The real advantage of child care in your home is that it’s flexible, so it frees you from the minute by minute timetabling of your day. If you don’t pick up your child from a day nursery on time you may have to pay a penalty, whereas most nannies and au pairs are a little more understanding. However, home-based child care can be expensive, but there are ways you can bring the costs down. Find out more about childcare options in your home and finding an au pair or nanny.
Childcare options in your home; finding an au pair or nanny
Don’t assume a nanny will be the most expensive option.
The word ‘nanny’ conjures up images of country estates and old-fashioned prams, but they can be cheaper than a childminder or nursery if you have two or more children, or if you need child care beyond the normal nine-to-five. If you only need child care for part of the day – especially if your child is older than two – an au pair is much cheaper.
SAVVY TIP: If you can’t afford a nanny or you don’t need one all week, a nanny share might be worth thinking about. Try websites like childcare.co.uk to find other families looking to share a nanny.
Having help at home in the morning ‘rush’ can be invaluable.
Having a nanny or an au pair means you have help at the time of the day you need it most. Anyone who looks after your child in your own home doesn’t have to register for Ofsted’s early years register, but nannies can register for the voluntary part of the register on the Ofsted website. The advantage for you is you can pay for care with child care vouchers or child tax credits and the nanny has to have a Criminal Records Bureau check and have pubic liability insurance.
SAVVY TIP: Try asking other parents, advertising locally, using nanny agencies or classified adverts in The Lady magazine.
Don’t forget tax and National Insurance
If you employ a nanny, you’re responsible for paying tax and National Insurance. You might be tempted to pay cash in hand, but it’s not advisable (it’s also against the law). If the idea of sorting it out brings on a headache, use one of the nanny payroll services such as Nannytax or Taxing Nannies.
SAVVY TIP: Don’t agree a rate of pay with your nanny ‘net of tax’ (i.e. after tax has been deducted) because you don’t know the tax code that your nanny will be on when you have to pay her (or his) wages. Agree a gross rate instead, that way you know how much you’ll have to pay. Nannies who have underpaid tax from previous years may be on a higher tax code and you’d have to make up the missing tax if you agreed a pay rate net of tax.
Au pairs normally come to the UK so they can learn the language and don’t generally have any formal child care qualifications. The rules changed in 2008 so you can no longer bring in au pairs from countries outside the European Economic Area (the EU countries plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland).
SAVVY TIP: If you want to sponsor an au pair so she (or he) can come to the UK to work for you, it can be done through the youth mobility scheme. There’s information about what you have to do on the Gov.uk website section on the Tier 5 (youth mobility scheme) visa.
You set the hours your au pair works
Until 2008, there were limits on how many hours an au pair could work and minimum levels of ‘pocket money’ they could receive (25 hours a week with two days off and £70 a week were pretty standard). That’s all changed and the hours and pay are between you and your au pair.
If you want to find an au pair agency, contact the British Au Pair Agencies’ Association. Despite the law change, many agencies still recommend you limit the hours your au pair works and suggest minimum levels of pay. They also say that au pairs shouldn’t be left unsupervised with children under the age of two for long periods of time.
SAVVY TIP: The main disadvantage of using an agency to bring an au pair into the UK is that you generally won’t know what the au pair is like until they arrive, which makes it hard to assess whether or not they’ll fit in your home.
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