handshake, hands, laptop

should we make a Contract?

why having a contract is important

Having a contract is definitely something that I would advocate for in an au pair and host family relationship. 


Because it makes it clear for everyone involved what the working hours will be, how much will be paid, and what the au pair’s role or duties will be regarding the children and the house.

I’ve heard the argument before from families and au pairs that the contract seems too formal and that they prefer to have a friendly, verbal agreement because that way the au pair seems more like a family member and less like a worker/employee.

While the fact that a contract makes things more formal might be true, it is a good thing for everyone.

adult, back view, beautiful

benefits for au pair

I have heard au pairs complain over and over that they are working more hours than they expected or agreed to or that host families are asking them to do things that they had never talked about before.

If this is the case and you have a contract that states your working hours and duties, you have no problem except maybe an awkward conversation with your host parents. If you have a contract that clearly states the terms of your working hours and duties, you can ask your host parents to talk and explain to them that you feel like the terms in the contract aren’t being met. Then, if you are all reasonable, hopefully you can come to some sort of agreement. Maybe their working hours have changed and they need you to work longer, but offer to pay more or give you extra time off. Or, maybe you don’t want anything other than what was agreed in the original contract and you decide to end the au pair stay with that family, but the point is that if you have everything written in a contract, there is no excuse they can give you about not knowing how many hours you should be working or duties you should be doing.

child, girl, young

benefits for host family

Just as having a contract is beneficial for au pairs, it is equally as important for host families. 

Sitting down with your au pair and writing down the terms of what is expected during her working time is very important. If you have a contract, there shouldn’t be any doubt about what is expected and what needs to be done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. 

Hopefully you have already talked about everything during the interview process, and this is just a formality, but just in case there is anything that wasn’t previously discussed, this is a good opportunity to leave it clear and to have a mutual understanding. 

This also gives the au pair the opportunity to ask any questions and clarify anything that he/she might not understand or might have doubts about. 

Having a contract can help in any moment of conflict or confusion about duties and requirements. If at any time you as the host family feel that the au pair is not fulfilling his or her duties, you can always refer back to the contract and ask if there was any confusion. It is a useful tool to be able fall back on if necessary. 


time, stopwatch, clock

When to sign the contract

Choosing when to sign the contract will depend a little bit on your situation. There are some countries that require a signed contract to enter the country and get a visa, other countries allow entrance with a letter of intention, and others don’t require anything.

When I went to Germany as an au pair 10 years ago, I went with a letter of intention and we signed the contract during my second week there.

What we usually do with our au pairs is sit down after 2-4 weeks and do a check in. We ask if they feel comfortable, if they want to stay, if there is anything about their routine or schedule that isn’t working, etc. Once everyone has had a few weeks to settle in and get used to each other, we sign the contract. We usually sit down together and fill everything out while we are all together. This way everyone is aware of what goes into the contract and no one can say, “oh, I didn’t read that part.”

So far, this method has worked well for us, and our au pairs have all been ok with it as well. If an au pair asked us to make the contract earlier, of course we would do it, but we have found that it’s useful to have a bit of a “getting to know each other” period before getting into the formalities of contract writing.

child, crossroad, kid

what to include in the contract

What you choose to include in your contract is personal, but there are a few things I would definitely recommend including. I should also note that the more specific you can be, the better, but again, it is up to each family and au pair to decide how specific the contract will be. Aupairworld.com has an inclusive list of requirements for each country and I suggest you have a look at it here to make sure that what you are asking of your au pair fits into the requirements of your country.

First, make sure the working hours and days are clear. If the schedule is varied, add a clause in the contract that specifically states that the working hours will vary, so that later on, there is no confusion or denial about this aspect. Specify the maximum amount of hours the au pair will work in a week and also which days he/she will have off. 

Next, make sure you include how much the weekly pocket money will be. There are guidelines for each country that can be found here.

Finally, include any duties or tasks, for example, if the au pair is expected to do any light housework or tidying. (Have a look here to find out what exactly can be considered light housework.)

You might also want include things like if the au pair’s duties and schedule changes in case the child(ren) are sick and can’t attend school. 

You could include when the au pair will have vacation time if it is something that must be done at a particular time during the au pair stay. And, you could include things like what the au pair would be responsible for if he/she joins the family on holiday.

family, vacation, togetherness

final thoughts

It is my personal opinion that the contract doesn’t prevent the au pair from leaving suddenly or the family deciding that they don’t want an au pair anymore, because there is usually a clause in the contract saying that although either party should give two weeks’ notice, if there are special circumstances, either party can end the contract immediately.

So what is so important about having a contract? 

Having a contract encourages communication right from the beginning. If everyone involved is on the same page and is in agreement, it sets the stage for a healthy, communicative relationship. 

An example of an au pair contract can be found here and downloaded for your specific country.

What do you think?

As always, I’d love to hear from you!

Tell me about your experiences with writing the au pair contract and what you include, things that you have forgotten to include in the past or things that you don’t think need to be included.

Share your comments down below, send me a message on Instagram or here.

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