Although many people use the terms interchangeably, au pairs and nannies are not the same. The following are 5 important distinctions to make between an au pair and nanny.
An au pair is, by definition, a young person from overseas who joins an American family to care for their children. They travel on a legal, one-year cultural exchange visa through one of several designated au pair agencies . Au pairs are live-in caregivers who initially commit to a one-year stay but have the opportunity to extend their time in the U.S. for 6, 9 or 12 months. Nannies can be anyone employed to care for a child in their own home.
2. Working conditions/schedule
An au pair’s working conditions are regulated by the U.S. Department of State, so there are rules that must be followed. Notably, an au pair’s on-duty hours must be limited to 45 hours a week and 10 hours per day. Au pairs can provide flexible coverage and can be scheduled for early morning, evening or weekend hours. An au pair’s schedule can also change from week to week with enough advance notice. Nannies can work part-time, full-time or even overtime, and they typically prefer to follow a consistent schedule week-to-week.
The cost of hosting an au pair can be broken down into two main parts: 1. fees paid to an agency for the program administration and year-round support; and 2. a minimum weekly stipend of $195.75, paid directly to the au pair. Families should also consider the additional cost of utilities and food, as well as the costs of including an au pair in family outings and experiences. Nanny salaries vary widely and will depend on many factors including whether they are part- or full-time, the number of children in their care, and in what part of the U.S. they are working.
4. Childcare experience
Au pairs are not professionally trained but many of them have hundreds, even thousands, of hours of experience as babysitters, tutors, kindergarten assistants, camp counselors and sports instructors. All au pairs attend a training program before joining their American host families. Some nannies are professionally trained and are in the field as a long-term career. Others become nannies as a temporary way to earn money while they decide on college or other career paths.
5. Role in the family
An au pair is not considered to be a host family’s employee, but rather an extended member of their family. By contrast, the nature of the relationship between a nanny and a family is more often considered to be that of an employee/employer.