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Au Pairs welcome decision on Domestic Workers Convention

Minister Bruton has announced the government’s plans to ratify the Convention to protect the rights of domestic workers.

Minister Bruton and members of ICTU, IBEC and the Migrant Rights Action Group at the launch of the new information booklet for domestic workers.
Minister Bruton and members of ICTU, IBEC and the Migrant Rights Action Group at the launch of the new information booklet for domestic workers.
Image: Colm Mahady/Fennell Photography

THE AU PAIR RIGHTS Association of Ireland has welcomed the government’s decision to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention, saying that it’s important that the rights of au pairs are recognised.

Convention (No. 189), which sets down provisions for the protection of domestic workers’ rights, was adopted by the UN’s International Labour Organisation in 2011 and due to come into force from September 2013. The Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton announced the Irish government’s decision to ratify the ILO Convention yesterday.

Commenting on the announcement, Jane Xavier of the Au pair Rights Association of Ireland said that au pair work in Ireland has become synonymous with cheap childcare, leading to exploitation:

There is a perception that au pairs are not real workers, but au pairs are doing real and essential work: they are caring for children and adults, they have schedules and responsibilities, and they need training and qualifications in order to provide safe childcare. However, simply because they are called ‘au pairs’ they are afforded no rights: no holidays, no sick leave, paid a fraction of the minimum wage.”

She added that the ARAI had been contacted by au pairs “who were never paid, required to be on call all night, made to share a bed with babies or children, underfed, overworked, humiliated and even sexually harassed.”

Xavier said the Convention shows that Ireland recognises the importance of work done in private homes.

The Convention, which applies to all domestic workers, defines domestic work as “work Nperformed in or for a household or households”, while a domestic worker is “a person employed to do domestic work”.

Minister Richard Bruton said the decision to ratify the Convention “shows a strong commitment on the part of Ireland to the protection of the rights of domestic workers”.

The National Employment Rights Authority has launched an information booklet for domestic workers in Ireland. The organisation says that regardless of job titles, such as ‘au pair’, or arrangements agreed between domestic workers and their employers, a person working in a home remains an employee under Irish law.

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