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Irish family ordered to pay au pair €9,000 over low wages

Fianna Fáil says families are relying on au pairs “due to the soaring costs of childcare”.

Image: Shutterstock/Nelosa

Updated: 5.18pm

AN IRISH FAMILY has been ordered to pay a Spanish au pair who worked for them €9,229.

The move has been described as a ‘landmark’ decision by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), which supported the au pair in her appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The au pair had been paid €100 a week by the family, the MRCI said. It said that the family was found to have breached aspects of the National Minimum Wage Act, the Organisation of Working Time Act, and the Terms of Employment (Information) Act. They accepted the judgement of the WRC and paid the award in full.

The au pair released a statement through the MRCI which said:

When I arrived at the Migrant Rights Centre I was exhausted, depressed and weak. It has been a long process, and many people there worked on my case; finally I have found the reward and respect that I needed. Without all those people, this would be impossible.
And that is why I want to say to all au pairs: you deserve to be respected, because you have in your care the most precious part of a family, the children. And that is a huge responsibility. I felt as though the children were my family, and it is very hard to leave a situation of exploitation when you feel such an enormous love for them. But at last I had to start this process.
With this judgment I feel respected for my work at last.

She said she believes “it is very important for everyone to become aware of this situation”, and hopes “that au pairs will no longer be exploited as cheap labour”.

MRCI Legal Officer Virginija Petrauskaite said that this judgment “sends a very clear message: au pairs are workers, and any family employing an au pair must abide by employment laws – including the National Minimum Wage Act”.

She said this case is not an exception.

Petrauskaite continued: “There is a childcare crisis in this country, but exploitation is not the solution. The new government must ensure au pairs and families are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities, and must urgently crack down on the many au pair agencies advertising illegal working conditions to employers and workers alike.”

Cost of childcare 

Speaking following the judgement, Fianna Fáil’s jobs spokesperson Dara Calleary said the next government needs to carefully examine the ruling.

“Au pairs are currently working in up to 20,000 Irish homes. This situation has arisen because more and more parents are relying on au pairs as primary childminders due to the soaring costs of childcare.

Au pairs often work in excess of 60 hours a week while being paid as little as €100. They provide an on call service, work over the weekends and on public holidays. The Labour Court has consistently highlighted serious concerns with the manner in which au pairs are being treated in some households.

“The authorities should examine the idea of introducing a definition of the job and responsibilities associated with au pair work. This will help prevent any exploitation for people employed in such a role.”

- with reporting from Órla Ryan 

Read: Chef who was paid just 51c an hour will finally get the wages he was owed>

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