Au Pair

Becoming an au pair is a great way to see the world and experience a new culture whilst acquiring legitimate work references.

What is an Au Pair?
The dictionary definition of au pair is: 'a young person from abroad, living with a family, to learn the language and helping with childcare and domestic work, in return for board and accommodation'.Typically, an au pair is a young, single person who lives with and works for, a family in another country. His/her work involves taking care of the children and performing some related household chores.

Duties of an Au Pair
An au pair's working week consists of anywhere in between 30-45 hours. The host family will provide a room, pocket money and at least one day of rest per week. Usually an au pair is employed for a specific amount of time, e.g. a 6 or 12 month contract. Au pairs can expect a paid 2 week holiday per year. This time is seen as a chance for the au pair to travel, in his or her host country, before returning home at the end of a contract. The au pair lives 'as a part of the family', whilst providing basic child care and learning aspects of a new way of life and developing and/or teaching language skills. In these times of equal opportunities, male au pairs are becoming increasingly popular, although female au pairs are still 'the norm'. Each family and therefore, each placement is/are different but generally an au pairs duties are to:

  • Escort children to and from school and social events, such as swimming.
  • Cook food for the children.
  • Play with the children.
  • Carry out light housework, which is related to the care of the children, such as ironing and cooking or providing meals.
  • Help children with school work.
  • Baby-sit on occasional evenings, (this should earn the au pair extra money or time off in lieu).
Benefits of Being an Au Pair
  • An affordable way to live abroad and experience a new culture, learn new language or extend existing knowledge of a 2nd or 3rd language.
  • Free food & accommodation (private room with access to family rooms).
  • Some hosts pay the full air fare on behalf of the au pair.
  • Spending money/nominal wage and (sometimes) contributions towards local travel costs and/or language classes.

Which Countries Employ Au Pairs?
The most au pair jobs are found throughout Europe, the UK and the USA. These places normally have an official au pair program, ensuring that all aspects of the au pair industry are regulated. However, stipulations vary from one country to another, which is why you should always contact the relevant Embassy. For example, only people, from certain countries, are allowed to work as au pairs in certain other countries.

As mentioned earlier, agencies may stipulate various requirements. The following is a general list of requirements that are often stipulated:

  • No formal qualifications are required although knowledge of caring for children i.e. baby-sitting, is essential.
  • Female/Non-Smoker with a driving license (preferred).
  • Age 18-27
  • Medical Certificate
  • Checkable References
  • Security Clearance Form
  • Legitimate Visa
  • Proof of (host) language ability.

How do I Apply for Au Pair Jobs?
There are two golden rules to remember when applying for au pair positions:Contact the Embassy of the Country You Wish to Work In. - It is vital to contact the Embassy of the country you intend working in order to establish what the requirements of au pairing, in that country, are. Generally, you may be expected to provide work, character and medical references as well as a security clearance form.

Use a Reputable Agency
To avoid problems, when moving abroad alone, au pairs should find work via a placement agency.

Why use an Agency?
A reputable agency will: - Thoroughly screen a prospective employer, i.e. host family.

  • Sort out work visas on behalf of the au pair.
  • Provide full details on the au pair's responsibilities, including his/her hours of duty, holidays, levels of pay
  • and any legal requirements.
  • Secure payment of a return flight for the au pair from the host family. (Some agencies don't do this however, they may still be reputable).
  • Make sure that the au pair is covered by medical insurance and (where possible) negotiate with the host family to pay for it.
  • Support the au pair throughout the placement.
  • Attempt to resolve any problems between the host family and au pair.

A Selection of Online Au Pair Agencies