An au pair stay offers young persons from all over the world the opportunity to live abroad for a defined period of time. The main objective behind an au pair stay is a mutual cultural exchange which benefits both parties: The au pair brings a new culture, a foreign language and a whiff of the big wide world into the host family. And whilst in the host country, the au pair can learn the official language of the host country and gain valuable experience with the help of their host families and by attending a language course. For this reason, child minding in one's own country doesn't count as an au pair stay.
As a temporary family member, the au pair lives with the host family and supports them in daily life. On the other side, the families temporarily host a "big son or daughter" and benefit from having a helping hand with childcare and housework. In return, the families give their au pairs pocket money, as well as board and lodging. It is this mutual process of giving and taking that lies at the heart of the relationship between an au pair and a host family. To ensure that the au pair stay is a success, both the au pair and the host family need to be well informed about the conditions of the au pair stay, as well as about the requirements both parties must meet. If both the au pair and the host family gather the necessary information on requirements in advance and frankly communicate their various expectations and wishes, the au pair stay is sure to have great results for all concerned.
An au pair is a young person between the ages of 18 and 30*, who is unmarried and does not have any children. He or she wishes to go abroad to live with a host family for a defined period of time and within the context of a cultural exchange. Au pairs thus have the opportunity to improve their language skills by living with the host family, to get to know a new culture and to gain some valuable experience abroad. In exchange, the au pair helps the host family with childcare and light housework.
In some countries a lower age limit applies for au pairs. Please find more information on this in our Info host countries.
A host family is a family (this term also includes single-parent families) raising at least one child who is 16 years of age or younger and lives permanently in their household. The family hosts an au pair for a defined period of time, treating the young person like a member of the family.
Au pairs support their host families in connection with childcare and light housework. Despite providing this support, au pairs should not be considered as domestic help, nor as cleaners, language teachers, carers for the elderly, dog sitters or seasonal workers. Host families cannot expect their au pairs to have pedagogical training or formal childcare qualifications and thus to be childcare professionals. Au pairs should be regarded as temporary family members who, like any family member, pitch in to make family life better and more enjoyable for all.
In many host countries, the working hours of an au pair are set by public authorities. We recommend that au pairs should not work more than 30 hours per week (including babysitting). The USA, where au pairs work up to a maximum of 45 hours per week, represents an exception to this recommendation. Both contracting parties should be flexible when it comes to the working hours of the au pair. The family may, for example, ask their au pair spontaneously to take care of the children for a little longer than usual in a particular week. However, they would normally give the au pair a whole weekend off in exchange.
Being considered a family member for a defined period of time, the au pair is entitled to his or her own room in the host family's home. The room should have a size of at least 9 square metres, be lockable and have a window. It should, of course, also be furnished and heated. The au pair should be given free access to food and drink in the home and share meals with the host family. The au pair continues to be entitled to board and lodging in case of illness.
In addition to free board and lodging, au pairs receive pocket money from their host families. The amount varies according to the relevant host country. Some countries do not have official regulations concerning the au pair stay and the amount of pocket money au pairs should receive. In this case, au pairs and host families may consult our pages to compare the amounts of pocket money paid in other countries and agree upon the amount the au pair should receive in their own case. This financial support is important to au pairs. Many of them use it to pay for their language courses and could otherwise not afford such activities as going to a café, to the cinema or discovering their host country in other ways. The au pair continues to be entitled to his or her pocket money in case of illness.
In most cases, au pairs pay their own travel expenses. Please consult our Info Host Countries to find more information on your particular host country. As a courtesy to their au pairs, many of the families registered on AuPairWorld refund part of the travel expenses or pay the return trip for their au pairs.
Au pairs must be given the opportunity to participate in a language course in their host country. Normally, the au pairs pay for their courses by themselves. Should they wish to do so, host families may of course support their au pairs financially with these expenses. In certain countries, however, it is compulsory for host families to pay for the language course of their au pair. Please see our Info Host Countries to find more information on this topic.
If there are no official regulations concerning holiday time granted to au pairs in a particular host country, au pairs who wish to stay with their host families for 12 months should get four weeks off during this time with payment of the agreed pocket money. If au pairs stay for a shorter period of time, they need to agree with their host families on a correspondingly shorter period of holiday. If a host family wishes to travel away from their home during the au pair stay, they need to clarify in advance if their au pair will accompany them or whether the au pair will make other arrangements. In any case, the au pairs continue to be entitled to their pocket money during their host family's holiday away. If an au pair stays at the host family's home while they are away on holiday, they need to provide the au pair with an adequate amount of housekeeping money for this period of time.
Au pairs surely need some time off to see friends or discover an unfamiliar part of the country. Therefore, they should be given at least one day off per week to do something on their own. Once a month, this day should be a Sunday. Official public holidays in the corresponding host countries count as bank holidays for the au pairs as well and they are not required to work on these days.
We recommend that host families pay a monthly ticket for public transport for their au pairs. Should au pairs need to take the bus, tram or train to pick up the children from a nursery or school, the host families should pay for the transport accordingly. Should there not be any public transport available, the au pairs should be allowed to use the family car to attend their language courses for example.
We recommend that au pairs and host families write down all important agreements (such as the tasks to be performed by the au pair, the working hours, the amount of pocket money and the arrangements for time off) in an au pair contract. This ensures more security for both contracting parties and helps to avoid misunderstandings. There are standard contracts for some countries, which can also be found on AuPairWorld. Should a host family live in a country in which no standard contract is provided, they may use the English version of the European standard contract, available on AuPairWorld. There is usually a minimum two-week period of notice for au pairs and for host families for early termination. This allows host families to find a new au pair and au pairs to search for a new host family or organise their trip back home in such cases. Contracts should only be terminated without notice on serious grounds.
An au pair stay is always temporary. A stay of one year typically represents the upper limit. There are also so-called summer au pairs who support their host families with childcare only for the period of the summer holidays. Au pairs may agree upon the duration of their stay together with their host families provided there are no official regulations governing this point in the corresponding host countries.
Au pairs and host families should discuss the most important aspects of the au pair placement well in advance and come to an agreement that is suitable and acceptable for everyone. This particularly applies to the pocket money, working hours, tasks, recreational activities and holidays. These topics should ideally be clarified in writing prior to the au pair's arrival. Should the au pair and the host family be unsure how to regulate certain aspects of the au pair stay, we recommend (amongst other things) to put oneself in the other party's shoes. What would you, as a family, want for your own children should they wish to work as an au pair in the future? Experienced host families also know that a happy au pair can best ensure that their children are happy as well.