Kids-health is a site packed with hints and tips to keep you and the family healthy.
The last few Kids-Health posts have had a childcare theme and so, not wanting to spoil the momentum, here is another one! Lisa-Jane is one of our guest contributors and here she discusses some important issues for consideration if you are thinking of choosing an au-pair for your childcare.
In the UK au pair services are provided, normally by agencies, to families who require a limited quantity of assistance with their children of a certain age. The relationship is a two-way one, unlike that present for the employers of a nanny or a mother’s help. The au pair is in the UK to learn more about the language and culture of the country, and as such must be expected to take a reasonable amount of time for social activities, days out, and exploring the town in which she or he is resident.
To be clear on the balance between duties and learning, it can help to create a timetable for a typical week. The following tips are designed to help write such a timetable, without omitting important information or obligations.
1: Consult an Agency
To write a workable timetable for an au pair in the UK, it’s necessary to understand what her or his duties are expected to be. These are not bound by employment law as the au pair’s position is one of cultural exchange. As such there are no contracts, and instead the system works on an understanding of trust.
An agency, which has experience in the UK au pair environment, is the best place to go for information on the amount of time an au pair can be expected to work, and what other regular elements may be required in her or his time in Britain.
2: Language Classes
While it is not compulsory (see point 1), many au pairs take English language courses while they are staying in the UK. Obviously a timetable must facilitate this, which means you need to know when and where courses are. Knowledge of where a course is allows you to make allowances for travel as well as course attendance.
3: Free Time
The au pair normally has more free time than work time (for a full time assistant, you should apply for a nanny or a mother’s help, again as noted). This can be difficult for a person who has no friends or acquaintances around him or her. You may want to factor this into a draft timetable, perhaps by including some suggested social activities and locations. The quicker the au pair becomes settled and happy, the easier it will be to have him or her functioning as part of the household.
Obviously, one of the key reasons for a family to consider an au pair is that they wish for help with some aspects of childcare and home duties. Factor the most appropriate times for the au pair to be working around the times that will be of most use to the family, bearing in mind that au pairs should not be made responsible for the sole care of children under the age of three.
5: The Evolving Timetable
The settling-in period, for an au pair and for the family he or she stays with, can be quite difficult – so you should expect to set the timetable in full at this time. However, once the au pair has adapted and has a better understanding of the country and of your family, it is wise to involve him or her in drawing up a timetable for future work and leisure. Consider a weekly timetable meeting for this purpose.
6: Holiday Periods
At some point, the host family may wish to take a holiday. You are not within your rights to make an au pair return home during this period unless you make arrangements for (including paying for) her or his transport. It may be necessary to consult your au pair when making your own holiday arrangements, for this reason.
Communication is key in every au pair placement and relationship.
Author bio – Lisa Jane is a social worker. She also acts as an advisor to the board of a number of UK au pair agencies.