If you’re going to be working as an au pair in France, you want to make sure that you have a very clear contract before you leave, to outline the position and your own responsibilities upon starting work in your host family’s home.
The work contract protects both you and the host family by identifying what you’ll do, what you’ll receive as compensation, and how either you or the host family can end the agreement if things aren’t working out.
Here are five things you should have in your au pair contract before you leave for France:
1) Identify the parties.
As in any contract, the first step is to identify yourself and the host family who will be parties to the contract. In France, contracts are very specific, identifying both parties by full name, birthdate and place, and current residence.
If you’re a minor, one of your parents will also have to be a party to the contract as your ‘legal representative.’
2) General description of the contract.
The next section, which is very short, should identify the contract as an au pair contract and specify its duration. This part should specify that the goal of the contract is to allow you to improve your French language skills and participate in a “cultural exchange” while staying in France and working for the family.
The contract’s start date should also be identified, as the date that you will arrive in France and begin working for the family.
3) Describe the host family’s obligations to you.
The au pair contract should provide complete details on the host family, including the number of children and adults in the family, the type of house or apartment they live in, and their professions. If the family has other household employees, they will be listed as well.
The second section will specify the location of their home and its distance from the place where you will be enrolled in French classes, and your compensation for working.
The family will have to specify the type of room you’ll have (and if you have to share – which you shouldn’t), the number of days of you’ll have per week (and vacation time, if you accumulate it), how much money you’ll earn each week, and the amount that the family will pay into URSSAF for your social charges. Most importantly, the contract should specify that the family will continue feeding and lodging you if you get sick, until you get well or make arrangements to go home.
4) Describe your obligations to the host family.
The final section should list your obligations to the host family, including the days and number of hours you’ll work per day, as well as the specific tasks you’ll be asked to complete. This section should be as specific as possible, to avoid any possible disagreements with the family over your rights and responsibilities. In theory, your work hours should total 5 hours per day, 6 days a week. In practice, you may work more on some days (like Wednesdays, for example), and have more time off on the weekends.
Remember too, that your work hours are limited to 964 per year, and that this amount should be calculated on a pro-rata basis. If you work every week, including vacations, that’s only 18.5 hours per week for 52 weeks, rather than the 30 hours per week maximum for au pair authorization.
Again, beware of families that want to make this section vague, or who hesitate to specify work hours and tasks. They could be expecting you to do a lot more than they let on.
5) Identify a way for each party to end the contract.
In any work contract, it’s important to specify how each party can end the agreement if things are not going as planned. The contract should therefore include two types of clauses:
- A clause stating that each side can break the agreement immediately if the other side does not fulfil the obligations outlined in the contract
- A clause stating how each side can break the agreement if both parties are respecting their obligations but it doesn’t work out for some other reason
These clauses protect you in case the family doesn’t pay you appropriately, or fails to respect your days off, or provide meals, etc.
If you do end your relationship with your host family prematurely for whatever reason, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to leave France right away. If you’re still enrolled in French classes, you may want to attempt to find a new family, or use the remaining work hours (964 minus whatever you already worked for your host family) to get another part-time job during your studies. You’re allowed to have other types of employment alongside your au pair position, as long as the total number of work hours doesn’t exceed the student limit of 964.
What do you do with the contract?
The au pair contract should be signed in 3 originals: one for the host family, one for you, and one to be submitted to DIRECCTE to get authorization for your visa. Once the contract is signed, your host family should send it off right away to make sure you can get your visa as quickly as possible.
Keep your copy handy, since you’ll need it to get your visa. And refer back to it in case of disagreements with your host family.