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A babysitter provides occasional care for your child or children in your own home.

It's important to carefully chose a babysitter so that you're confident they can be left in charge of your children.

How old do babysitters have to be?

The decision about who to leave your child with comes down to you and your best judgement. There are no legal restrictions on what age a babysitter or caregiver must be to be left in charge of a child, but there are laws about employing children.

It’s important to know that if you hire a babysitter who is under 16, they’re too young to be legally responsible if harm comes to your child. If you’ve left your child with someone who isn’t able to take care of them, this could be seen as neglect under the law.

If you are leaving your child home alone with a babysitter under 16, make sure that they are comfortable with what to do in case of emergency, and are mature enough to take action if needed. It may be safest to let a neighbour or friend know your plans, in case help is needed and you can’t get home in time.

How much should I pay a babysitter?

The cost of employing a babysitter differs around the country.

Hourly rates typically range from £7 to £10 an hour, but this will vary depending on things such as experience and if the babysitter has any childcare qualifications and how many children the babysitter will be looking after. 

If you hire a babysitter through an agency they may charge a yearly subscription.

Should I pay for a babysitter's travel?

It's important to ensure your babysitter gets home safely. If it's late at night and they dont drive, it's advised that you accompany your babysitter home.

This might involve walking them home, driving them or possibly paying for a taxi. 

What childcare qualifications does a babysitter need?

There are no regulations or requirements that apply to babysitters and they are not required to register with Ofsted, however some people providing babysitting services may hold childcare qualifications. 

Some childminders also provide babysitting services and these individuals will hold childcare qualifications and have experience of caring for children. 

Things to consider when choosing a babysitter

  • think about your needs. Will they have the availability to support you when you need some help?
  • will they be able to support you in future if your needs change and you need more help, or if you unexpectedly need cover? It's a good idea to try to limit the number of caregivers so your child can get comfortable with the person.
  • if they're a childminder, ask what qualifications they have.
  • if they're a babysitter, ask for recommendations and reviews from past clients. If you're unsure, call and ask what their experience was like.
  • ask how they'd deal with situations like your child refusing to go to bed, to check if you're comfortable with their methods.
  • introduce them to your child,. You could even do a short trial run to check whether your child feels comfortable alone with them.
  • remember, there's nothing quite like a parent's intuition. If you've got any doubts at all about a possible babysitter, it's always best to find someone else.

Babysitting circles

A baby sitting circle is a group of parents who know each other and baby sit for each other in exchange for baby sitting points. Each time you baby sit for another member of the circle you receive points. You lose them when someone baby sits for you.

The advantages of this are that:

  • you know the person who is looking after your children
  • because he or she is also a parent, they should know how to look after a child and what to do in a crisis
  • there are no babysitting fees
  • as you'll be taking your turn to babysit, you don't need to feel guilty about asking for a babysitter
  • as long as there are enough members, there is usually a sitter available
  • because it works on a points system, it doesn't matter if you baby sit for a different person to the one who sat for you

You can find out about babysitting circles through local playgroups, antenatal classes and the National Childbirth Trust.  You could also visit netmums.

Things to do before leaving your child with a babysitter

  • invite your babysitter over prior to the first booking and introduce them to your children so that they are comfortable in each other's company.
  • tell your children in the morning and remind them during the day that a babysitter is coming so that they are prepared. 
  • make sure your babysitter knows how to reach you in an emergency and who else to call eg 999 or alternative contacts etc.
  • over estimate rather than under estimate what time you'll be home. It's better to return early than leave your babysitter wondering where you are.
  • don’t leave an unwell child with a new babysitter, it's not fair on either of them.
  • agree ground rules with your babysitter with regards to having friends  sit with them or smoking etc.
  • tell your babysitter about any allergies or special needs your child has.
  • provide refreshments and make sure your babysitter knows their way around your home.

Find a babysitter

We've listed some babysitting services on the Family Information Directory

You can also use to search for local babysitters.