What is Included in My Agency Fee?
When you go to an au pair agent to ask them to help find you an au pair, it may seem a silly question to then ask what you get for your money. Surely you are paying them to find an au pair who matches your requirements and stays the length of time agreed, no?
Well Yes…and No.
When things don’t work out with an au pair, it’s common that the family complains that they paid the agent for someone wonderful to stay a year, but who was only mediocre and left after 5 months, and they want a refund.
So what DO you pay your agency for?
Suitability and Length of StayMost families believe that the fee they are paying an agent, is to find them a ‘suitable’ au pair who will stay for the allotted amount of time the family need. Of course, this is exactly what good agents work tirelessly towards – it is in no-one’s interests to do otherwise.
However – unlike British recruitment agencies – the agent does not see, meet, or often personally interview the au pair candidate, and can never guarantee what kind of relationship the family and au pair will have. Even in the best instances, having had protracted and detailed conversations with all parties, asking all the right questions, no amount of preparation can predict the reactions of a young girl far from home for the first time, perhaps doing a job for the first time, speaking a different language and in an area she’s never visited before. She may be homesick, she may not like the family, she may not like the location, she may not like the job, or the family may not like her.
Agency fees, therefore, can never be based on the guarantee of successful placements. So, what CAN they promise?
Time and EffortFirst and foremost, you pay an agency for spending time providing a bespoke service for your family. Your fee, then, is primarily to pay for the man hours involved in searching for an au pair for your family and for guiding you through the process right from initial selection process to picking up your au pair at the airport.
The complete au pair search cycle can take anything from two to eight weeks and will involve numerous searches, checks, phone calls, emails and conversations on your behalf.
Advice and InformationBy going to an au pair agency, you will also be receiving advice and information. Agents are professionals and your fee includes benefiting from their knowledge and experience, answering your questions and guiding you through what can sometimes be an onerous undertaking.
Partner Agencies – Liaison and FeesMost agencies will work with a number of other agents across Europe to offer you a range of candidates to choose from. The overseas agency will act as the point-of-reference for the au pair, whilst the UK agent fulfils this role for the family. Together, the agents discuss the needs of both the client and the au pair and try to ‘match’ the two based on both sets of requirements.
Good agencies will be speaking to many partners on a daily basis and will get to know them well. They should be able to tell you if the partner agent has met and interviewed your potential au pair and will also be quick to help find answers to all the questions a family may have and vice versa.
However, the overseas agent does not charge a high fee to the au pair for their work and covers costs by charging the UK agent for any placement made. Part of the client’s fee, therefore, goes towards the UK agent paying their partner a percentage.
Collating DocumentationOne of the biggest parts of an agents’ job is to collate, check, and read a vast amount of paperwork. Each candidate coming through their books will have an application form, a Dear Family Letter, photographs, a CV, copies of a passport or Identity Card, driving license and possibly work accession card, medical certificate, references etc.
Families are keen to see such supporting documentation and it is an important part of an agent’s role. However it is time consuming and detailed work, sometimes requiring translation skills and a lot of chasing – so again, this is where your fee is being used.
Facilitating Visa ApplicationsSimilarly, if an applicant is from outside the EU or EEA and from a participating country, they will need a visa. The UK and Partner agent are integral to the application process which is often lengthy.
After Care and SupportAgents are also available to offer help, advice and support after the au pair has arrived in the UK. Whether it is follow-up questions about holiday entitlement, driving insurance, language classes, or help to change an au pair, the agent is on hand.
So next time you are looking at fees, do bear in mind the above points.