Government ‘needs to get real’ about au pair exploitation- charity

More than half of the au pairs working in Ireland earn less than €120 per week

Screengrab: RTE Investigates

Screengrab: RTE Investigates

 

Almost four in five of all au pairs in Ireland have no written contract, according to the Migrants Rights Council of Ireland (MRCI).

A survey of 554 au pairs carried out by the organisation found 37.2 per cent had no contract at all and 40 per cent only had a verbal contract.

Responding to a RTÉ Investigates special on the treatment of au pairs, the centre described the increase in exploitation of au pairs as “alarming”.

More than half (58 per cent) earned less than €120 per week.

Nearly 40 per cent (37.6 per cent) were expected to work longer hours than were originally agreed and 30 per cent were asked to work even when they were sick.

The survey indicated that more than three-quarters of all au pairs in Ireland are either Brazilian (48 per cent) or Spanish (28 per cent), and 98 per cent of all au pairs in Ireland are female.

An equal number, 43 per cent, were either EU citizens or on student visas.

An investigation by RTÉ’s Investigations Unit found widespread employment abuses among the estimated 20,000 au pairs working in Ireland.

One au pair worked 12 to 14 hour days six days a week and was paid €100. Two researchers posed as a family seeking an au pair and another as an au pair.

The programme found many agencies did not vet au pairs properly.

Jane Xavier, a former au pair and member of the Au Pair Rights Association Ireland, said a culture of exploitation of au pairs was present in Ireland and she is getting complaints on a daily basis.

“As RTÉ Investigates made clear, au pairs are expected to provide full-time, flexible childcare for a fraction of the minimum wage. Au pairs need to know they have rights under the law just like any other worker in Ireland, and families need to know that they have responsibilities as employers.”

In a statement, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation pointed out that au pairs have the same contract of employment as everyone else and are entitled to the minimum wage of €8.65 an hour.

MRCI spokesperson Aoife Smith said the Government “needs to get real” about the problem.

“ We’re seeing this kind of exploitation up and down the country, and families believe it is legal because agencies tell them it is. Minister Bruton needs to enforce the law and shut down non-compliant agencies. It’s time we brought an end to this exploitation,” she stated.

“As a mother, I’m well aware of the childcare crisis in Ireland. However, exploitation is never the solution. This is important work and the very least we can do is ensure that au pairs are given minimum wage, fair working conditions and adequate time off - all of which they are entitled to under Irish law.”