An au pair is a young person from abroad employed by a host family to care for their children. As a member of the family, au pairs provide live-in childcare and a unique cultural and learning experience.
The title comes from the French term au pair, meaning “on a par” or “equal to”, indicating the importance of the family dynamic to the experience. The au pair is considered an equal member of the household. In fact, au pairs often maintain an extraordinarily close relationship with their former host family for many years after the placement has ended.
An au pair provides in-home, dedicated childcare. Au pair education and care is focussed on providing a stable and secure environment for children in their own home, ensuring each child gets the full attention and support they need in their early years of life. An au pair’s responsibilities can include:
- Childcare and education. Encouraging, guiding and supporting children in your own home
- Ensuring routines such as nappy changing, changing of clothes, bottle feeding, bedtimes are carried out
- Waking the children in the morning and helping them to get dressed
- Preparing meals for your children
- Helping your child/children take care of their belongings and tidy areas of play
- Taking your child to playgroups, child outings, school and other activities such as sport
- Washing and organising your child’s clothes throughout the working week.
Au Pair vs Nanny
The key differences between an au pair and nanny are:
- An au pair typically travels from overseas for the express purpose of joining their host family, although there are often candidates in New Zealand, travelling on a working holiday visa.
- An au pair is often at the younger end of the age spectrum (between 18-30 years old).
- An au pair is nearly always live-in, so they’re able to provide after-hours care as well- for example, babysitting – ideal for busy parents!
- The au pair weekly wage is typically only $190 to $230 net per week (plus room and board), whereas nannies are likely to charge more due to there being no board and lodgings component to their wage.
Finding the perfect au pair
When reviewing au pair candidates, it’s important to think carefully about what you require. Do you need someone who can drive? Do you want an au pair with experience caring for babies or with special education needs children? Make sure that you clearly articulate your requirements to your au pair agency to help them recruit someone who will meet your needs and experience requirements.
What countries do au pairs come from?
Au pairs can come from all over the world! Generally, however, we’ll see candidates come from places as diverse as Germany, Sweden, France, USA, Canada, and some parts of Asia. Au pairs usually enter New Zealand on a working holiday visa. Some countries don’t have a working holiday scheme with New Zealand, and sometimes there are limits around the number of visas issued for certain countries (for example, the Phillipines). Countries with the best New Zealand working holiday schemes include Germany, Sweden, France, USA, the United Kingdom and Canada – these countries are typically where most au pairs in New Zealand come from.
It’s important to remember that what makes a great au pair is a positive attitude, willingness to learn and love of children. The country of origin merely adds a special “flavour” to the experience!
Host family requirements
As part of the package offered to au pairs by their host family, an au pair must have a dedicated and separate bedroom as well as suitable access to a bathroom. Access to a computer, TV, books etc is preferable, as the aim is for them to enjoy their experience as part of the family! An au pair must have at least three meals per day (free of charge), as well as uninhibited access to all food and typical household amenities. There must be sufficient space in your home to accommodate an au pair as a live-in employee.
Becoming an employer, it’s easy!
An Au Pair who you select to join your family will be employed by you personally for the duration of the Placement Term (length of stay). As an employee, an Au Pair is entitled to all the benefits and rights that a normal employee enjoys under New Zealand law. For example, an Au Pair is entitled to annual holidays and public holidays as set out in the Holidays Act.
Au pair requirements
Au pair requirements typically include:
- The Au Pair must be between 18 – 30 years old (usually a condition of their working holiday visa/entry into New Zealand)
- Have a clean police record
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Have a working holiday visa
- A reputable au pair agency should require a minimum level of childcare experience (especially for au pairs caring for children under 5 years of age).
How do I find an Au Pair?
The International Au Pair Association (IAPA) and recommends that families always use a reputable and local agency when looking for an au pair. The agency can arrange a written contract between the family and au pair, can validate references and offer a rematch policy if the initial placement doesn’t work out. The use of internet matching services is not recommended. Au Pairs and Host Families are warned to stay away from internet sites that offer a “quick” placement without doing the hard work (for example, appropriate reference checks, interviews and police/medical record checks).
Why use an au pair agency?
An au pair agency will not only recruit and screen/check candidates, they should also provide ongoing support through the placement term (length of stay). Be wary of agencies that do not have a local presence and that cannot provide you and your au pair with ongoing support throughout the placement term. A reputable Au Pair agency should provide:
- Full screening process (including personal Au Pair and family interviews, reference checks, childcare experience, police and medical record checks)
- Organisation of flights, visas and insurance for your Au Pair
- An orientation course for the Au Pair when they arrive in New Zealand
- Professional contracts and employment agreements
- A guarantee or “re-match” policy – if the Au Pair should not be suitable
- Ongoing and local support – including activities, events, playgroups and mediation services
Au Pair wages and tax
Au pair wages are typically between $190 to $230 net per week for up to 40 hours of work (excluding tax, room and board). Some agencies also provide a Demi Au Pair option – where the au pair works only 10 to 20 hours per week and earns $60 to $120 net per week.
Au pairs typically enter New Zealand on a working holiday visa or student visa. Anyone working in New Zealand on a working holiday visa or student visa enjoys the same benefits and rights under New Zealand Employment Law as any other employee in New Zealand, including annual and sick leave, as well as public holidays.
Because the au pair becomes your employee, you’ll need to register as an employer with the IRD (don’t worry, it’s easy!) and comply with all relevant New Zealand tax and employment legislation including (but not limited to):
- The Employment Relations Act
- The Holidays Act
- The Minimum Wage Act
- The Health and Safety in Employment Act
A reputable au pair agency should be able to provide you with tax advice, your employment obligations and even a payroll service. Remember, the whole au pair employment package is taxable (that includes the cash payment to the au pair as well as room and board). Income tax is not just paid on the cash component – it must also be paid on room and board as well.
You might also like to read our article on tips for having a great relationship with your au pair.