Published On: Tue, Nov 25th, 2014

Au Pair Or ‘Slave Labor’? The Truth About Home Help

Many of us are unwittingly causing stress and distress to our au pairs. There is so much cause for concern about how au pairs are being treated that some are even citing the term ‘slave labor’ when it comes to describing their living conditions. Having an au pair is undoubtedly a cost-effective way to gain some much-needed help around the home, but at what point do we cross the line?

The Nanny

Au pairs are usually welcomed into our homes to keep the kids entertained, the house dust-free, and to provide us with a little company in the evenings. However, these duties and the purpose of their stay can quickly become blurred, often through no fault of our own. With our busy lives, it is very easy to ask favors once or twice. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget those tasks are supposed to be one-offs and not part of the au pair’s general duties.

If you have an au pair, or you are thinking of getting one, it is important to remember they are likely to be a teenage girl in a foreign country. They are vulnerable and perhaps even a little naive. It would be very easy to take advantage, and sadly some families do. It is unusual for an au pair to be classed as an employee or be entitled to minimum wage. This is because they are on a cultural exchange and considered a part of your family.

An au pair will expect pocket money of at least £75 per week, and a private room of their own. They will also be entitled to access to English language courses and free main meals. In exchange, an au pair will provide light housework and babysitting for around 30 hours per week. This may include up to 2 evenings a week, with at least one clear day off work a week. There is no requirement for an au pair to have any experience or qualification in childcare, and should not be left alone with a child under the age of 2.

If you require more substantial assistance, you may prefer to hire a housekeeper from somewhere like to maintain the cleanliness of your home. You may also want to recruit a fully qualified nanny to take care of younger children and babies. While most au pairs are ready and willing to do whatever they can, to make a good impression on their host family, we must all be careful not to overstep the mark.

When you are thinking about having some help in the home, an au pair could be the perfect solution if you have a spare room in your house. It is also a great way for you and the kids to learn more about another culture and language. Having some support in the home is often all we need, and another member of the household is rarely too much to take on. As well as being enthusiastically helpful, au pairs often make great companions for all the family.