Au pairs can be on duty from 25 – 35 hours per week if they are from an EU country. These hours can be spread out over 5 days per week. Longer hours (35 hours) are usually referred to as ‘Au Pair Plus’.
The Au Pair programme is in essence a cultural exchange programme. In exchange for being given pocket money, a room and board, they can offer some of their time to assist with light housework and childcare duties within the host family home. Au Pairs tend to be young and inexperienced. They are not professional child carers, and should not be regarded as such. Most Au Pairs come to the UK as part of a “Gap Year” Experience and to improve their English.
While the profile of the Au Pair has changes in recent years in the UK (increasingly Au Pairs come from all parts of Eastern Europe, as well as from France, Spain and Italy), the role of the Au Pair hasn't fundamentally changed. Arguably, more families in the UK make use of the Au Pair programme than a decade ago or longer.
But what should be clear is the Au Pair is not a domestic worker, or domestic servant.
The French term, "au pair" means 'on a par' or 'equal to'. The Au Pair is, therefore, meant to be part of the family, not a domestic servant.
Most people know what an Au Pair is in principle. The typical profile is a young woman (and increasingly) young man, who live with a family in a foreign country for up to two years. They live as part of the family, helping in the home for a set number of days and hours a week. Crucially, they are in many senses part of the family rather than a worker or servant. They should receive a reasonable allowance, as well as a private room. Apart from the modest monetary reward, the Au Pair enjoys first hand experience of another culture, and a direct means to improve their English.
Consider the following questions and answers to be the core, minimum you need to know about the Au Pair programme. We can tell you a lot more and you will probably have many more questions if you are new to hosting au pairs.