04/07/2012 07:36 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Summer Childcare: Au Pairs

Summer Childcare: Au pairs Getty

Your children may love those long, lazy six weeks off school, but for many working parents those weeks take a financial and emotional toll (wanting to be enjoying those days with them when you just can't).

Arranging childcare you're confident will keep your loved ones happy and safe, whether it's asking your mum to step in or booking weeks of kid's club, can sometimes seem a mammoth organisational feat.

In this, the first in our series of childcare guides for the summer, we look at
au pairs - the benefits, the disadvantages, what you should think about and the costs.

Our series on childcare options continues throughout this week.

What is an au pair?

The term Au pair is French for 'on a par' or 'equal to', and means someone who lives with you, the host family, to give a helping hand with childcare and household duties. Au pairs are not trained childcarers and should not be left in sole charge of babies.

In exchange for help, the au pair (who usually comes from abroad) gets free accommodation and pocket money (upwards of £55) and the opportunity to live in a new country and explore the UK at weekends. They should also be included in family activities like meals and social outings.

Best for

Au pairs are suitable for children aged two and up, but during the summer it's particularly useful for children of school age. As au pairs live within the family home, they can be more flexible which is great for working mothers. However, the standard hours are 25 a week, with two days off.

Worth knowing:

Au pairs are encouraged to sign a contract with the family, and it's worth remembering that an au pair should be treated as one of the family rather than a servant. It's also worth checking out the UK Borders Agency, as they have useful information regarding the correct legislation.


  • Flexible childcare.

  • Help around the home.

  • Great budget option if you have an available room at home.


  • Sharing your home may be stressful.

  • In the majority of cases, au pairs are aged 18 to 23, so they may not be wholly dependable.


You'll pay all their living expenses, and at least £55 a week 'pocket money'. This is the very minimum though and most families pay more.

Useful links


UK Borders Agency

Tomorrow: kids clubs
Have you ever had an au pair live with your family? Did it work for you? Any tips for parents considering this option?