I get a lot of questions from parents about Au Pairs. Why? Because honestly parents are looking to Au pairs as an alternative to other forms of childcare. It’s great to look at all the childcare options in Australia before you make a choice. In Australia we have a National Quality Framework for Early childhood which recognises children learn from birth, so caring is nice but learning is happening from day one. It’s not flash cards and baby einstein DVD’s, it’s all about age-appropriate play-based activities that encourage children to be, belong and become. To be honest, if we managed to get all states and territories to agree on it, it must be pretty good! Research is the key, google, become a self-taught guru, talk to friends, jump into some online forums and then you have a clearer idea of your own criteria before you make your decision:
Au Pairs are not qualified childcare workers, they are in Australia for a good time not a long time. Some may have had some experience but they do not have a minimum standard of Certificate 3 in Early Childhood Education and care meeting Australian standards of educators under the National Quality Framework. Because it’s not all about care. Safety, age appropriate activities, education, safe and healthy food choices per age range. I am not really doing qualified educators justice with that short list, but it’s just a highlight of the knowledge an early childhood educator has as a minimum. Have a look at our article on what is ‘quality’ in childcare? Think of the steep learning curve you have gone through as a mother. Some au pair agencies do not place au pairs with children under the age of two in their care as they are not qualified early childhood educators. Some au pairs have never lived out of home and may have never cooked a meal for themselves in their life. Don’t make assumptions about any au pair. They may be very ‘green’.
Au Pairs are not a form of ‘registered’ childcare by the Australian government so you will not receive any kind of rebate or tax concessions for using one. Au Pairs are 18-30 years old and coming to Australia on working holiday visas, so as a parent you would need to employee your au pair. Because of the employment relationship some parents choose an agency so they don’t have to worry about employee obligations like, insurance and taxation requirements. If your au pair works under 30 hours you will not need to pay super. Check with the Australian Taxation Office .Because au pairs are unregulated, au pairs and parents can be open to exploitation.
Vicky from Au Pair Advice suggests, it is generally accepted Au Pair’s pay should not fall below ($6/hr). The minimum package should be minimum wage multiplied by the number of hours worked minus the value of room and board.
Having an au pair can provide your child exposure to another language and culture.
Some parents say that by using an au pair they have reduced the risk of sickness and their child is getting one-on-one attention.
If you live in a small house it might be difficult to host an au pair. You need to be able to give your au pair some space, including their own bedroom if they are staying overnight but you also you need your space too.
If you expect your au pair to drive your kids to school you need to check they have an international drivers licence and if they feel comfortable driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. If swimming is a big part of your life and you expect the au pair to take the kids to the pool, are they able to swim? If your family is vegetarian do you expect your au pair will know that the soy patties shouldn’t be fried in the same pan, at the same time as the beef burger? Do you expect the au pair to have no worries or homesickness about living in a new country with a new family? Do you expect the au pair to leave your chocolate stash untouched? Au pairs don’t have crystal balls and there will definitely be a settling in period. You need to write down all your expectations and share them with the au pair.
Many parents use au pairs as an extra pair of hands. This may assist the host family with light duties such as washing, cleaning, cooking and babysitting.
You need to dedicate time to the recruitment process in terms of finding the right agency or individually hiring and becoming an employer. Also because au pairs are on a working visa they can only work up to 6 mths in one place which can be distressing for children who form bonds with the au pair and then they have to leave.