left alone with young children should be equipped with basic first aid skills and information which can help stop a minor injury becoming a major accident and in the worst case scenario make the difference between life and death.

Learning first aid is not difficult. Simple techniques can be easily learnt by attending a first aid course taught by qualified and experienced teachers which will give the confidence needed to cope in an emergency. Please also see the Childcare Safety Guide for First Aid Tips.

Please visit http://www.safeandsound.uk.net for details of a course near you. Safe and Sound will offer any au pair or family member a 10% discount when registering on a course if you mention that you found them via Universal Au Pairs.

Au Pair Friends

Contact with other au pairs

If possible introduce your au pair to others in the local area. You will be able to find other local au pairs via the local language schools. This will help kick-start a social framework for your au pair, and will be appreciated.

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House rules

You should give careful consideration to the following areas and write clear guidelines as to exactly your requirements. This will set clear ground rules and minimise potential areas of misunderstanding that may lead to conflict at a later stage.

Care of children

It is very worthwhile taking the time to explain in detail the way you prefer your children to be cared for, and detailing any special requirements you or they may have. In particular you must assess the proficiency and experience the au pair has in childcare and not leave the au pair in a situation where he or she is out of their depth, as this could put the well being of the child in jeopardy. Please remember that an au pair is usually not a professionally qualified child carer such as a nanny, and should not be treated as such.

Driving and car use

Driving au pair
Driving au pair

If you require the au pair to drive at any time you will need to ensure that the au pair has a licence valid for the UK, that the minimum legal insurance requirements are met, and that you and the au pair are both confident in the au pair's driving skills. It makes sense to ensure that all parties are clear as to whether any private use of a vehicle is allowed, and whether any reimbursement by the au pair for running costs is expected in this event. It is also worth considering what might happen in the event of an accident and subsequent insurance claim. As au pairs are young people the insurance excess is often an appreciable amount, and if an accident happens whilst the au pair uses the vehicle privately, it will be beneficial to have agreed responsibility for the excess payment upfront, so all parties are aware of the ground rules.

Smoking

If the au pair is permitted to smoke, make clear when and where, and provide a receptacle for the correct and tidy disposal of ash and butts ? you probably won?t want to find them stuffed in your plant pots next spring.

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Pets

Ensure that the au pair is familiar with any pets you have and house rules as regards where and what they are allowed to do. If, for example, Rover is not allowed in the front room, make sure that the au pair is aware of this and also has the ability to control the animal. Dogs particularly can be intimidating, and although an au pair may be fond of dogs, ordering your Rottweiler to ?get off the sofa? may be a frightening prospect. As an existing family member the dog may object to receiving instruction from a new, slightly unsure, houseguest. As a pet owner it is your responsibility to instigate the appropriate lines of authority.

If the au pair has duties in regards to the animals, ensure that the routine is properly explained. In the case of walking the dog, ensure the au pair is familiar with any waste disposal requirements and techniques where the walk is ?successful?.

Leisure activities

Au pair free time

By integrating the au pair as much as possible you will all benefit to the greatest possible extent from the relationship. In most areas of the country cycling and walking are convenient and safe ways of getting around and getting exercise. If the family participates in these or similar activities then the au pair can be invited to join in. If fees are applicable (such as when attending a leisure centre, or a theatre), and the au pair is ?off-duty?, then it should be agreed at the outset whether this is a family treat for the au pair, or whether an appropriate contribution is required.

Mealtimes and food

The au pair is staying with you as your guest and will therefore be joining you for meals. On occasions where the au pair is required to prepare his or her own food, then you should be clear what food is for the au pair's use. Au pair eating For example, if the family goes out on Saturday for lunch with Aunty Enid, and the au pair stays at home for lunch as he or she has a social engagement early afternoon, lunch will be taken at home by the au pair. In this event, it will be sensible if you advise the au pair to help themselves to the piece of leftover pie from last night with potatoes and salad, and also remind the au pair that the rather succulent looking fillet steak is for your dinner that evening.

Remember that you have a young adult staying with you and appetites can be voracious. If the chocolate biscuits are for you, your friends, and the au pair to enjoy with afternoon tea on Thursday, make sure the au pair knows ? otherwise they may well all be devoured by Tuesday lunchtime!

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Use of alcohol

Everyone has different views on the use of alcohol. You should be clear as to whether the au pair helps themselves to your supplies and to what degree, only takes when offered, buys their own, or only drinks off-duty outside of the house. Cultural behaviour plays a part here, so it makes sense to have clear rules to avoid differences of opinion. It is quite normal that the au pair be offered an occasional glass of wine or beer to accompany an evening meal if the family enjoys similar.

Use of telephone

It is reasonable to allow the au pair a certain amount of time each week to call friends and family both in and outside of the UK. Again, by setting some clear guidelines, you will avoid an unexpected bill. You also have access to some very competitive calling plans and providers, and can use calling cards or other methods of controlling costs if you wish.

Au pair mobile

Mobile phone

Provision of a mobile phone is an option taken up by more and more families for two reasons. Firstly, it allows you to contact the au pair if ever you need to; and secondly, you can ensure that the au pair uses this or a payphone for private UK calls. Pay-as-you-go SIM cards are available for less than £5, and many families have an old but functional mobile lying in a drawer somewhere. The au pair can then be responsible for any none work related top-ups.

Use of Internet and PC

You may be prepared to allow the au pair Internet access. It may be possible to secure areas of your PC that contain sensitive information. Rules need to be established that govern usage and any costs incurred through use of dial-up, etc.

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Religious activities and observance

Clarify your religious observances with the au pair and ascertain whether this is an area where the au pair will participate with you. Conversely, ascertain the au pair's requirements, and ensure that these can be accommodated. Any areas of particular importance should have been discussed with the au pair prior to the commencement of the placement to ensure compatibility.

Au pair relationship

Visitors, Boyfriends/Girlfriends

You must make it clear what is acceptable and what is not. This may include a curfew for all visitors to your au pair. You may allow friends of the au pair to stay over if appropriate introductions have been made and the facilities exist. It is your house, so they are your rules. If you set the rules out up front, you should avoid any embarrassing circumstances later.

Evening activities and socialising

Au pair social activity

An au pair is a young adult, and although you will feel a level of responsibility, he or she is free to choose how free time is spent. However, as a guest they do have a responsibility to you, so you should agree what constitutes best practice if the au pair is staying out very late or all night, for example. A simple telephone call will often demonstrate the necessary courtesy and alleviate any concerns you may have.

Some activities will be a no-no ? any sort of involvement with anything illegal, for example, or getting too drunk to be reliable when next ?on duty?. It is unlikely that you will have problems in these areas if the au pair has been properly vetted and references checked prior to the placement.

Au pair holiday

Holidays

Some families take the au pair away with them on the family holiday where this suits all parties. Alternatively the au pair may remain at the family home, or may return to their home for a holiday. Fees for trips that the au pair elects to take to and from their home are normally the responsibility of the au pair. To calculate statutory holiday entitlement, please follow the links from About Au Pairs & Nannies.

Conclusion

We hope you find the above points helpful and have an enjoyable and productive experience with your au pair. Please let us have any comments or observations and we will periodically update this document to make it as useful as possible.

Please see Useful Information for more links and information.