What is the difference between a nanny, au pair, childminder and babysitter?

by | Featured, For Parents, Parent Community, Parent Guides

Looking for childcare and deciding on the childcare option that works best for you can feel confusing.

One of the first steps is deciding on whether you want to hire a nanny, childminder or use an au pair. Alternately you may be looking for more ad hoc childcare in which case a babysitter may be more appropriate. Here are some simple guidelines.

This article doesn’t include nurseries. We will include these in a dedicated article on the site if you want to read more about this childcare option and are currently considering it. 

What is a nanny?

  • A Nanny is paid to come into your house and help look after the children.  They’ll only look after your children and won’t be responsible for looking after others’ children at the same time.
  • Nannies will generally have set hours and will work to a routine that you’ve agreed together. You will have a contract that outlines what the hours are and you will agree the responsibilities ahead of time. Some nannies will also take on some domestic tasks around the house.
  • You effectively employ a nanny and so they have certain employment rights, including the ability to take paid maternity leave. This is something that many parents don’t know about so ensure you read up on your responsibilities as an employer. 
  • Nannies usually talk in ‘net salary terms,’ (i.e. how much their take home salary will be), whereas parents prefer to talk in gross salary terms (i.e. how much will be going out of their bank account each month/year).There’s a difference between net and gross salary because you’re not just paying the nanny a certain amount that they take home – you’re also paying their tax, national insurance and sometimes other costs too. Again these costs will be negotiated up front and it’s a good idea to be completely transparent about what you are prepared to cover and what you aren’t.
  • In London where the childcare costs tend to be higher than across the UK as a whole, the average gross salary for a full-time nanny is £34,717 a year – which works out at just under £2,900 per month or £668 per week. This gives the nanny a take-home salary of £2,175 per month, which is just over £500 per week.

If you want to find a nanny to look after your children contact our expert nanny team here at Bubble who will guide you through the process and will help you source the ideal nanny for you: fill in an enquiry form here and a member of our team will be in touch!

What is a childminder?

  • A childminder will look after your children or child in their own setting. They will also look after other peoples’ children alongside your own so your child won’t be their sole responsibility. This is a good option if you are keen for your child to socialise with other children that they’re not related to but feel like a nursery might be too daunting.
  • Childminders may pick children up from your home or from school, but you will usually agree set hours and may be responsible for paying additional fees for any overtime incurred.
  • They will be OFSTED registered and inspected, and will look after a children from various families, often of varying age groups. Their homes need to be checked by OFSTED and they will need to ensure they have certain safety criteria in place in order to be allowed to take care of children in their home.
  • Childminder fees vary considerably and can range from £150 – £250 per week for a full-time place, £30 – £60 per day for a part-time place. And around £3.50 – £5.50 per hour for after school care.
  • Some childminders will expect you to bring food with you each day and others will provide a lunch and snacks. They will usually ask for you to pack a bag with a change of clothes/any nappies your child needs and a soft toy. Each childminder varies in terms of what they will ask you to provide.
  • Often childminders are well known within a local area and you may see them at baby groups and local activities. Much of their business comes from word of mouth recommendations so ask friends if they know of any local childminders that they’d use or are currently using (friends that have older children will often know the best ones or the ones they have used in the past).
  • Childminders will often be more open to negotiating a part-time role because they will be looking after your child alongside other children so if you are only working 3-4 days a week this can be very useful.
  • One of the best ways of finding a childminder is through word of mouth and local community forums. You can also search for them on the childcare.co.uk website.

What is an au pair?

  • An au pair is someone who looks after your children, in return for board and lodging and a small amount of ‘pocket money’ (typically less than £100 per week). They can typical only do 30 hours of childcare a week. 
  • Au Pair’s are more often than not foreign nationals and young women and men taking a ‘gap year’ before or after higher education. They apply for au pair roles so they can improve their language skills and spend some time in another country learning about life in that country.
  • Another thing that differentiates them from other childcare options is that as well as only being able to do an agreed number of hours, they may also agree to do light housework and other chores.
  • They will may have limited experience of looking after children so you need to be completely sure that the fit is right in terms of what you need (i.e. if you have a very young child are they going to be experienced enough to manage them?)
  • Usually an au pair is a ‘live in’ position so you must have a spare room for them to live in, and you must share bathroom and kitchen facilities as required so you need to be certain that you have the right amount of space to allow for this in your home.
  • Some people like having an au pair living with them and quickly adapt to having an extra person in the house. Remember they will be there at weekends and may want to have a friend over. They will also have their own free time on the weekends and so may be coming in late at night depending on their routine. Others find having someone living with them all the time is too stressful and they hate the compromise they have to make in terms of privacy and space (it’s worth thinking about what the sticking points might be for you and your family i.e. do you mind waiting for the bathroom in the morning and sharing your kitchen at breakfast time or is this going to be too stressful).
  • In order to avoid any conflict be sure to agree what your boundaries and expectations are- do you allow them to have guests over to visit? Do you expect them to be home at a certain time? Are you happy with them drinking alcohol in the house when they’re not working? These are all things that need to be explained and considered in order for the relationship to go as a seamlessly as possible.
  • It’s worth remembering that you will need to include food costs when thinking about your au pair as you’ll be expected to supply all their meals.
  • According to UK Government guidelines, au pairs in England, Scotland, North Ireland and Wales should receive approximately £70-85 per week though this varies and doesn’t include food, board, bills etc.

Nannies, and childminders can look after children of all ages, including babies, although they are restricted by law as to how many children of a specific age group they may look after at the same time. Au pairs cannot look after babies under the age of three months so are not suitable for newborns. 

What is a babysitter?

  • A babysitter is someone who hire for ad hoc childcare though you may discover a favourite babysitter and use them more for regular help i.e. one afternoon a week to look after kids after school.
  • Babysitters usually look after your children in your own setting but you can agree in advance that they take them out if you’re working from home for example.
  • Their fees vary and start at around £8 per hour and can go up to around £15 per hour or more depending on location and other criteria.

Key drivers when you’re considering different childcare options

There are lots of reasons why you might pick one option over another.

These include how much money you have to spend on childcare each month, what feels most convenient for you in terms of where you work and your commute each day, where your other children are taken care of (i.e. if you already have them settled in a particular environment then you may choose the same one), and how close the childcare is to your own home and family. It is worth writing a list of what is important to you ahead of time so you are clear on what the priorities are before you start researching different options. 

Go with your gut feelings

One important thing to remember is that childcare is also about whether the individual shares the same values as you, and you have a good natural affinity with them when you meet. If you don’t feel this sense of affinity or ‘fit’ then this doesn’t bode well in terms of developing one of the most important relationships you will have as a parent.

You want someone you can rely on, you trust and you ideally like them too. It is like hiring someone in the workplace: if you can’t visualise working with that person and being able to collaborate with them then they are probably not right for you.

Be open and honest about what you need

Another important thing to remember is that your relationship needs to be open and honest. This is something that many parents struggle with as they may worry about raising certain issues. Ideally this relationship needs to be completely candid and you don’t want to be holding back. This will only breed resentment. Set clear expectations and be clear on what you are looking for and allow them to talk about their expectations and needs too. This will potentially avoid any dramas or disagreements later on. If you listen to parents talking about their childcare experiences they will often cite misunderstandings that have arisen because of a clear lack of communication. If you haven’t told your nanny, childminder or au pair what you expect then you can’t complain when they get it wrong. Don’t worry about being too demanding because childcare is hugely important. In order for it to go well, everyone needs to be on the same page.

Be honest about your schedule and routines. So if you like to eat dinner at a certain time or want to enforce rules around screen time then make sure all these things are discussed up front. If your child is younger then make sure you talk about naps/food allergies/toilet training and any other developmental things that will need to be navigated too.

Talk about what their typical day looks like when they’re looking after children. Do they take them to activities? Do they like to do more things at home? What about trips to the park? As much as possible you want their routine to mirror your own. If your children are used to going out a lot and being in open spaces then it’s good to see if you can achieve that synergy with your childcare environment too.

Get references and speak to other parents

This is a biggie. It’s great to talk to the person you’re considering using but also get the point of view of someone who has used them before. References are vital, and it’s useful to ask the nanny/au pair/childminder whether they can give the details of a parent who has used their services in the past.

If you want to get a clear picture of how things will pan out then it’s worth speaking to someone who knows (though be mindful that sometimes things can go wrong and be as objective as you can when listening to someone elses’ experience).

Remember the decision you make on childcare needs to be one you feel comfortable with. We come back to that ‘gut feeling’ and what is right for you, your work schedule, budget and the age of your children. It’s good to talk to friends for advice but remember that what works for them may not feel right for your family so don’t feel pressurised into doing what your peer group is doing if it isn’t what you want. Having said that if you hear through the grapevine that a great person is available (nanny/childminder/au pair) then it’s definitely worth meeting them. Many parents will say that they made their decision based on a personal recommendation. Serendipity also plays a part i.e. suddenly someone comes onto your radar via a friend or colleague and they fit the bill in terms of all your childcare priorities.

If you’re interested in booking a babysitter or want to source a fully qualified nanny why not learn more about how Bubble can help by clicking on the link below?

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