Finding the right childcare option can be confusing and overwhelming as each family has different needs, family support, timetables and budgets.
In your hunt for childcare that works for your family you will come across different options including preschools, babysitters, nannies and au pairs. Below are the key features of an au pair and what you need to know about using an au pair.
What is an au pair?
Usually from another country, an au pair lives with you in your home and provides childcare and child related household duties, in exchange for room, board, meals and weekly pay. They join your family to provide a unique cultural experience, one-on-one care, love and stability, all in your own home.
What’s in a name
In French, au pair means ‘equal to’ and this meaning differentiates them from other people who may be employed to help domestically in that they are considered to be part of the family. In New Zealand though you are still considered to be their employer and as such they are entitled to all the protections any other employee has under New Zealand employment law.
The difference between an au pair and a nanny
Au pairs are usually young people who have travelled to New Zealand, and generally live in and become part of your family’s everyday life. They join the family at meal times, holidays and outings, and because they are at home, they are able to provide more flexible care including at night. They often develop a really close familial relationship and often remain in touch for years to come.
Because part of their pay is in room and board, your weekly cash outgoing will be lower than for a full time nanny. If you have more than one child this could be significantly lower than day care as the cost remains the same for up to four children.
What host families need to provide
Think of them as an older sibling and what they would want if they were living at home – their own furnished room, bedding and linen, good access to a bathroom, wi-fi, meals and snacks, and access to the family home’s amenities. If you need them to be able to transport your child you will need to supply a suitable (legal) vehicle.
What an au pair can help with
An au pair is there primarily for the children so they can help with all aspects of caring for the children including preparing their meals, washing and sorting their clothes, and getting them to and from places such as sport, school, and kindy. They will keep track of the kids possessions, contribute to their education and development, and most help keep the children’s spaces clean and tidy.
Many families have little family support and an au pair can step in to that breach and support you in your parenting. Additionally it can be hugely rewarding having someone from another culture and language share their knowledge and culture.
As a live in carer they are able to respond quickly to changing situations, for example if you have to take a child for medical care, the au pair can stay at home with the other children (over six months).
Your legal obligations
If your au pair is from overseas they will need a Working Holiday Visa. Legally your au pair will need at two consecutive days off each week and one weekend off a month. As their employer you will need to ensure they are paid regularly, pay ACC, keep track of leave balances, and ensure you meet Health and Safety requirements. If you are using an agency, your agency will take care of all of this for you to make the process simple and stress-free.
Before you leave your precious babies with someone, it’s advisable to do a police and reference check. If you’re choosing your au pair through an agency such as Au Pair Link, they will do a full police check, reference check and screen all candidates on your behalf to ensure all au pair applicants are suitable and up for the task.
The role of an au pair agency
Employing an au pair privately can be a huge amount of administration with no guaranteed outcome. Au pair employment agencies have all the systems and processes set up to ensure that au pairs have experience, are suitable to care for children, have the right documentation, and are paid accurately. They sort out the PAYE, ACC and leave records. They will also organise to receive the 20 hours ECE, OSCAR or childcare subsidies that you are eligible for.
Au Pair Link take all of their au pairs on a three day orientation where they learn child first aid (through St John), theoretical driving lessons, culture shock, along with childhood education and behaviour management strategies. They provide playgroups, exclusive outings, education resources and organise au pair trips away too! Your family will be allocated your own qualified ECE teacher who will meet with you, your children and your au pair on a monthly basis to ensure everything is going well. They will be on-hand 24/7 for guidance and support.
They help with settling your au pair into the New Zealand way of life, provide you with support and mediation. They can help place another au pair with you should your first choice not work out.
Written by Robyn Taylor for Au Pair Link
Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments.
Favourite motto to live by: “This too will pass.”