Au Pair A to Z
Au pairs’ minimum and maximum age may vary from country to country according to the regulations in place. The majority of au pairs are between 17 or 18 and 30 years old, while childminders and nannies are usually aged 23 to 40 years and older.
Here is a list of the au pair age range in the main host countries destinations:
|Country||Au Pair Age|
|Germany||17-30 EU Citizens / 18 - 26 Non-EU Citizens|
|Italy||17-30 EU Citizens / 18-30 Non-EU Citizens|
It is important that your host family knows of any allergies that you may have. As a host family please make sure that your au pair is aware of any allergies that your family and children have. Make sure to mention any allergies in your profile.
Definition of an au pair:
The word "Au Pair" is a French term, which means "on par" or "equal to", denoting living on an equal basis in a reciprocal, caring relationship between the host family and the au pair.
An au pair is a young foreign person who lives as part of a host family in exchange for food, board and pocket money. Very often an au pair becomes a ‘big sister’ within a host family and will usually eat meals with the family and join in many of the family activities and outings.
Au pairs travel to another country, usually to improve their foreign language skills, as well as to gain a new cultural experience. Typically au pairs are young women/men between 17 and 30 years old (although in some cases they may be a little older).
An au pair will take on a share of the day-to-day duties of the family in exchange for board and pocket money. An au pair will usually stay with a family between 6-12 months. Although an au pair can stay with a host family for up to 2 years depending on the au pair regulations of the host country. A summer au pair will usually stay with their host family for 3-4 months.
Au pair agreement
An au pair contract is sometimes known as an au pair agreement. See au pair contract below.
Au pair programme
The au pair programme is a cultural exchange programme in which a young foreign person comes and lives as part of a family. The au pair will help the family with their childcare needs and some light housework in exchange for board, food and weekly or monthly pocket money. The au pair will live as part of the family and usually there is a language acquisition element to the au pair programme. As the au pair programme is considered to be a cultural exchange programme and not paid employment, an au pair usually only works part-time for their host family (except in the USA where an au pair can work full-time).
Au pair plus
An au pair plus carries out exactly the same duties as a standard au pair except that he/she can work longer hours (usually 35-40 hours) and receives more pocket money than a standard au pair. Many European countries have a maximum number of working hours that an au pair can work and so do not recognise an au pair plus programme. Please see our table of au pair working hours.
Au pairs can be asked to babysit for 1 or 2 nights max per week. A maximum of 1 of these evenings babysitting should be at the week-end (Friday or Saturday evening). Babysitting should be agreed in the au pair contract that the host family and au pair sign at the beginning of the au pair placement. An au pair should be given plenty of notice if the family require him/her for babysitting (approximately a week’s notice). An au pair should not be asked to babysit on an evening that she/he attends language classes.
Au pairs are entitled to have public holidays and bank holidays off. In some cases an au pair may agree to work a public/bank holiday and the host family will give the au pair a day off at a later stage.
Au pairs must be provided with their own private bedroom. The bedroom must have a window and adequate storage. A study desk is also a requirement in many countries. In Germany, the au pair’s bedroom has to meet specific requirements: the room must have a window and must be at least 9 square metres, it must be lockable and have adequate heating. We recommend that families send a picture of the au pair’s bedroom before the au pair arrives.
See Bedroom above.
See Driving licence below.
A live-out childminder/child-carer, unlike an au pair, is an employee and can fulltime hours. Childminders have the same entitlements as any other employee, therefore they must receive at least minimum wage. They usually receive between €9-12 depending on their experience and the number of children they are minding. A family must give a childminder/child-carer holiday pay and make the same tax returns as they would for any other employee. They will often be a foreign national and will mind children in the host family’s home. As part of their responsibilities, child-carers will often do some housework and might be asked to cook the family meal. A nanny is an in-home childminder who has formal childcare qualifications. See nanny below.
At Kangaroo Au Pair, we recommend that all our families and au pairs sign a contract before entering into an au pair placement. While there is no official au pair contract for most countries in Europe, some au pairs prefer to have a contract as it gives a sense of security. Other au pairs feel that a list of duties is sufficient and are more comfortable with this arrangement as they may find a contract to be too formal. A contract should contain a list of au pair duties, the au pair’s timetable or schedule, pocket money time-off and holidays.
Here is a copy of the Council of Europe’s model contract for Au Pairs, click on the link to download the Council of Europe Au Pair Contract document. Alternatively, we have made available another au pair contract which you may find easier to use, download our Au Pair Contract template. Please note that to view this document Adobe Reader is required.
Please beware that in some countries in Europe it is mandatory to sign an au pair contract before departure. Non-EU citizens might need to present a signed copy of the contract to their local authorities to get a visa if they want to find a placement in some European countries (e.g. UK, Spain, Italy, etc.).
Check the table below to find out whether an au pair contract is mandatory in the host country of your choice. We recommend that all au pairs and host families sign a contract even when it is not requirement of the host country, in order to avoid future any misunderstandings or disagreements.
|Country||Mandatory Au Pair Contract|
Croatian au pairs
As of 1 July 2013, Croatia has become a member State of the European Union, therefore Croatian au pairs are no longer required to apply for a visa to become au pairs in an EU country. Some EU countries might still require Croatian citizens to apply for a work permit, if they want to become au pairs in their country. Here is a list of countries with specific legislation for Croatian citizens. Click on the country to find out more: France, United Kingdom.
Demi au pair or Demi-pair
A demi au pair or demi-pair is the same as a standard au pair but works shorter hours than a standard au pair, usually 15-25 hours per week and 1 or 2 nights babysitting.
A demi au pair may suit a family with older children who only need a small amount of supervision after school or a family in which one of the parents is in the home full time. A demi au pair position may suit an au pair who is studying or wants to do an intensive language course.
Make sure to mention to your host family if you have any dietary requirements. It is important that they know this before agreeing to an au pair stay. Many au pairs who have very specific dietary requirements choose to do their own cooking themselves.
Disabled / children with special needs
Children’s safety is our priority.
As we want to make sure that our families get the best au pair for their family, we included an option in the family profile page where families can state whether there is any children with special needs in their family. Au pairs have to state in their profile whether they are willing to look after a child with special needs.
Not all au pairs might have enough experience or feel comfortable at looking after children with special needs, so we recommend that families who have a child with special needs make contact with the au pairs who have stated in their profiles, that they are willing to take care of children with special needs. We recommend host families to give a brief description of their children’s disabilities in their Message to au pair box.
Some au pairs might be more at ease with children with physical disabilities over children with cognitive disabilities, while for other au pairs it could be the other way round. Hence, it’s important that family clearly describes their child’s needs in their profile.
Host families who require their au pair to drive must provide him/her with a car, pay for the car insurance, ensure that the car is well maintained and provide fuel or give the au pair money to pay for fuel.
Host families are also encouraged to provide their au pair with driving lessons until he/she is confident enough to drive your car. Au pairs are young boys/girls who come from a different country where they might drive on the other side of the road. Holders of a driving licence issued by an EU member State can drive in another EU country as long as their existing driving licence is valid.
For more information about driving in the host country of your choice, visit your country’s Au pair programmes page.
An elderly care au pair is an au pair who looks after an older person, offers companionship and will do some light housework. Elderly care au pairs will help with shopping and errands and they will assist in moving in and out of the house especially when taking transport. They may also cook the dinner and make meals and snacks for the older person.
Elderly care au pairs are entitled to the same rights as other au pairs such as free board and lodging, their own private room, holidays and time off. In regards to pocket money, elderly care au pairs would usually receive a slightly lower amount of weekly pocket money compared to childcare au pairs. Elderly care au pairs are not suitable for old people whose needs are medically-based or are suffering from any form of dementia.
As an au pair programme is considered to be a cultural exchange programme, in most countries an au pair is not considered to be an employee. However if a host family uses an au pair as a domestic employee and does not follow the recommendations of the au pair programme, they may be liable to pay an au pair the national minimum hourly wage and to meet all their employers obligations such as taxes and holiday pay etc. See au pair programmes.
Au pairs are entitled to receive food and drinks at all time during their au pair stay, even in case of illness. Host families should provide food for families for 7 days per week, not just the days that the au pair is working. If the family are away or not at home, they should make sure that there is either food for the au pair or they should leave money with the au pair to pay for the food that she needs.
If there are specific foods or snacks that the au pair likes the family might buy these for the au pair occasionally, when they are doing the grocery shop. Some families make a shopping list and let the au pair add food that she likes to this list. If the au pair has specific dietary requirements, she may choose to do her own cooking. The au pair will usually have the main meal with the family each day.
Meals often become a very enjoyable experience for the family as they are the time that the au pair, the host parents and the children get to talk about their day and discuss plans. Sharing meals is an important way to show au pairs that they’re part of the family.
See our au pair programme for France.
See our au pair programme for Germany.
Au pairs are strongly recommended to organise their health insurance before moving to their host country. European au pairs moving to another European country and holding a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will usually be entitled to some free National Health service treatments (please check the agreements between your country of origin and your host country), while non-European moving to a European country will have to take out a private health insurance.
We recommend that both EU and non-EU au pairs take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover travel, liability and medical costs.
Au pairs’ annual leave entitlements depend on the length of their au pair stay. In most EU countries au pairs are entitled to at least 1 week of paid holidays every 6 months of employment but this does differ from country to country. Host families who go on holiday may take their au pairs on holiday with them.
The host family will pay for travel costs and the au pair’s accommodation costs. If the au pair is required to look after their children while on holidays, these holidays shouldn’t count as paid holidays. For more information about your holiday entitlements in your host country, please visit our Au Pair Programmes page and search by country.
Some host families living in the countryside might have a farm with horses among other animals and it is not uncommon for the host family to look for an au pair who can horse ride. Both host families and au pairs on our website can add this specific requirement in their profile.
Host families can specifically search for au pairs who can horse ride, while au pairs can search for families who are looking for an au pair with such skill.
A host family is a family who hosts an au pair coming from a foreign country for a limited amount of time. A host family must consist of at least one parent and one child under the age of 18. The au pair programme is a cultural exchange programme, not a form of employment, therefore the host family’s duty is to treat the au pair as part of their family and help her improve her language and personal skills.
The host family should have a different mother tongue to the au pair. Au pairs should receive free food and accommodation in exchange for help minding the children and doing light housework. The au pair stay will usually be extended for no longer than 2 years.
The amount of hours au pairs can be asked to help minding the children and doing light housework will differ from host country to host country. Some countries have specific legislation that states the maximum number of hours that an au pair can work. For example, in Germany au pairs are not supposed to work more than 6 hours per day and 5 days a week.
Some countries do not have an official au pair programme. Below is a table with recommended working hours in different countries. It is also important that a host family and an au pair sign a contract and the number of working hours should be agreed and be put into this contract.
|Host Country||Working Hours|
|Australia||30-40 hours per week|
|France||Max 5 hours/day and 30 hours per week|
|Germany||Max 6 hours/day and 30 hours/week|
|Italy||Max 5 hours/day and 30 hours/week|
|United Kingdom||25-30 hours/week, au pair plus 30-40 hours|
|United States||Max 10 hours/day and 45 hours/week|
Au pairs are expected to help their host families doing some light household chores. Light housework that would be suitable for au pairs include for example:
- Tidying up the children’s room
- Preparing simple meals and snacks for the kids
- Washing the dishes
- Loading/unloading the dishwasher
- Keeping the kitchen clean and tidy
- Hanging out and taking in the laundry
- Keeping the children’s bedroom clean
- Tidying the children’s toys away
- Folding and putting away the children’s clothes
- Keeping his/her bedroom clean and tidy
We recommend families and au pairs to discuss the au pair’s duties upon commencement of the au pair stay and to include the agreed list of duties in the au pair contract.
We would like to remind all host families that au pairs’ main duty is to look after the children and not to do housework. For a more detailed list of what is considered and what is not considered to be light housework, please read our blog post ‘What is light housework?’.
A host family should not take possession of an au pair’s identification when she/he arrives in her host country. This is not necessary. Depending on your host country you may want to bring a form of identification with you whenever you go out. In some countries you will need to show your identification to gain entry to a nightclub or a venue that serves alcohol.
When entering into an au pair stay, an au pair must be in good enough health to be able to carry out his/her au pair duties. In some host countries an au pair is expected to present a medical certificate (issued no more than 3 months prior to the commencement of the au pair placement) that confirms that she/he is in good health and is medically fit to be an au pair.
In the case that an au pair is ill, she/he is entitled to continue to have board and food and pocket money as agreed. Some countries require the host family to make social insurance contributions. In countries where families are compelled by law to pay social insurance contributions for their au pairs, illness might be paid by the State.
To find out in what host countries families are obliged to pay social contributions for their au pair, please visit our Au Pair Programmes page.
We recommend all our au pairs to take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical, liability and travel costs before moving to their host country, especially if they are non-EU au pairs moving to Europe. Many countries health insurance as part of their visa applications. In some host countries families are due to take out insurance for their au pairs, for more detailed information please visit our Au Pair Programmes page and search by country. Families in some countries are also recommended to name their au pair on their house insurance policy. See also Health Insurance.
Nowadays it would be expected that an au pair would have internet access or WIFI in her host family’s home. This is important to the au pair as au pairs usually stay in touch with their friends and family through Facebook, skype or other forms of social media.
It is important to have at least 1 interview with your au pair or host family before agreeing to an au pair placement. Do not accept an offer of an au pair placement by email and always insist on a skype or FaceTime interview so that you can see the person who is going to be your au pair or your host family. Please see skype calls.
See Employment above.
Au pair programmes are cultural exchange programmes and one of an au pairs’ main goals when moving to a host country is to improve his/her language skills. As part of the programme host families must give their au pairs enough time off to attend language classes. An au pair will usually attend classes once or twice a week. The au pair and host family should sit down together at the beginning of the au pair placement and agree the day(s) and time that suit best for the au pair to attend language classes. A host family cannot ask an au pair to work at the time of her language class.
Language classes can really help an au pair to improve their communication skills and a host family should encourage their au pair to improve their language skills. Another benefit of attending language classes, is that an au pair can make new friends.
Attending language classes is usually optional for au pairs, with the exception of a few countries where enrolment in a language course is compulsory. Au pairs will pay for their language classes themselves, with the exception of a few countries where host families where the host family either contributes to or pays for their au pair’s language course. For more information about who pays for your language classes in your host country, visit our Au Pair Programmes page and search by country.
Length of stay
Au pair programmes can usually be from a minimum of 3 months, for a summer au pair to a maximum of 2 years. As an au pair programme is a cultural exchange programme as opposed to a long-term career, usually an au pair placement will last between 6 months and 1 year. Au pair from EU states can travel to another EU state country without the need for a visa. Non-EU au pairs who come to an EU state to be an au pair will need to check the length of issue of their visa.
See Housework above.
The term ‘live-out au pair’ is often used to refer to a childminder or child-carer. Au pair programmes are cultural exchange programmes in which the au pair lives with a host family and is treated as one of the family. Living with a host family is an essential part of the au pair programme. In reality a live-out au pair doesn’t exist.
Live-out au pairs are actually ‘childminders’ and must receive the minimum wage. Childminders are regular employees and can therefore work for longer hours and must receive the same entitlements as any other employee such as social insurance contributions, holiday pay etc. Childminders will often do housework and might be asked to cook the family meal. Male au pairs The majority of au pairs are female but male au pairs are becoming increasingly popular. Male au pairs can be particularly popular with families who have boys and are also popular as elderly care au pairs. The same conditions apply to male au pairs as female au pairs.
Male au pairs
The majority of au pairs are female but male au pairs are becoming increasingly popular. Male au pairs can be particularly popular with families who have boys and are also popular as elderly care au pairs. The same conditions apply to male au pairs as female au pairs.
An au pair will usually have the main meal of the day with the family. This is a good time for the au pair to practice her language skills and a good time for the whole family to discuss the events of the day. Conversation at mealtimes are a really good way for the host family and au pair to form a bond and get to know each other.
A mother’s help is similar to an au pair except that she will usually speak the same language as the host family. A Mother's Help will usually be aged 20+. They may have no formal qualifications but should have good experience with children. They can work longer hours than an au pair (up to 10 hours per day). They will also carry out more household tasks than an au pair such as household duties and shopping etc. Initially they cannot take sole charge of babies but as they gain experience they can take sole charge of babies.
A live-in native speaking mother’s help earns £150-300 per week in the UK. Mealtimes An au pair will usually have the main meal of the day with the family. This is a good time for the au pair to practice her language skills and a good time for the whole family to discuss the events of the day. Conversation at mealtimes are a really good way for the host family and au pair to form a bond and get to know each other.
A nanny is a child-carer with childcare qualifications who is employed to take care of children in their own home. Nannies can be employed either as live-in or live-out. Nannies are considered domestic workers, therefore they are entitled to receive a payslip, paid holidays, paid time off, etc.
Host families will also have to pay employers’ social contributions for their nannies as they would for any other employees.
Nannies would usually earn more than au pairs or childminders as they are fully qualified in children’s care, learning, nutrition and development and have Paediatric First Aid training. Many nannies will also drive and may have their own car.
A native speaking au pair is usually referred to as a mother’s help. They do not need to attend language classes and can work up to 10 hours per day. They can do more housework than a standard au pair and will usually receive more pocket money than a standard au pair.
Should the au pair or the host family decide to terminate the au pair stay before the agreed end date, it is advisable to give a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice period in order to give enough time to the host family to look for a new au pair or to the au pair to look for a new family.
If an au pair stay is terminated but the host family does not want the au pair to continue to work out the notice period, the host family will have to continue to supply free board and lodging and pocket money to the au pair during this notice period.
An au pair placement can be terminated immediately only in cases of gross misconduct such as theft, forgery, deceit, violence, etc.
Au pairs are due to receive an agreed amount of pocket money in exchange for their help minding the host family’s child and for doing light housework.
In countries where au pair placements are regulated by law (e.g. France, Germany, USA), the amount of pocket money is usually decided by the host country’s government. In such countries, au pairs’ working hours are usually regulated by law too.
In countries where there is no official au pair programme, please see the table below for the recommended pocket money. In some host countries au pairs are paid on a monthly basis, while in others they’re paid on a weekly basis.
We always recommend our families and au pairs to agree on the amount of pocket money upon commencement of the au pair stay and to include this amount in the au pair contract.
Below you will find the amount of pocket money given in each host country.
|Host Country||Pocket Money||Working Hours/Week|
See Bank Holidays above.
We recommend that all host families contact at least 1 of your future au pairs’ referees before agreeing to an au pair placement. If an a host family has had prior au pairs, we recommend that you contact the host family’s prior au pair and have a chat with about how they found the host family and their experience as an au pair.
See Bedroom above.
See au pair programme UK.
When choosing an au pair, it’s important the host family has a clear idea of what they want from their au pair and that they get on with the au pair. The best way to find out if you have found the right candidate for your family is to have a number of Skype calls with your prospective au pair.
We recommend our families to have a few questions ready before calling their au pair, in order to make sure they’re asking the right questions. Start the call talking about your family, your children, their age and habits, your family routine and any other information that your au pair might find helpful to figure out how it will be like to live with you. This will also help to relax the au pair and establish a rapport with your family.
Then ask your au pair a few questions about her/his hobbies, habits, family, childcare experience, etc. As well as assessing the au pair’s ability to mind your children, it is also important to find out what the au pair’s personality is like. This au pair will be living with you so you need to ensure that this is someone you will be happy to live with.
Being an au pair in a foreign country where people speak a foreign language and where you don’t know anybody can be tough at the start. We ask that host families help their au pair during these first few weeks. If there are any au pairs in you locality, you could introduce your au pair to them. If there are sports clubs or other interest groups you might bring your au pair to them. Host families are encouraged to check what activities are suitable and available in the area where they live before their au pair arrives.
Another great way to make new friends is by attending language classes. This is a really good way to meet other people who are also spending time in your host country. You might organise to meet them outside of language classes and you may choose to travel around your new country with them. If you are minding young children, your host family might ask you to bring them to play groups. The children will get to play with other children and you might get to meet other au pairs and childminders.
The information regarding sole charge varies from country to country. In the UK au pairs should not have sole charge of children under the age of 2. In other countries au pairs should not have sole charge of children under the age of 12 months. Please take a look at the au pair programme information regarding sole charge in your country or host country.
In families where there is a child with special needs, an au pair can be a great help. We have had many families with special needs who have used our website to find an au pair for their family. Some au pairs may have experience with special needs and some may be happy to stay with a family in which one of the members has special needs. Au pairs who are willing to work with a child with special needs have indicated this in their profile. When contacting an au pair, always chose an au pair who has opted for working with children with special needs. If there is special needs in your family please tick this in your profile.
Summer au pair
Many graduates and undergraduate students choose to be a summer au pair in a different country during the months that they are off college. Summer au pair programmes are usually for 3months between May and September. Many European families choose to have a summer au pair to help them while their children are off school. Summer au pair work under the same conditions as a standard au pair except that they stay for a shorter length of time.
As an au pair is not considered to be an employee, in most countries she/he is not required to make tax contributions.
For more detailed information about the host country of your choice, please visit our Au Pair Programmes page.
Termination of stay
An au pair placement can be terminated at any time and for any fair reason. It is advisable that both the au pair and the host family respect the notice period agreed in the contract or, if they haven’t signed any, they should still give a reasonable notice period to the other party. A host family or au pair is usually entitled to a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice if one party terminates the placement. During the notice period the au pair is still entitled to board and lodgings and should be paid her pocket money.
Should the au pair be in the host country under a visa programme, it is important that local authorities are advised about the termination of the au pair stay.
Au pairs are entitled to have enough time off to rest and to attend their language classes. Au pairs are usually entitled to at least 2 days off per week, 1 of these to be at the week-end. Some countries allow an au pair to have 2 half days and 1 full day off per week if 2 full days off do not suit the family. Au pairs are also entitled to 1 full week-end off per month (from Friday evening to Monday morning).
Time off entitlements may vary according to the host country regulations, so please visit our Au Pair Programmes page and search by country.
Non-EU au pairs coming to Europe to do an au pair placement need to apply for a visa. Depending on the agreement between the au pair’s country of origin and the host country, the duration of the au pair stay may differ from one country to country. Usually visas are issued for a 1-year period and can be subsequently renewed for an extra year.
Some countries where there is no official au pair programme will allow young people to stay in a European country only if they are on a work and study programme (e.g. Ireland). This means that it will not be possible to apply for an au pair position, being a cultural exchange programme and not a form of employment. These young people could apply for a childminder position instead, which is considered a regular job, and will have to subscribe to a language course.
For more detailed information about the host country of your choice, please visit our Au Pair Programmes page.
See au pair programme UK.
See Internet access above.
See Hours above.
Au pairs do not have childcare qualifications and are not suitable for minding young babies. They may however be suitable in a family with a baby where one parent is at home and the au pair may be asked to give help under supervision from the parent. In the UK an au pair cannot have sole charge of children under the age of 2 years. In some other countries au pairs cannot have sole charge of children under the age of 12 months. See au pair programmes.