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What you should know if you want to become an au pair in Switzerland

Thinking of working for a Swiss family as an au pair? From contracts to the length of stay, here are 10 tips to consider before you embark on an Alpine work adventure.

A young person taking photos in Switzerland.
A young person taking photos in Switzerland. Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

Working as an au pair in Switzerland can be an amazing life experience to learn all about another culture, build language skills and earn money. 

But to ensure it all goes smoothly – and so you get to enjoy the Swiss Alpine views often instead of worrying about your employment or losing money – you should keep a few things in mind. 

Here are 10 tips to consider when you want to become an au pair in Switzerland.

1. Sign an au-pair contract

If you want to work as an au pair in Switzerland, the first step is to check you qualify (more on that below) and to look for a suitable host family. The best way to do this is to use the services of one of the numerous au pair placement agencies, such as this one. Once you’ve found a suitable placement, you and your host family should sign an agreement.

The au pair contract should contain all the essential details: there should be detailed information on the duration of your stay, working hours and holidays, type of accommodation, language courses and pocket money (called “Sackgeld” in Switzerland).

The cantonal “Normalarbeitsvertrag für hauswirtschaftliche Arbeitnehmer” (standard employment contract for domestic workers) is a must for your employment conditions as an au pair. One copy goes to the host family, one to the labour market authority and one to you as the au pair. points out that a permit also has to be approved by both the canton and federal authorities before employment can start.

“A permit can take a good two months,” said the advice website, adding that people should apply as early as possible. 

READ ALSO: The pros and cons of working as an au pair in Switzerland 

2. Keep an eye on insurance 

Employment as an au pair is the equivalent to a regular employment relationship. As an au pair, you are obliged to pay social insurance contributions (AHV, IV, EO, ALV) from the age of 18 and must pay half of the costs incurred. These social security contributions are automatically deducted from your au pair’s salary – whereby the sum of pocket money and wages in-kind serves as the basis for calculation here. In order for this to be possible, your host family must apply for an insurance certificate from the social security office of the canton of residence.

When it comes to accident insurance, your host family has to pay for the so-called company accident insurance (BU), while the non-company accident insurance (NBU) is covered by you as an au pair. However, it is also possible that the host family will voluntarily pay the NBU premiums for you. Check all this out so you have an idea of what to expect.

READ ALSO: How to understand your Swiss payslip 

A child plays with toys behind a white curtain

Many people choose to become an au pair in Switzerland. Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

3. Take out health insurance

For stays of three months or longer, you must be insured with a Swiss health insurance company or an equivalent alternative. At least half of the health insurance premiums must be financed by the host family. You can find reasonably priced basic health insurance on comparison websites to grab a good deal.

You should also check out alternative health insurance cover that is available for students if you are studying. These are often much cheaper than standard health insurance.

4. Don’t stay too long

An au pair can generally stay in Switzerland for up to 12 months. Au pairs from EU and EFTA countries can extend their stay to a maximum of 24 months. There are also restrictions regarding age: Au pairs from EU and EFTA countries have to be between 17 and 30 years old. For all other countries, the maximum age is 25.

5. Discuss your work tasks in advance

As a live-in nanny, your main task will be taking care of the children. You can also help out in the host parents’ household, however, you are only allowed to do light housework. In return, as an au pair you are entitled to free board and lodging, in the form of your own room, and pocket money. In order to avoid any misunderstandings, you should discuss your role and tasks with your future host family in advance.

6. Check the pocket money allowance

In Switzerland, au pairs are paid pocket money (“Sackgeld”) as well as a lump sum in the form of board and lodging. The pocket money depends on age and canton and is usually between 500 and 800 Swiss francs per month. If au pairs fall ill or have an accident, they are entitled to still receive payment. This also applies to holidays and public holidays.

7. Complete a language course

As an au pair you have to complete a language course in the language of your place of residence. German is the main language in German-speaking Switzerland, French in French-speaking Switzerland and Italian in Ticino. For a stay of one year, a language course must be at least 120 hours, i.e. three hours per week. Your host family has to pay for the course fees.

You can get to the language course either by public transport at the host family’s expense or by car, which should be driven by one of your hosts or they can let you drive (if you have a valid driving licence).

A person studying

Learning languages can be tricky in Switzerland. Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

8. Don’t work too much

As an au pair, you are allowed to work a maximum of 30 hours per week. The working hours must be arranged so that you can take that language course. Plus the host family have to give you at least one day off per week.

The holiday entitlement depends on your age. Au pairs are entitled to five weeks of holiday per year up to the age of 20, and four weeks of holiday after that. Working on holidays is only allowed in exceptional cases.

9. Think about your bank accounts

If it’s a shorter stay, it’s not absolutely necessary to open a Swiss bank account. You don’t need a Swiss credit card either. You can pay with debit cards practically everywhere in Switzerland. 

But if you want to open a Swiss account – perhaps if you are in Switzerland for a longer period of time – search for a cheaper account. Swiss banks usually offer special rates for young people and people in education. However, keep in mind that some Swiss banks do not accept clients who are only resident in Switzerland for a short time.

If you hit some hurdles getting accepted, so-called “neo banks” like Wise and N26 could be a good fall-back option. 

Remember: if you have a Swiss bank account and leave Switzerland again, you may have to close your account. If you keep the account, you will have to pay high fees due to being a client who does not reside in Switzerland. Keep all this in mind! 

10. Keep an eye on your outgoings

Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. To make sure you don’t use up all your pocket money on everyday errands straight away, try and budget and keep your outgoings down when possible. Check out this article on saving money in Switzerland for ideas:

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For members


Why does Zurich have the highest wages in Switzerland?

Various studies show that when it comes to salaries, Switzerland’s largest city has an edge over other regions. What is the reason for that?

Why does Zurich have the highest wages in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s wages are famously high overall, but if you analyse them closer, you will see that, salary-wise, some regions fare better than others.

Logically, earnings are higher in large cities than in small towns and rural areas, as that is where most economic opportunities are.

However, income disparities exist even between the urban centres.

This has been shown in various surveys, including the latest one, released this month by HES-SO, the umbrella association of Swiss universities of applied sciences (UAS). 

Unlike general universities, UAS doesn’t offer Master or Doctorate degrees, but rather Bachelor’s programmes linked with a specific professional field. They are often attended by people who had completed their vocational training and wish to further their education.

What did this survey find?

What emerged from this study is that graduates of universities of applied sciences earn significantly more in 2023 that they did two years ago, when the last study was carried out.

Their median annual wage currently amounts to 104,000 francs, compared to 100,000 in 2021.

However, the results also indicate that there are regional disparities, with wages being higher in German than in French-speaking Switzerland.  

Among the cantons, Zurich is in the lead, with a median income of just over 111,000 francs per year.

This is not exactly a new piece of information: statistics show that salaries in Zurich are 10.8 percent higher than in Geneva, and 5.4 percent higher than in Basel.

How can this discrepancy be explained?

The Local put this question to Fabian Büsser, director at Michael Page recruitment agency.

He said that it is a matter of what kind of jobs are most in demand and their geographical location.

“Some of the highest paying jobs are in finance, insurance, IT, and engineering,” he pointed out, most of which are located in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

“This region accounts for nearly 90 percent of advertised jobs in these sectors and is home to the largest banks, insurers and technology companies, as well as other firms requiring engineers, such as real estate and property,” Büsser said.

According to the latest Michael Page Swiss Job Index, while 89 percent of these jobs can be found in the German-speaking region, only 10 percent are in the French-speaking area (and even fewer — 1 percent — in Ticino).

There is, however, some positive news for the Swiss-French part

The HES-SO survey found that while this region trails behind the German-speaking part, the wages there have increased significantly.

The median annual salary in the Geneva area is 92,300 francs, which corresponds to an increase of 8.4 percent compared to two years earlier.
This is particularly the case in the IT branch, with a median salary of 112,000 francs, followed by finance and insurance, with 106,000 francs.

How do these wages compare to those who graduate from ‘regular’ universities?

Switzerland has several kinds of higher education establishments: cantonal universities and two federal polytechnic institutes: one in Zurich (ETH) and the other in Lausanne (EPFL).

They are considered the ‘highest’ educational institutions.

Graduates of these establishments can earn as much as 10,170 francs a month, which amounts to 122,000 a year.

READ ALSO: How much can you earn with a Swiss university degree?