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An au pair differs from a nanny in that they are usually young people from another country without formal childcare qualifications who provide live-in care for children in return for board and spending money and are considered like a member of the family. In addition to childcare, they may do light housework.
The main purpose is a cultural exchange for the au pair, allowing them to improve their English.
Host families may be asked to cover travel and insurance costs as well as a language course.
Among the pros of hiring an au pair is flexibility. Because they live in they can generally adapt to your schedule, for example, helping out in the morning or evening if you are running late. They can develop a one to one relationship with your child, like an older sibling.
They are usually cheaper than alternative childcare, particularly if you have a larger family. The average pocket money they get is around £85 per week. Au pairs may have to pay Income Tax and National Insurance, depending on how much pocket money they get. They are usually not considered employees for tax purposes, however.
Also au pairs may speak a different language and teach your children their language and new cultural experiences.
Potential drawbacks include the fact that they are not qualified and may be young and inexperienced. You may find having someone in your home infringes your privacy and may feel concerned about having a complete stranger not only living with them but also taking responsibility for their children.
You can find an au pair through a reputable agency who will help with the matching process. The British Au Pair Agencies Association website was created to help families find reputable and registered au pair agencies throughout the UK.