Article has been updated in February 2012There are numerous factors influencing the amount an au pair should be paid. This article summarises the variables, also describing historical changes and conditions that have led to current recommended levels.
An au pair who works longer hours should be paid at a higher rate. If a family only requires 20 hours per week then an au pair should still be paid at the minimum level for 25 hours
A family having specific needs requiring a more experienced au pair, or a job that is more demanding than normal, should consider paying more than the recommended minimum rate. Examples here may be: -
It is common for drivers to be paid a slightly higher rate. The majority of au pair candidates are from countries where only 25% of young people may hold a driving licence. Consequently drivers are in high demand.
Slight regional differences will occur and generally agencies in the South East may recommend a higher figure than agencies serving the north of England and Scotland. This may not be be 100% consistent though - some au pair agencies outside London recognise that many au pairs want to be placed close to the capital, so may encourage familes to pay a more attractive rate in order to attract sufficient candidates.
Attendance at language school is a fundamental part of an au pair placement, and it is also natural for au pairs to want to spend some free time socialising with friends they make, so consideration should be made to ensure they can afford to do this.
If a family live a long way from the nearest town or city, extra money should be paid to cover the au pair's additional travel costs. Providing use of a car and fuel allowance is one way, allowing them to attend college and have say one evening out per week. If the au pair is not able to drive then a travel pass is another solution - this depends if bus times are convenient.
Families who do not live on a bus route have no real alternative but to provide the use of a car or to taxi the au pair to and from English classes etc. If an au pair is unable to visit places where she can meet friends etc then this is one of the biggest reasons why a placement may come to a premature end. Families in remote locations need to build a strategy for this in order to retain their au pairs.
There is no shortage of web sites advising a range of salaries for your au pair (conducting a search in June 2009 showed from £50 to £80 per week for 25 hours). Some web pages will have been written and published some years ago without recent updates, so if it is a low figure then it may wellbe out of date. Some agencies also recommend just one figure as a minimum amount, while others suggest a range between two figures.
Au Pairs and nannies are not eligible for the national minimum wage if they are living in the family home and being treated as part of the family i.e. sharing meals, chores and leisure activities, and not being charged for their accommodation or meals. Further information on the NMW..
In the last 10 years since it was introduced, the national minimum wage has increased by 59%. When it was introduced it was set at £3.60 per hour. It now stands at £5.93 per hour. Even if they are not aware of this when they arrive in the UK, most au pairs become aware of pay rates in other jobs.
With the expansion of the European Union in 2004 to include 10 new member states, many young people who previously would only have been able to come and work as au pairs, were now able to work in the UK without restrictions and receive the national minimum wage. This has reduced the number of potential candidates available to host families.
In November 2008, the UK government further reduced the potential pool of au pair candidates by closing the existing au pair visa scheme, along with a number of other work/travel and study schemes for young people, replacing them all with the all encompassing Youth Mobility Scheme. This is part of the new points based immigration system. The result is that this scheme is only open to young people from Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, and in 2009 the schemme was already closed to Japanese nationals as their quota has already been filled.
It means that au pairs from Turkey are now excluded, as well as other countries previously eligible such as Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Switzerland
Another condition affecting the number of au pairs who are looking to come to the UK is the sharp fall in the value of sterling. Au pairs from countries in the Eurozone, or from countries whose currencies track the Euro, have seen the pound fall by almost 30%. In relative terms, people from these countries are choosing to stay and work at home.
Taking all the above into account, 1st Choice Au Pairs recommend paying your au pair a minimum of £70 per week for up to 25 hours per week
For au pair plus positions, then our recommendation is pocket money should be paid pro-rata but with a rounding up (e.g. 25 hours at £70 = £2.80 per hour, 30 hours = 30 x £2.80 = £84 so round up to £85)
If a family lives in a location where the au pair will have to travel by public transport or car or public transport to attend language classes and to enjoy some social time, then the family should also offer to pay an additional amount to cover a couple of journeys per week (i.e. or provide a fuel allowance or bus pass to cover).
For families living in London and the South East, where the cost of living is higher, then the normal rate of pocket money is usually higher than £70 per week.
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Our short guide to au pair pocket money should help you work out what to pay your au pair..