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Working conditions

The following statements are written on the Application Form for an Au Pair Residence Permit (Form AU1).  This is a contract that is signed by both the au pair and the host family.

  • It should be noted that an au pair is not an inexpensive maid. The participation of the au pair in the family household is not the type of work which requires a work permit. As a result, an au pair is solely granted a residence permit. This means that the au pair may not carry out chores for more than 30 hours a week in the home of the host family, even if the family offers the au pair a higher allowance. Likewise, the au pair may not carry out paid or unpaid work outside of the host family’s home, e.g. in the home of neighbours or friends, or in a business belonging to the host family. Such work is against the law – not just for the au pair, but also for the party that has ordered the work. Illegal work is punishable by fine or imprisonment. Au pairs engaging in illegal work risk having their residence permits revoked as well as being expelled from Denmark and forbidden entry for at least one year.
  • During his or her stay, the au pair must be regarded as a part of the family and may carry out chores such as a limited amount of domestic chores and caring for children.
  • The host family must provide the au pair with food as well as lodging in the form of a separate room in the family’s home.
  • Besides free food and lodging, the host family will pay the au pair an allowance of — DKK per month.
  • The au pair must carry out chores between 3 and 5 hours a day, i.e. between 18 and 30 hours a week, and the au pair must be granted at least one day off every week. Examples of domestic chores are: doing the laundry, tidying up and cleaning. The au pair must not perform tasks associated with personal care or nursing care of adult members of the host family.
  • The domestic chores and child care should be scheduled in a way that allows the au pair sufficient time to follow language courses and pursuing cultural and professional interests, including participating in religious activities. The parties commit themselves to keeping this based on the schedule.

The au pair’s chores, childcare duties and day(s) off are marked on the weekly schedule shown above.  The number of hours of work is marked under each day of the week to clarify to both parties what it means to work a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 hours per day; and 18 to 30 hours per week on chores and child care.  At the bottom of the page is a description of the chores to be carried out by the au pair.  The five-hour limit may not be exceeded.

The au pair must be given one day off per week. Giving the au pair more than one day off does not mean that the au pair may work additional hours on other days.  Read detailed discussion of work hours here.

Note that the work hours and specific tasks are determined in advance.  Prospective au pairs should strive to obtain a detailed description of their duties.  At the same time, host families cannot expect au pairs to perform tasks not stated in the contract.

Based on Babaylan DK’s experience with Filipina au pairs, we find that it is best to be very detailed about expectations regarding childcare.   Host families must describe in detail what it involves, and prospective au pairs must ask about how a ‘normal day with the children’ looks.

For example, an au pair can:

  • Prepare a lunch box / snack box for the children in the early morning
  • Take the children to school or day care, and pick them up afterwards (They walk or take public transport.  Note that a Philippine driver’s license cannot be automatically used in Denmark.)
  • Entertain the children during the day/during the school holiday
  • Clean up after playtime with the children
  • Clean the children’s bedrooms
  • Wash and iron children’s clothes
  • Bathe the children
  • Put the children to bed
  • Babysit if the parents are going out at night for a few hours
  • Help look after a baby (the ages of the children appear in the contract)
  • Prepare some meals for the family (The au pair should not be expected to cook all home meals every day.)
  • Do some light shopping
  • Do some light dusting, polishing, and vacuuming

It must be very clear at the outset what is expected of an au pair in terms of cleaning up common areas of the house that is used by all family members.  For example, the living room, kitchen and common toilets.  It is expected that adult family members clean up after themselves, and clean their own bedrooms and toilets; and everyone helps in washing up after meals.  Household chores should be shared by all, and not given to the au pair to accomplish alone.

There are many grey areas that the family should discuss, but the rule of thumb is that household tasks should be done by the adults together as a bonding family activity, or they take turns doing them during the week.  For example, an au pair can help with gardening, bringing in firewood, or walking the dog if the other adults in the family do these tasks regularly too.  We find that conflicts arise when the au pair is made to do certain household tasks all the time, because the other adults find these tasks dirty, demeaning, tiresome, or unpleasant.

An au pair should not be expected to do work which would otherwise have been done by a hired worker, for example, farm work, animal handling (e.g., horses, cows), work in any family business, or cleaning the office of the host.  The system should not be abused as a way to hire cheap, unskilled labor.

On the other extreme, an au pair should not be expected to be a full-time nurse or health worker, even if she received equivalent professional training in the Philippines.  The host family should inform prospective au pairs if their child needs special care because of a physical or mental disability, developmental delay, or psychological disorder.  Some au pairs who are trained in the health sciences might look at the arrangement as a learning experience, and appreciate the opportunity to gain experience in their profession.  Others might see this as an unwanted burden.  Either way, an au pair is not a professional caregiver, and the au pair system should not be abused by host families as a way of getting professional help while paying very little in compensation.  It is specifically stated in the contract that:  The au pair must not perform tasks associated with personal care or nursing care of adult members of the host family.