This category reviews websites offering provisions for finding a babysitter. Although there is no legal definition, in the UK, babysitting generally means childcare:
What are Au Pairs?
Some of the websites in this category cater solely for au pair searches. Like a babysitter, an au pair does not require formal qualifications and may be expected to carry out babysitting while the parents are out. However there can be quite a lot of difference between a babysitter, professional or otherwise, and an au pair.
The word "au pair" literally means "on a par" or "equal to" which means the au pair becomes an equal within the family, and is not a domestic worker. The concept originated in Europe after World War 2 where young girls went to live in other countries to learn a language and become immersed in another culture as part of their education.
These days boys as well as girls can be au pairs although most au pairs are girls. The au pair is generally offered expenses and pocket money and a room of their own within the family house. In exchange, they are expected to carry out work related to childcare which can include some light domestic work.
What should you, the employer, consider?
It is important to think carefully about the expectations you may have about hiring any childcare worker, be it a babysitter or an au pair. Some of the websites offer example contracts for you to download. It is highly recommended that you carry out as much research as possible before hiring someone, particularly if you are new to the process.
It is important to note that all of these websites (although they may offer some monitoring), do not meet any of the candidates or vet them in any way. If you decide to plump for an agency, they will be much more rigorous in their choice of candidates. By using a website you are saving money but will have to take responsibility for all the ground work yourself.
Some of the websites offer excellent advice, but the best ports of call are always: (i) your local council's Children's Information Service, (ii) the government website about becoming an employer and (iii) Ofsted for information about regulations on childcare.
Safety and Security
This is an issue at the forefront of the mind of any parent when looking for childcare. Using the internet brings added risks so it is wise to be extra vigilant. The reviews here will give you an idea of what the websites have to offer, but it is always wise to keep informed of other people's experiences when using them. The most common abuse of profile matching sites is the financial scam. Never under any circumstances send money before you meet the candidate and always run identity checks and, if possible, CRB checks. Do not be shy about doing this as any candidate should expect a CRB check. If they appear to object then they are either not genuine, hiding something, or simply acting unprofessionally.
Of course this goes for the other side as well, for au pairs, babysitters and nannies looking for jobs. Great care must be taken in making sure family profiles are genuine and, if possible, go through a website that monitors its clients' activities and at least undergoes some checks. Never go to anyone's address without having met them first in a public place, preferably with someone you know to accompany you.
Website Formats and Features
Now that the serious matters are dealt with, let's look at the website features. There are three main formats of the websites in this category: agencies, advert listings and online matching services. In a nutshell, here is how the differ:
The Bottom Line
You will find babysitting websites which cater for a variety of needs and budgets. We hope that our buying guide, expert reviews and user reviews are useful in your search for a babysitting website that's right for you.