What are the Basic Laws About ‘Hiring’ an Au Pair

If you are considering hiring an au pair, it’s important to understand some of the basic regulations and legal requirements that you need to meet. First, it’s important to remember that you’re not technically ‘hiring’ an au pair as a worker, but rather allowing an 18-27 person from outside the UK to live with you and your family; au pairs provide extra help around the house, and are involved in light child care. There are several legal issues that need to be taken into consideration before looking for an au pair.

English: Au Pair (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Primarily, an au pair is defined under British law as being on a cultural exchange programme, rather than being an employed worker; in this context, au pairs are not covered by employment law, and do not have to be paid the National Minimum Wage. However, you do have to provide au pairs with their own room, food, and adequate time to themselves, as well as pocket money of around £70 to £100 a week – this can be more in London. Au pairs will have to pay Income Tax and National Insurance if these earnings are over £8,105 a year – you will have to organise this through PAYE.

Au pairs are classified as Tier 5 migrants by the UK Border Agency, and have a visa that’s linked to the length of stay with you and your family – this is usually between 12 and 24 months. 2 years is the general limit for an au pair contract – au pairs are often classified as being on a Youth Mobility Visa, which affords them cultural exchange status. The UK Border Agency will need a signed letter of invitation from you before an au pair will be allowed into the country – this letter should set out their working hours, which should not typically exceed 30 hours a week of light work.

How much an au pair works is flexible, though, as they will not work shifts, but rather be around the house to help with cooking, cleaning, and child care. They are not nannies, and should not be expected to look after children under two for any extended period of time. Au pairs should also have time off to attend English classes, and should have their own free time on weekends.

In terms of legal documents, au pairs should have a valid passport, photographs, and bank statements that show they have some evidence of maintenance funds. After a two year Tier 5 visa, an au pair may be able to apply for an extension of leave. Au pairs are not allowed to seek additional employment while living with you, and aren’t allowed to set up their own business, or bring partners or dependents into the country.

Most au pairs in the UK come from within the European Economic Area; there are some exceptions for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals. Although still covered by the same basic rules, they should be between 17 to 27 years of age, with no dependents, and can work no more than 25 hours a week; they will need to complete a BR3 form with the Home Office, which can take 6-9 months to process.

To ensure that you’re getting the right au pair, always use agencies that are regulated with the British Au Pair Agencies Association – they can advise you on what au pair is suitable for your needs, and will also be able to help you with the paperwork for processing a visa. Do not use private messages or forums to find an au pair, as this will likely lead to a poor match and immigration problems. Au pair agencies can also provide advice on Bank and National Holiday time off, as well as tax, National Insurance, and legal information.

About the Author: Sophie Wiggins is an avid writer and, with three kids, believes live in Au Pairs and Nannies are an underrated resource for family life. She recommends looking for a quality au pair agency before arranging for an au pair.

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