Mother and Baby

Nannies And Au Pairs: What You Need To Ask Before Hiring

Section: Childcare

You’ve decided a nanny or au pair is your best option. But just what should you be looking for before you hire?

A nanny can be a great option if you would prefer for your child to be looked after in your own home, need childcare outside of normal working hours or have more than one pre-school child. If you’re thinking of hiring a nanny or au pair, here’s what you need to know.

Different types of nannies

Nannies will usually have childcare qualifications (though this is no legal requirement) and will enjoy working with children. Some families find that a live-in nanny works best for them, while others choose to hire on a day basis.

If you employ a live-in nanny, you will need to provide her with meals and her own bedroom in addition to a salary. Many families also provide a car or petrol expenses if they have their own vehicle. Day nannies come into the home each day and work a set number of hours (generally a maximum of 10 a day) and go home in the evening.

You may also be able to take part in nanny share, splitting the hours or services of a nanny with one other family – just be aware that if a nanny works for three or more families at one time they are required by law to register as a childminder.

Hiring an au pair

Au pairs tend to be young, single people who work alongside you in the home – and may complete chores as well as taking care of the children. Many au pairs come from overseas, and choose to live with a family while they are here studying English.

The rules state that au pairs can work in the home for a maximum of five hours a day and must have at least two full days off each week. Generally, you will need to provide an au pair with her own bedroom, meals and an allowance.

As au pairs are not usually trained to work with children, she may not be suitable for looking after pre-school children while you’re at work.

What to ask before you hire

  • When choosing a nanny or au pair, think about asking the following questions:
  • How much childcare experience do you have?
  • Do you have qualifications and/or a first aid certificate?

  • Can you provide two references?

  • What are your salary expectations?

  • What hours are you willing to work?
Are you willing to work occasional weekends and babysit on occasion?

  • Are you willing to do household chores?  

  • Why did you like most/least about your last job?
If offered the job, how long do you intend to work here?

  • How do you encourage good behaviour in children/how do you deal with bad behaviour?

Things to remember

As your nanny or au pair’s employer, it's your responsibility to sort out their salary, tax and National Insurance – so take this into account when working out salary costs.

Make sure to get at least two references and try to speak to them on the phone if possible – a chat may help reveal more about the candidate than a written reference.

Ask the candidate to show you certificates for any qualifications – if they’ve been lost, phone up the college or examination body to confirm the course was completed.

Once you’ve narrowed down a short list, try to arrange for a prospective nanny or au pair to spend some time with your child to see how they get on.

Consider organising a CRB check, too. Phone the CRB Information Line on 0870 90 90 811 for advice.

Write up a contract

Once your chosen candidate has accepted the job, you’ll need to draw up a contract. A written reference which outlines your expectations (along with what happens with regard to sickness and holiday pay) should help prevent problems occurring further down the line.

Be sure to include daily duties and hours of work: will you want your nanny to babysit one Saturday in the month? Do you require her to be flexible if you’re going away for a business trip? Also state whether you intend for there to be a probationary period and a procedure for terminating the contract – for example a month’s notice on either side.


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