How to hire a nanny or an au pair
Need help with your kids at home? Find out the differences between a nanny and an au pair, what their qualifications are, how much they cost, and how to hire them…
For busy mamas, having a helping hand at home can be a lifesaver. Maybe you feel that your child is too young to go to day care and you’d like someone to look after them in your home when you return to work part-time. Or perhaps you work long or irregular hours and you need help shuttling the kids to and from school.
Whatever your childcare needs, a nanny or an au pair can help. Here’s everything you need to know…
What’s the difference between a nanny and an au pair?
A nanny is a professional childcare provider who works in your home. You can choose between a live-in nanny and a live-out nanny. An au pair is a person between the ages of 18 and 26 who comes from another country to live with your family for a cultural exchange experience and to care for your children.
Hiring a nanny
You might prefer a nanny if you want an experienced professional who has made a career out of child care. Here are some considerations when hiring a nanny:
- Cost: A nanny costs between $300 and $800 a week depending on your location, their experience, whether they live with you, how many children you have, and whether they have additional responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning. According to Au Pair in America, the average weekly cost of a live-in nanny is $750.
- Experience: While there isn’t any formal training required to become a nanny, you can seek out a Certified Professional Nanny who’s undergone a rigorous training program. You can also look for a nanny who has additional certifications in CPR and first aid, water safety, infant care, and more.
- Availability: Your nanny will probably have set working hours that may not be flexible depending on their other work and family commitments.
- Extra tasks: In addition to looking after your children, some nannies can cook, clean, and drive your kids to and from school and extracurricular activities. Make sure to clearly outline all your expectations during the interview and be prepared to pay them more for additional tasks.
- The hiring process: You can find a nanny through an agency (for a fee), by searching childcare websites or by asking people you know for recommendations. Unless you use an agency, you’ll have to perform your own background and reference checks, prepare a nanny contract, hire your nanny as an employee, pay employer taxes (a.k.a. “nanny taxes”), and ensure that they’re covered by your insurance.
- Interviews and trial periods:Y ou’ll be able to meet several candidates in person and ask your top choice to come for a trial day to ensure that they’re a good fit for your family.
Hiring an au pair
An au pair is more like a temporary family member than an employee. They’re not only there to help you with child care, but also for the cultural experience and to further their education. Your family can benefit from learning about your au pair’s culture too.
Here are some considerations when hiring an au pair:
- Cost: In addition to providing your au pair with a private room in your house and three meals a day, you’ll have to pay a weekly stipend of at least $195.75 based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The good news is that you don’t have to pay them more based on your location or number of children. You’re required to give your au pair one full weekend off per month and two weeks of paid vacation per 12-month exchange term. You’ll also be required to pay up to $500 toward the cost of the au pair’s required course work – at least six semester hours of academic credit at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution. According to Au Pair in America, the average weekly cost of an au pair is $356.
- Experience: The Au Pair Program is run by the U.S. Department of State and it requires participants to have graduated from high school (or equivalent) and to have completed at least 32 hours of childcare training. But your au pair won’t necessarily have much hands-on experience with children, so you may have to be patient and explain a lot to them. It’s also important to note that au pairs can only work with children under two or children with special needs if they meet minimum experience requirements.
- Availability: An au pair can provideup to 10 hours a day or 45 hours a week of child care. You’re free to schedule their hours to suit your commitments and to change them each week if needed.
- Extra tasks: An au pair is expected to do light housework and to pull their weight in the household, but their tasks don’t include any heavy cleaning. You may want to hire a cleaning person as well.
- The hiring process: Contact one of the 16 au pair agencies approved by the Department of State. They’ll charge you a fee to match you with your au pair, but they’ll take care of all the legalities, obtain your au pair’s visa, perform background checks and interviews, provide the agreement to be signed by both parties, and so on. If you choose a non-approved agency or you try to do it on your own, your agreement might not be legal.
- Interviews and trial periods: Because your au pair will come from another country, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to meet them before they start working for you or have a trial day. You’ll have to conduct all your interviews over the phone, email, Skype or FaceTime.
- Your responsibilities as a host family: You’re expected to welcome your au pair into your home for 12 months with an option to extend by six, nine or 12 months. It is possible to terminate the contract early if it doesn’t work out – the conditions of termination will be outlined in your agreement.
In addition to the basic requirements outlined above, you’re expected to warmly include your au pair in your daily activities and family outings when possible. Although you may find it difficult to connect with your au pair at first due to their lack of experience or language and cultural barriers, you’ll soon start to learn from each other and walk away from the experience feeling enriched.