Govt considers an Au Pair visa; currently Au Pairs fall under the Working Holiday Maker Program

July 11th, 2017 | | industry

A special Au Pair visa to help make childcare more affordable­ so is being considered by the Turnbull government. Immigration and Border Protection Assistant Minister Alex Hawke is looking at proposals­ for a special Au Pair and carer visa, allowing Au Pairs to stay with families for 12 months to two years.

Currently an Au Pair can obtain only a six-month visa under the Working Holiday Maker Program, and families can apply to extend it for up to 12 months.

After that time the family needs to find a new Au Pair — and finding one is often a time-consuming process and one which is heart-breaking for the children, as Castle Hill mother-of-five Lara Thom knows.

“With the increasing cost of childcare, which is outrageous, and the hours aren’t flexible … it’s more cost-effective­ for families on middle­ incomes to have a full-time Au Pair” Ms Thom said. Under the proposals, an Au Pair would be paid a flat minimum­ wage, or “pocket money” of, for example, $250 for 35 hours a week, plus food and board, making it a more affordable as childcare fees which are between $130 and $180 a day (at least in Sydney).

Au Pairs currently do not pay tax or make superannuation contributions, and do not receive sick leave or holiday pay. But childcare rebates and benefits can be claimed only for registered childcare, so an increased use of Au Pairs in Australia could ease the burden­ on taxpayers.

Currently the Working Holiday Visa Program applies only to people­ from a limited number of countries, and applicants must meet financial and education­ requirements. The Cultural Au Pair Association of Australia has been lobbying the government to introduce an Au Pair visa class, so as to extend it to other countries. “Countries like Brazil send a large number of Au Pairs to other destinations but can’t to Australia,” said association president Wendy Aylward. She added “Most families would like to have (their au pair) for longer … because kids become very connected to their Au Pairs. They become part of the family.”

Its been said that industry groups also need to address concerns that Au Pairs could be exploited with excessive hours or duties. Ms Aylward said it was important that both Au Pairs and families had a screening process to ensure it was a safe and rewarding experience for all involved.

Written by Chris Harrison