How do I pay my au pair?

Although finding an au pair appears to be the biggest hurdle, it is the integration of a relative stranger into your household that may prove the most difficult task. An au pair tends to be an individual in their late teens or early-to-mid-twenties who offer home help with a young family in exchange for room, board, a small salary and the chance to learn a new language. For you, your family, and the au pair, setting boundaries and expectations of behaviour will be paramount to a successful relationship.

It is important to remember that an au pair is not a professional nanny or domestic servant. Indeed, light, pre-agreed duties regarding household chores and child-related educational and entertainment-based activities are all well and good, but an au pair is ultimately a part of the family who is paid pocket money in exchange for undertaking certain tasks; it is perhaps best to think of them as an older child with an appropriate balance of responsibilities.

Paying an au pair consists of providing them with a private room and access to the living room, kitchen and bathroom, as well as a weekly (or monthly) salary, along with expenses for any extra activities. There are governmental rules and regulations concerning the level of payment and the number of hours to be expected, as well as the type of tasks to be completed. Light housework, bathing and feeding your children, undertaking the school run and helping with the homework are all normal activities – sole care of your offspring and full cleaning schedules are not. Au pairs are allowed to study, with courses typically requiring attendance three times a week with a final exam, and are permitted a paid holiday period that can be taken two months after joining your household.

Hiring and housing an au pair is a responsibility. Teach them about safety norms (not handing out their phone number/address to strangers, for example) and make sure that they understand the procedures for an emergency (999 is a UK standard but in Denmark it is 112, and many other countries have different numbers depending on whether you need an ambulance, police response or fire engine). An au pair’s free time is theirs to spend as they wish, but implementing a system whereby they let you know where they are going and at what time they will return will not only safeguard them, but also provide you with peace of mind.

Finding an au pair can be daunting as, on top of a potential language barrier, you will need to trust them with your valuables as well as your child’s welfare. Consider using an agency – which will also be able to steer you in the right direction of regulations and recompense – as any necessary background checks and references would hopefully already have been undertaken. Ultimately having an au pair is an excellent way to balance family life and expose your children to new cultures and countries, as well as providing an older ‘sibling’ to trust with childhood dramas. Many au pairs remain part of the family long after they have moved on, often with their host family’s children – when of age – acting as au pairs themselves.