An au pair placement is an arrangement where a single person aged from 17 - 27 (inclusive) comes to the United Kingdom to study English and lives for up to two years as a member of an English speaking family. There is no longer any kind of official au pair scheme but the spirit of the agreement remains. The au pair typically helps in the home for a maximum of 5 hours per day, with at least two full days off per week, in return for a reasonable allowance and the use of his or her own room.
Au pairs are not recommended for the care of children under 3 years old however there are no legal restrictions. They are often young, inexperienced, unqualified and unfamiliar with the UK. Where they do look after babies or toddlers it should not be for extended periods of sole charge, an au pair is not a cheap alternative to a nanny. If you need care in your own home but are unable to afford a nanny just for your family you may wish to consider a nanny share.
Who can be an au pair?
Nationals of the European Economic Area can enter the United Kingdom to work or study without any formalities. Nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Taiwan can obtain a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa. Holders of this visa are able to take up employment in the UK including as an au pair. They are allowed to stay for up to 2 years. For more information about the Tier 5 visa for nationals of these countries click here.
What are the conditions for au pairs?
Au pairs must be live in. If they are not living with the family they are a live out part time nanny and are entitled to all employment rights, including minimum wage.
An au pair may change families provided the new arrangements continue to meet the requirements of the immigration rules.
Does an au pair have to pay tax and National Insurance?
If this is your au pair's only job and they do not earn more than £153 per week (Secondary Threshold 2015-2016) they do not need to pay tax and National Insurance. If they earn more than £153 in any week or have a second job which predates their work for you they will be liable for tax and National Insurance contributions which you will need to deduct. We recommend speaking to a payroll provider for further guidance.
Au pairs and the voluntary OFSTED childcare register (in England)
Au pairs can register with OFSTED on the voluntary register as home childcarers. This means that they can be paid with childcare vouchers or tax credits. They must meet all the requirements of the register which are:
a DBS check on the update service (this will involve obtaining certificates of good conduct from their home country and any other countries they have lived in)
a paediatric First Aid certificate
training in the Common Core Skills for the Childcare Workforce
Other areas of the UK have their own childcare regulators. In Scotland au pairs may be recruited through agencies registered with the Care Commission. In Wales they may register with the Childcare Approval Scheme and in Northern Ireland as an Approved Home Childcarer subject to the necessary checks and training which are similar to OFSTED's.