Au pair anyone?
Having live-in childcare seems like a brilliant solution for families requiring flexible childcare, and some extra help around the house. But what exactly is involved and what does it cost? We asked Au Pair Link to explain the basics.
What is an au pair?
Most au pairs in New Zealand are aged between 18 and 23, from either Western Europe or North America. Generally they will come here on a Working Holiday Visa and are employed by a family (often referred to as a "host family" in the industry), to care for their children and help with child-related housework in return for a weekly allowance, room and board. The majority of au pairs are female, but around 5-10% of au pairs in New Zealand are guys – bro-pairs!
Not only can your au pair provide a world-class learning experience for your kids, they are also there to help get things ticked off the list each week. Other au pair responsibilities can include:
- Helping your child/children take care of their belongings and tidy their room
- Taking your child to playgroups, school and other activities such as sport
- Washing and organising your child's clothes throughout the working week
- Helping preparing children's meals and some mid-week dinners for the family
- Keeping areas in the house which the kids use clean and tidy
What are the benefits?
- Help - an au pair gives busy families an "extra pair of hands" around the home. Not only does an au pair provide dedicated (one-on-one) childcare but they also help with other household duties.
- Affordability – approximately $200-$400 per week for up to 45 hours of childcare, less if you are claiming the ECE rebate for pre-schoolers over 3 years. You don't pay per child or per hour. Also, by registering with a professional agency you have access to the 20 Hours ECE as well as subsidies like multiple births
- Convenience and flexibility - an au pair provides childcare in the best location of all - home. No more dropping off to day care centres or sick days from work because your child has a bug. As a live-in caregiver, your au pair is there to help when you need them most.
- Cultural experience - having someone from a different culture caring for your children is fun and educational. Au pairs often become like another member of the family and it is not uncommon for au pairs and host families to stay in touch for years afterward.
How much does it cost?
A typical au pair wage is between $200 -$250 net per week for up to 45 hours of work, this being in line with New Zealand’s minimum wage once tax and their room and board have been deducted. Because an au pair is an employee of their host family, they enjoy the same rights and benefits under New Zealand employment law as any other employee in New Zealand. By employing an au pair, a host family is required to comply with all relevant New Zealand tax and employment law, including (but not limited to):
- The Employment Relations Act
- The Holidays Act
- The Minimum Wage Act
- The Health and Safety in Employment Act
A reputable au pair agency will provide you with qualified advice and support in respect of your obligations as an employer - and even a payroll service. It is important to remember that the au pair employment package is taxable - income tax is not paid solely on the wage component - it must be paid on room and board as well.
Why should I use a professional au pair agency?
Simply put, by choosing a professional au pair agency, you are safeguarding your children against any potential risks. In August 2012, the International Au Pair Association (IAPA) issued a formal statement warning parents against matching with an au pair privately through the newspapers or other web-based services.
A reputable au pair agency should provide:
- A comprehensive au pair and host family screening process - make sure you ask the au pair agency how their au pairs are screened and vetted overseas
- Organisation and support for au pairs when booking flights, visas and insurance
- Professional contracts and employment agreements
- A guarantee or re-match policy - if your initial au pair placement does not work out
- Ongoing and local support - activities, coffee groups, playgroups and mediation services. Make sure you ask the au pair agency if they have support staff in your region, so local help is available when you need it
- An orientation course for au pairs once they arrive in New Zealand.
- First aid training for your au pair by an accredited first aid provider in New Zealand
Home based Early Childhood Education
Some au pair agencies also offer home based Early Childhood Education (ECE) and support services. This means you can access qualified ECE teacher support, local playgroups, activities and events, childcare training and free educational resources. If you have children under five years of age, ask your au pair agency if they are licensed by the Ministry of Education as a home-based ECE provider. You can also get access to subsidies like 20 Hours ECE.
Published, with special thanks to Au Pair Link, current figures as at 20 Nov 2019.