Skip to main content

Au Pair: Definition And Conditions Of Service

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 22 November 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

  • (1) how the term "au pair" is defined;
  • (2) under what conditions girls coming to Britain as au pairs are allowed to enter;
  • (3) what conditions govern their stay;
  • (4) how au pairs and host families are informed of these conditions and of any other necessary information;
  • (5) whether they are satisfied that the system for au pairs' entry is working adequately;
  • (6) what "follow-up" arrangements exist to ensure that the interests of the au pair are safeguarded.
  • (1) "Au pair is described in the Immigration Rules as" an arrangement under which a girl of 17 and over may come to the United Kingdom to learn the English language and to live for a time as a member of a resident English-speaking family." The Rules provide that a girl—other than an EEC national—coming for full-time domestic employment requires a work permit.(2) An au pair is normally allowed to enter the United Kingdom if she can show an immigration officer that a genuine au pair arrangement has been made. She would commonly produce to the immigration officer a letter from the host family. If the immigration officer is not satisfied the girl would either be refused leave to enter or given leave to enter for a short period to give her an opportunity to make her case to the Home Office. An EEC national is not however usually asked about the purpose of her stay in view of the provisions under the Treaty of Rome for freedom of movement of Member States' nationals.(3) Au pair girls may be allowed to stay here for up to 2 years. During this period, unless they are EEC nationals, they are not allowed to take employment without the consent of the Department of Employment, and if they have to apply to the Home Office to extend their stay they have to show that there is still a genuine au pair arrangement. An au pair girl can move to another family during her permitted stay so long as she is not in breach of her conditions of entry.(4) When an au pair girl arrives at a port in the United Kingdom she is generally given a copy of a Home Office leaflet, printed in 7 languages, describing the au pair arrangement in some detail. A copy of the leaflet in English only is subsequently sent by post to the host family. If a girl subsequently moves to another family and the Home Office is informed a copy of the leaflet is sent to that family.(5) My right honourable friend has no reason to believe that the system for the entry of au pairs does not generally work satisfactorily although he accepts that there are instances in which au pair girls may not be properly treated by the host family or in which the girls may take unfair advantage of their position in the household.(6) When an au pair girl applies to extend her stay she has to satisfy my right honourable friend that there is a genuine au pair arrangement but it would be impracticable to operate any system of routine inspection. I am, however, grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable work done by many voluntary organisations to which au pair girls can turn if they are in any difficulty.