The Difference between an Au Pair and a Nanny

Au Pair playing with child

A nanny is an experienced professional who provides care for children in their home, while an au pair is a visitor from overseas who lives full-time with a ‘host family’, helping care for children in the home, in exchange for room, board and pocket money. The au pair is not a professional nanny. The au pair is part of a cross-cultural exchange and is invited to participate in family meals and activities, considered as a ‘big sister’. This is in contrast to a nanny who is usually working as a professional paid carer and is not involved in a cultural exchange.

How does the role of an au pair vs nanny differ?

The main difference is that the au pair lives with the host family and assists with caring for the children part-time. She often works 25-35 hours per week, including at least 2 days off. An au pair is often less qualified and experienced, compared to a nanny. She may need guidance from parents and is usually not expected to care for babies. She is paid pocket money, room and board in exchange for assisting with the children.

A nanny may live-out or live-in and is paid a salary to work part-time or full-time for the family. She is a professional and an experienced carer. She is able to take on more responsibility for arranging activities for the children that are age and developmentally appropriate. Due to her knowledge and skills a nanny can usually care for babies and children of all ages. She can work independently with minimal guidance.

What is the meaning of the word ‘au pair’?

The term ‘au pair’ is French for ‘at par’ or ‘equal to’. The au pair is considered a member of the family, not usually an employee.

Differences between an Au Pair and a Nanny

Au Pair Nanny
Live-in or Live-out Live-in Mostly live-out, sometimes live-in.
Cultural Exchange Living as part of the family, immersed in a cultural exchange, participates in family meals and activities. Not part of a cultural exchange, is not expecting to participate in family meals and activities.
Is an employee No, usually just assisting with children in exchange for pocket money, room and board. Yes, employee or independent contractor
Hours 15-35 hours/wk Up to 40 hours/wk. May be casual, p/t or f/t.
Meals 3 meals per day included Not required
Shifts Flexible Usually minimum 2-3 hour shifts
Pay Pocket money + room + board Paid an hourly rate
Needs supervision Yes, usually needs some guidance and support No, works independently, no supervision needed.
Can drive Yes, if they have a foreign license. Yes, if they have a license.
Age of carer 18-35 yrs of age All ages
Duration of role Usually 6 months No set duration, as per agreement.
Needs a Working with Children Check Yes Yes
Can do light household duties Yes Yes

How many hours do au pairs work compared to nannies?

Most au pairs work 15 - 35 hours per week. The times of the day and lengths of shifts may vary based on the family’s requirements. Often this can be handy for families who need help with shorter shifts and ad hoc hours or rotating work rosters. Nannies work casually, part-time or full-time hours as agreed with the families they work with. Usually the hours are consistent week to week.

What ages of children do au pairs care and nannies care for?

It depends on the au pair’s skills and experience. Usually au pairs care for children aged 2+. They may help with younger children aged under 2, as a mother’s helper.

A nanny commonly works with babies and children of all ages, based on her professional experience and skills.

What type of light household tasks can au pairs or nanny’s do?

Both the au pair and the nanny may also complete some light household or child-related duties as part of their roles. This might include tasks like helping with children’s meals, wiping kitchen benches after meals, tidying up toys and folding children’s laundry.

How much does an au pair cost?

The au pair provides a certain amount of hours of childcare, in exchange for ‘room and board’ and ‘pocket money’. The weekly amount is based on the hours worked and the experience/skills of the au pair. Rates are rising with the shortage of workers globally, so the table below is a guideline.

Total hours per week worked Pocket Money per week
Up to 24 hours/wk $190-220
25-30 hours/wk $250-300
Up to 35 hours/wk $300-400+

Plus ‘room and board’.

Some host families also pay a $500 bonus on the completion of a 6 month stay.

How much does a nanny cost compared to an au pair?

A nanny’s hourly rates vary based on whether she’s an Independent Contractor or an employee (casual, part-time or full-time). As an employee a nanny would be covered by the Miscellaneous Award. On average, the professional nannies listed on Find A Babysitter charge between $30-40/hr.

Is an au pair an employee?

If the au pair is living like a member of the family, sharing meals and activities and providing a small amount of assistance caring for the children, she is not an ‘employee’. If it’s a genuine cultural exchange and not an employment relationship, then the au pair is not an employee. Fair Work Australia states that if the au pair is in an ‘employment relationship’ where the family has a lot of control over the au pair’s day-to-day role then they may be considered an employee. In this case the au pair would work under the Miscellaneous Award and their pay and conditions would need to be aligned with this.

What is the role of the ‘host family’ for an au pair?

The host family plays an important role in welcoming the au pair to Australia and providing her with a home, information and opportunities to learn about a new country and culture. The family provides the au pair with

  • A welcome and introduction to Australia
  • A cultural exchange opportunity and experiences
  • Being part of the family, including meals and activities
  • Room and board - 3 meals per day
  • Some supervision and guidance in caring for children

What type of bedroom or living quarters does an au pair need?

The au pair requires a separate bedroom, ideally with an ensuite.

Do host families need to pay for airfares or other expenses?

Host families are not required to pay for airfares. As part of being a ‘host’ they usually pay for family meals or shared activities that the au pair participates in.

How long does an au pair vs a nanny work with a family?

Au pairs are usually in Australia for 12 months, under a Working Holiday Visa or Work and Holiday Visa. Most au pairs work for part of their trip and travel for the remainder. Commonly au pairs work for 6 months with one family.

In contrast a nanny does not have a predetermined 6 month agreement. It depends on the employment agreement. For some families this is several years. For other families it might be a matter of months just to cover a specific need (e.g, work assignments, new baby).

What kind of visa do au pairs need?

Most au pairs have a 12 month Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417), or a Work and Holiday Visa (462). This is through the Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs. This visa is for individuals aged 18 - 30 years of age who want to travel for an extended period of time in Australia. The visa allows travellers to work or study during their stay in Australia. Applicants must apply online for this visa before they enter Australia.

What requirements are there for the Working Holiday visa?

There are some fairly detailed requirements to be eligible for this visa. This means that au pairs who have this visa have passed several checks and met requirements including

  • Age (18 - 30 years of age mostly, or 35 in some countries)
  • Be a passport holder from certain countries (see below)
  • Meet the health requirements
  • Have enough money (to support themselves e.g. $5000 AUD, plus an airfare home)
  • Meet the character requirements (no criminal record, not part of criminal groups or organisations)
  • Not have had past visas cancelled or refused
  • Have no outstanding debts to the Australian government
  • Sign an Australian Values Statement (covering things like respect, equal opportunity, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, a ‘fair go’ for all, commitment to the rule of the law, along with other values).

What countries do au pairs usually come from?

The Working Holiday visa is only available to individuals with certain passports. For example a few of the countries included in the visa program are: Belgium, Canada , Republic of Cyprus, Denmark , Finland, France, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Japan, Italy, Germany

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, among other countries. Based on this, au pairs who are working in Australia will be from these countries.

Do nannies and au pairs both need a WWCC?

Yes. Every person doing child-related work requires a Working With Children Check (or the equivalent in every state or territory of Australia).

Do nannies and au pairs hold a driver's license?

Yes, you can ask for this when selecting your nanny or au pair. International visitors can drive in Australia without a special permit, but their drivers license must be current and written in English. If it is not in English, the driver must carry a formal translation or have an International Driving Permit. Temporary visa holders can drive with a foreign drivers license for the length of their stay in every state of Australia, except N.T. In the Northern Territory visitors can only use their foreign license for 3 months. After this they must apply for a N.T. driver's license.

Are au pairs male or female?

Both males and females are nannies and au pairs. The majority are female, but there are some males available too.

What is a Demi Pair?

A demi pair is a full-time international student and part-time au pair. They are eligible to study and work in Australia under a Student Visa. Usually they are able to work for up to 20 hours per week. They usually work up to 15 hours in exchange for room and board.

In 2022 the Australian government altered the rules to allow more working hours, due to the workforce shortage post-pandemic. Students can now work more than 20 hours per week, but must remain enrolled, attend and pass their studies. If the demi pair works more than 15 hours she will require ‘pocket money’ (as with an au pair).

How do you find an au pair?

There are a range of international and Australian websites and agencies to help parents find an au pair. Find A Babysitter does not specialise in this niche.

Did you know we have an app?
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play