Au Pair Etiquette: Hiring an Au Pair in Ireland
NOTE: The information provided in this article is best practice for those seeking to take on an Au Pair.
Since the court ruling on 8th March 2016 it is now clear that Au Pairs have the same rights as any other employee in Ireland including the right to minimum wage. We would advise all families to seek further information from citizens information on this. Au Pairs should never be used as a full time childcare solution, as detailed in the article below and we have always encouraged this to be a cultural exchange that benefits both parties.
I believe that there is a place for Au Pairs in Ireland but that the Government needs to clarify their position on the matter and provide information to families currently using Au pairs or thinking of getting an Au Pair in the future. It seems that many families in Ireland are exploiting Au pairs in which case these vulnerable workers need to be protected. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
As childcare costs in Ireland continue to rise without being subsidised, working parents are increasingly trying to find suitable and sustainable ways to care for their children. Many families explore the idea of taking on an Au Pair, and this can be a fantastic opportunity for your children to learn a new culture as well as being cared for at home.
That being said, there are several guidelines that need to be followed when considering hosting an Au Pair. It is important to remember that an Au Pair should be seen as a new member of the family rather than a cheaper childcare option.
So generally speaking, an Au Pair is a student who comes to Ireland to learn English and live with a host family to broaden their cultural experience. An Au Pair can babysit and do light housework for up to 30 hours per week, with the exception of Non EEA Countries where their visa restricts students to work only up to 20 hours per week. In return, they are given bed, board and weekly pocket money.
Typical Au Pair duties:
- Play and care for the children
- Prepare meals and snack for the children, help to keep the kitchen tidy
- Tidy the children’s bedrooms and play areas
- Help older children with homework
- Drop children to school, Crèche, leisure activities/ playdates etc
- Help prepare packed lunches, arts and crafts, organise activities indoor and outdoor
- Children’s laundry
- Light shopping
Lines can often become blurred when a family requires longer hours or an Au Pair wishes to live out. Families may have to consider another option such as a nanny or childminder if their requirements are for longer than 30 hours per week and you cannot provide accommodation. We have no officially recognised Au Pair programme in Ireland, so it is a good idea to follow European Guidelines.
Family Checklist – Is your family suitable to take on an Au Pair?
- Do you have a separate room for your Au Pair?
- Do you require less than 30 hours childcare/light housework per week, including evening babysitting?
- Are you willing to let your Au Pair attend language classes?
- Can you provide all meals even on the Au Pairs day off?
- Can you provide minimum €85 pocket money for 30 hours, current guidelines are €85-€140 depending on hours, how many children and location.
- Can you provide 2 days off per week? One must be at the weekend plus one full weekend per month
- Agree a contract including normal hours, duties, accommodation provided for your Au Pair
- Will you be welcoming to a new member of the family and take an interest in a new culture?
- Can you provide car insurance if you require your Au Pair to drive the family car?
According to European guidelines an Au Pair isn’t classed as a worker or an employee if the following apply:
- They are a foreign national living with a host family
- They are an EU citizen, hold a student visa or a working holiday visa
- They have come to Ireland on a cultural exchange programme
- The Au Pair is minimum age 18
- They have a signed invitation/ contract stating details of their accommodation, living conditions, normal working hours, free time and pocket money
- They learn about Irish culture from their host family
- They have a private room, free of charge
- They help with light housework and babysitting for aprox 30 hours per week
- They eat their main meals with their host family
- They get reasonable pocket money
- They can attend local language classes in their spare time
- They are allowed time to study and practice their English with their host family
- They sometimes go on holidays with their host family and should be allowed one week off per six months to travel home/take holidays.
So how do you go about finding an Au Pair? There are two main ways of doing this:
A family can create an online profile on some of the reputable Au Pair websites available in Ireland. The family can then search through Au Pair profiles until they find suitable ‘matches’. Interviews are usually done through Skype or Gchat and after several conversations an offer is made to the Au Pair to join your family.
Use a reputable agency who can provide suitable Au Pairs for your family. Some are recruited via a language school and others are Agencies not associated with a school. Check out nationalchildcare.ie for more information.
So what do you discuss with your Au Pair in the interview?
- Background, any relevant childcare experience?
- Why do they want to come to Ireland?
- How long do they wish to stay?
- Expectations of their role, have they ever been away from home before?
- Can they drive? European or international driving license (if required)
- Non-smokers-willing not to smoke in the family home?
- First Aid, if they don’t have it, would they be willing to do a course (family should pay for this if you require it)
- Are they happy to share their culture, perhaps teach your children their language and vice versa?
- Can they provide references? One should be from an employer and one a character reference from a teacher or non-family member
- Are they happy to take direction regarding the children?
- Assess their level of English, be patient!
- Discuss their expected duties, responsibilities, hours, pocket money so they have a clear understanding.
- If using Skype, get the children involved in the 2nd or 3rd interview.
- Tell them about the area where you live, local attractions, transport available and about the house and neighbourhood.
Once you find yourself with an Au Pair, it is a good idea to start as you mean to go on. Make sure you provide your Au Pair with a written agreement so everything is clear in the beginning. It is a good idea to have a settling in period of 3-5 days before the Au Pair has to take responsibility for the children.
If you are happy with your Au Pair, tell them so! Little gestures such as buying them phone credit, passes for local attractions for their time off and allowing them to use the internet during their time off will help show appreciation. Don’t forget to include them as part of your family and remember that they are often away from home for the first time.
Au Pairs who make friends and take up a hobby most often tend to stay longer. If the Au Pair you take on is not suitable, make sure to inform the agency straight away and be upfront with your Au Pair. They may need time to find another host family or make arrangements to go home. Most families who have used several Au pairs have had some good and some bad experiences. Most agree it is a huge benefit for the children and some families have stayed in touch with several of their Au Pairs for years!
If you have any questions regarding Au Pairs, or any aspect of childcare, I'd be more than happy hear from you. Please contact me here.
Check out The National Childcare Agency's Facebook page and website for more great advice.
Do you have any experience with hiring an Au Pair? Please share your comments.