In one of my past lives I was an au pair. For a few years after that I ran a local Au Pair recruitment agency. I thought it would be useful to use my background to put together a guideline of what to consider when employing an Au Pair.
What Is An Au Pair?
There are many definitions of au pairs and childminders. However, during my time running the agency and trying to put some structure to a very new environment and service, this is what we decided on with regards to providing an explanation for each service:
- Young ladies/guys, usually students
- Between the ages of 18 – 30 years’ old
- Work approx 10 – 20 hours a week
- Monthly Salary around R2000.00 – R8000.00
- They have their own road worthy vehicles and driver’s license.
- Usually a lady experienced in Childcare. Not to be mistaken for a domestic worker as the cleaning revolves around the cleaning for the children as well as cooking. Basic housekeeping.
- Between the ages of 18 – 50 years’ old
- Work approx 45 hours a week.
- Salary around R3500 – R5500.00
- Experienced Trained Nanny
- Between the ages of 20 – 60 years’ old
- Work approx 45 hrs a week
- Salary around R4500 – R10000
Thing To Consider When Recruiting An Au Pair
When you are considering recruiting an au pair, here are some tips to be mindful of when interviewing potential candidates:
- By finding out about their childhood and how their parents disciplined them will provide you with a good indication of their views on respect and general discipline to see if it is in line with yours
- Check their driving record.
- Do take the time to do thorough reference checks
- Be specific on what it is you require from the services of your Au pair. Expectations need to be specific and agreed upon up front.
Top Tip: If the candidates’ parents phone on their behalf, do their CV or just start getting involved … RUN!
You have found your ideal candidate and the contracts have been signed. Now what?
You will find out quickly enough if the candidate will be well suited in your home. Firstly, always remember that nobody can do it better than mom or dad so remember to be patient and keep communication clear.
Once again it is important to make sure you go through all the duties and expectation with your Nanny. Even if it seems silly do it. For example, hygiene can mean different things in different homes.
Here are some other important things you consider and be mindful of:
Pay & Contracts
There are so many more agencies out there compared to when I first started. Before you begin your search, make sure you have a realistic expectation when it comes to requirements vs what you are prepared to pay for.
- Holidays: Discuss holidays with your au pair. Remember if you have an agreement of no work no pay this can make your Au pair be more inclined to look for more permanent income elsewhere.
- Working Hours: If the Au pair is required to work a set amount of hours per day you need to specify what is expected. Discuss in advance how you want to work if it is on a flexible basis, i.e. Is she expected to get paid overtime for two hours when a few days ago you let her go home three hours earlier?
It can get quite complicated so I would highly recommend you make use of a sign-off sheet to monitor the hours worked. This can also be useful to monitor mileage.
Driving Your Children Around
If your Au Pair is required to drive your children around, these are things you need to take into consideration:
- Mileage: It would be best to look at either a petrol allowance or a per Km rate and the best would be to look at AA Rates. At that time we were working on R2.49 per k/m because anything over would have tax implications for the au pairs, a lot of whom are just students. We also took into consideration what the average car an Au pair would drive is, which helps parents when needing to budget.
- Where do you start charging the km’s from? Whilst you do not pay to go to work if the Au pair needs to collect the children from sports and it is very far or you require the au pair to collect something quite a distance away, you need to be mindful that she may need to log the travelled km’s especially if it becomes more than a regular occurrence.
- Car Safety: This is something I am quite passionate about and I implore families to be pedantic about this with the Au pair. Seatbelts, carseats, speed limits. It is necessary for you to confirm you expectations with regards to this in advance with your au pair.
In The Home
Again, keep the lines of communication open. You must be specific about what duties are required, and what your expectations of your au pair are when they are in your home.
- What is the au pair allowed to eat and drink in your home.
- Setting Rules & Boundaries. I have encouraged parents to sit down with older children and the Au pair to establish rules and boundaries so that you do not have kids playing up with the au pair.
- Routine. Set up a good consistent routine and ensure the au pair understands the importance of this.
- Homework: Where does the child take responsibility with results from tests and where does it become the au pairs fault for results received. It is here where it becomes tricky do you require the services of a tutor or an Au pair and possibly worth investigating this.
Confirm what is acceptable things to ask your Au pair to do.
- Make lunch and/or dinner – did you specify this in the contract? Will you supply the menu? Will you need the Au pair to do the grocery shopping?
- Get anything related to school work and projects including purchasing of needed stationary.
- Drop and collect dry cleaning.
- Take the children to appointments.
- Collect the child/children from school.
- Take them to extra mural activities or meet the child at the activity with a cold water and snack.
- Confirm your expectations when you get home after the activities. Do you want your child to unpack his/her bag and lunch box? Perhaps you require them to have a few minutes of quiet time whilst the au pair goes through homework books and/or makes lunches for the next day. Be specific.
- Homework time with breaks if necessary. How do you want it handled?
- Preparation for the following day. Do you want him/her to ensure that school bags are packed for the next day?
I hope you found this guideline on what to consider when employing an au pair useful.
What advice do you have for parents looking to employ the services of an au pair?