DBS Checks for Au Pairs

There is no official count of the number of au pairs in the UK. Estimates put the figure at around 100,000, with 75% of them working in London and the South-East. Employing an au pair is a sensible move for many working families. Au pairs look after children before school, and between school finishing and parents returning home. They might also do some light housework, or make meals. The children benefit from having a foreign language speaker in the house, and exposure to a different culture. In return, the au pair gets accommodation and food, and time free during the day to study, or pursue their own interests. It’s an idea which works perfectly for many. However, one of the main difficulties is getting a good au pair, and knowing the rules around employment law, tax and DBS checks.

Employing an Au Pair – the law

Au pairs are classed as members of the family rather than as employees. That means much of the standard employment law doesn’t apply. Au pairs don’t have to be paid minimum wage, for example. Most au pairs are paid pocket money of anything between £70 and £100 a week. They are given a room in the hosts’ home, and are provided with meals. If you are recruiting through an agency, they will keep you right on what you can reasonably expect from your au pair. The key to a successful relationship is being clear about expectations up front. Include your au pair in days out and family events. Treat them just as you would an older sibling or cousin and you won’t go far wrong.

Technology can be a huge benefit in getting the right au pair for you. Set up Skype interviews, and take time to chat and found out about their interests. It’s not a fail-safe way of getting a great match, but often your gut feeling about how someone will fit in is very accurate.

Au Pairs and DBS Checks

Usually, anyone wishing to work looking after children is expected to have an enhanced DBS certificate. These are the checks which used to be called Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. Workers are asked to apply for DBS checks as a way of checking their criminal or police file. However, the DBS can only check up on convictions or cautions received in the UK. For most au pairs, their new job will be the first time they have lived in the UK. So running DBS checks is pointless as there will be no information about them at all – whether negative or positive.

There is no one, simple system for checking into the background of a young person wanting to work in the UK. If you recruit your au pair through an agency, then ask them about what sorts of checks they carry out on applicants. Most will carefully check identity, and follow up references from people they have babysat for in the past. Most agencies come up against this issue regularly, and know how to check thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to question them on their processes.