For anyone looking to hire an au pair, it’s essential to understand that building a successful relationship is integral to a great outcome for you, your children and for your au pair. There are plenty of wonderful au pairs in Australia, and some preparation on your behalf will not only ensure you find the right one, but that you keep them. So what are our top tips for building a successful au pair relationship?
Understand the positions
The big mistake people often make when hiring an au pair is to treat the relationship too casually. An au pair tends to operate somewhere between a babysitter and a nanny. Au pairs may live in Australia or be international travellers, and they may or may not have formal childcare qualifications, or be studying for a career in childcare. Find out exactly who you are hiring. Understand too that you are an employer, and as such you should have formal guidelines in place that can help to ensure both you and the au pair are happy and complying with employment requirements.
Treat it professionally
It’s essential to maintain a professional attitude from day one, and that means having a clear understanding of the position (and a draft contract in place) before you start looking. Think clearly, and write down exactly what you want out of an au pair. If advertising, your job ad should list the number of children, their ages, and essential or preferred days and hours. You’ll include these details in the contract, along with specific duties, wages and other aspects. Remember too that parenting styles aren’t universal. If you have firm beliefs in regards to food or discipline for instance, discuss these at the interview and include guidelines in the contract.
Know who you want
If you are looking for an au pair with qualifications in childcare and/or first aid, or if they will require a drivers licence (including an international licence for non-resident applicants), make sure you let prospective au pairs know immediately.
Understand the legal aspects and the importance of checks
Traditionally au pairs in Australia are young international students or travellers and they live in the home while caring for the children. There are obviously plenty of variables depending on the specific position. Should you be looking to hire a travelling au pair, your agency should check that they have a current working visa and do background checks, but ask to make sure this is the case.
When you hire an au pair you become a legal employer and as such you may need to withhold tax. Speak to the Australian Taxation Office for full details. It’s also a good idea to do your research on wage guidelines for au pairs, bearing in mind age and experience. If you hire through an agency, they may help, and also advise on any required insurance.
Keep children in the loop
It’s critical to ensure that the au pair’s relationship with your children is a good one. If you find a prospective au pair you think fits the bill, ask them to spend a couple of hours with the family before hiring. You can then watch how your children and the au pair interact with each other to make sure it feels like a good fit.
Show your appreciation
Now that you are very clear on your role as employer, you need to remember one vital thing. Au pairs are employees yes, but they are also going to be part of the family. Au pairs may bring valuable attributes into the role, such as an enthusiasm for good nutrition or exercise, and international au pairs may introduce your children to a new culture. Remember to show your appreciation. Provide them with a room that’s clean, comfortable and inviting, and consider a bonus or small gift if they have done a fantastic job.
Keep communication channels open
And that brings us to our final point. While it’s critical that you are clear on all aspects of the job, it’s also important that communication works both ways. If your au pair has done something you weren’t expecting, don’t admonish them without asking why they did what they did. There might be a very good reason for their actions. If they are very experienced, they may even have great ideas that you haven’t thought of. Good communication – both ways – is the best way to ensure a great relationship with your au pair.
Having an au pair can be a great help to you, and a great learning experience for your family and the au pair alike. With a little thought and preparation, you will be well on the way to finding an au pair who becomes a valuable addition to your family.