Working as an au pair is a great way to experience new places, cultures, languages and mindsets in an authentic setting. Follow these 10 simple tips to avoid hiccups and potential cost traps when working as an au pair in Switzerland.
1. Sign an au pair agreement
The first and most obvious step towards staying in Switzerland as an au pair is finding a suitable family to stay with. Using a reputable au pair matching service for this purpose is recommended.
Once you have found a host family, it is very important that both you and your host family sign a proper au pair contract. The agreement should cover every aspect of your stay and work conditions – including seemingly insignificant details. The exact duration of your stay, your work hours and vacations, an exact description of your living quarters and board (including meals and other amenities) and participation in language courses, the exact amounts of pocket money which you are entitled to receive and the timings of your payments should all be included in the agreement.
Your contract must follow the laws on employment contracts for home-based employees set out by the canton (province) in which your host family resides. Both you and your host family should sign and hold copies.
Your visa must be authenticated by both the cantonal and federal governments. Getting a permit can take up to 2 months, so applying well ahead of your intended stay is recommended.
2. Social security and accident insurance
In Switzerland, an au pair contract is similar to a regular employment contract. If you are older than 18 years old, you are required to make social security contributions. Half of your social security payments are deducted directly from your salary (the total pocket money and board which you receive), and the other half are covered by your employer. Your guest family must apply for a Swiss social security number on your behalf.
Everybody living in Switzerland is required to have accident insurance. Your host family is required to pay for your occupational accident insurance – which covers accidents which happen while you are working. You will have to cover premiums for non-occupational accident insurance – which covers you during your time off – out of your own pocket. However, host families may choose to cover all of your accident insurance premiums for you.
3. Pick an affordable health insurance policy
If you stay in Switzerland longer than 3 months you will have to either get basic health insurance from a Swiss insurance company, or prove that you already have health insurance which provides the same coverage.
Your host family has to cover half of the cost of health insurance premiums. The other half must be paid out of your own pocket. The moneyland.ch health insurance comparison makes it easy to find the cheapest health insurance policy. It is also worth looking into alternative health insurance for foreign students, as this is often much cheaper than regular health insurance.
4. Don’t wear out your welcome
As a general rule, you cannot work as an au pair in Switzerland for longer than 12 months at a time. The maximum stay is extended to 24 months for citizens of European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member countries.
Age limits also apply: Au pairs from EU and EFTA countries must be between 17 and 30 years old. If you come from any other country you cannot get an au pair visa once you have passed the age of 25.
5. Find out what your host family expects you to do
The duties of an au pair should be directly related to child care. You can also help with household chores in your guest family’s home, but this should be limited to simple tasks. In exchange, you have a right to food, pocket money and your own private room. To avoid misunderstandings, make sure to discuss your prospective duties with your host family ahead of time.
6. Understand your rights to pocket money
In Switzerland, au pairs are entitled to pocket money and compensation in the form of food and lodging. Pocket money entitlements vary based on your age and the canton in which your host family stays, but generally you can expect to receive a minimum of between 500 and 800 Swiss francs. If you become ill or have an accident during your time as an au pair, you have a right to paid sick leave. You are also entitled to paid vacation and paid public holidays.
7. Complete a language course
Au pairs are required to complete a course in the local language. This language is German in German-speaking municipalities, French in French-speaking municipalities and Italian in Italian-speaking municipalities.
Your host family must cover the cost of public transportation for you to get to the language-training center and back, drive you to and from language lessons or make a car available to you (if you have a valid drivers license.
8. Don’t work overtime
Au pairs in Switzerland may work a maximum of 30 hours per week. Work hours must be arranged in a way that allows you to participate in a language course. You are entitled to at least one full day off per week.
Paid vacation entitlements vary based on your age. Au pairs younger then 20 years old are entitled to 5 weeks of paid vacation per year. Those above the age of 20 are entitled to 4 weeks per year. Working on public holidays should is not allowed, except as a rare exception.
9. Choose a cheap bank account
Although you are not legally obligated to open a Swiss bank account during your stay, some host families may prefer to make payments to a Swiss bank account rather than pay you in cash or transferring money to a foreign account.
There is no need to get a Swiss credit card. The debit cards you get with Swiss bank accounts are more widely accepted. You can find the cheapest Swiss bank account for financial transactions using the moneyland.ch private account comparison. Many Swiss banks offer special, cheaper accounts for young adults and students.
Note that, depending where you are from, you may not be accepted as a customer by all Swiss banks. Make sure to consider Swiss banks which accept foreign customers. When you leave Switzerland, you may be required to close your account or you may be charged non-resident account fees if you keep it open.
10. Tips for everyday savings in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, but it is possible to get the most out of your stay without blowing all of the pocket money you earn. Check out the everyday saving tips on moneyland.ch to find out how to get more good times for less money.