A French body advising young people on their opportunities says French au pair agencies are no longer arranging any placements for young French people in the UK.
This is because of strict new post-Brexit work visa requirements, which do not suit au pair work.
The head of European and international matters at the Centre d’information et de documentation jeunesse (CIDJ), Valérie Montembault, said: “The problem is there is no au pair status provided for in the UK’s new immigration rules and if you go for less than six months [without a visa] you have no right to work.
“So the agencies are not sending any more au pairs to the UK. They are sending some to the Netherlands, a few to Malta maybe, but none to the UK.
“Of course the UK was the most popular before – to improve their English.
“Young people looked for a place where people speak an English that is accessible and with an accent that they’ve learned at school. In Malta for example people speak Maltese as well. They preferred the UK also because it’s very easy to get to with the Eurostar.”
She said au pairs – who she said mostly work for their board and lodging plus ‘pocket money’ – are not really comparable to other full-time salaried workers, but agencies do not want to risk sending them for under six months in a ‘tourist’ capacity because they do nonetheless receive money, plus there would be problems for their insurance cover and health and social security.
Previously under EU rules there were reciprocal social security arrangements and a recognised status, she said.
She said a UK work visa is now impossible for anyone earning less than a full-time minimum wage in the UK (a UK body bringing over au pairs from France has told The Connexion a minimum salary of €20,000 is being required).
Those coming to the UK on work visas also now have to pay a £624/year ‘health surcharge’ in order to join the NHS (or £470 for those on student visas), however anyone coming to be an au pair in an ‘unofficial’ capacity (eg. for less than six months) could face issues over their cover or have to take private insurance, Ms Montembault said.
She added it is possible that families in the UK will still directly advertise for au pairs on the internet, perhaps just offering lodging, but there will be no more official placements via agencies because it would be too risky in view of the lack of a clear status (and it would be impossible for more than six months).
“Perhaps something will be done to resolve this, it is still early and we understand some discussions are still taking place, but for the moment it’s not the case,” she said.