Or do you think they are the same thing? The terms nanny and au pair are often used interchangeably however there are several differences between the two and it's worth taking a moment to differentiate.
What is an Au Pair?
An au pair is usually between the ages of 18 and 24 and will typically come from overseas in the form of a cultural exchange. They live with a family for a temporary period with the aim of learning a new language and immersing themselves in a foreign culture.
With an average age of 20, au pairs are unlikely to have had any formal training in childcare and usually have only minor experience – perhaps in babysitting or minding younger relatives. Indeed, they are unlikely to be pursuing a permanent career in childcare. As such, you should allow an au pair a little time to get up to speed with their duties.
Au pairs will settle into the host family as a temporary family member and will be paid pocket money to allow them to explore their host country. The time they are performing their duties will be shorter and more flexible to allow them to attend college. Those duties will be centred on looking after children and light domestic duties such as hoovering, tidying up and cooking meals. An Au Pair should not be expected to work more than 20-24 hours in a week and should never be left with sole care of under 2s. They can be expected to play with the children, babysit and possibly supervise homework – but Au Pairs are not trained in education, so it wouldn’t be typical for them to engage the children in learning or structured activities.
What is a Nanny?
Credentialed and experienced, a Nanny offers a much broader service in childcare. They will know how to communicate with schools, day care centres, doctors, etc. Most nannies are confident cooking healthy for the children, will not only supervise homework but support it with their own knowledge and teaching techniques and will frequently engage the children in creative, educational activities. They are more independent, need far less supervision and can live in or away from the premises when working their nanny jobs.
A professional nanny is committed to their chosen vocation, whilst they will enjoy their own lives outside of their working hours, they are not in the country for a cultural exchange or learning experience. Having plenty of experience, and in some cases even formal training, a Nanny is more likely to be able to cope with those little emergencies that crop up from time to time. You will enjoy more peace of mind leaving an older, wiser head in charge of your children.
Of course, higher professionalism comes at a price. Nannies wages start at £400 net per week for live-in, UK roles. This increases substantially for international roles, where the average British Nanny will enjoy a salary of at least £800npw, rising up to £1500npw. They will be subject to employment law, including taxes and statutory contributions in the country of employment. As an employer, you may be subject to paying pension contributions too, as well as supplying a payslip. Nannies will be entitled to holiday pay and will work a statutory number of working hours per week.
The differences between a nanny and an au pair are largely cultural. An au pair is typically a young language student from overseas. The employment is more casual, the au pair embedding into the host family on a temporary basis. It can be a working contract mutually beneficial to both parties, not least because of the ease of availability and low cost. With a nanny you get the reassurance of training, experience and professionalism; but expect to pay a little more.
Jennifer Heald is Managing Director of Diamond Private Staff, an elite staffing agency placing domestic staff all over the world.