A Spanish au pair has been awarded €9,229 by the Workplace Relations Commission after the family she worked for was found to have breached employment laws.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), which supported the au pair to take the case, has welcomed the landmark decision.
MRCI Legal Officer Virginija Petrauskaite said, “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. The au pair at the centre of this case was paid just €100 a week. Unfortunately, her case is not an exception; in fact we know many au pairs whose treatment was much, much worse. The work done by au pairs and other childcare providers is absolutely essential to families, communities and the economy, and this landmark decision and award is a clear statement that it has value.”
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, and was ordered to pay a total of €9,229 to the au pair.
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. These recruitment agencies are breaking the law and misleading both families and au pairs. Families must know that au pairs are workers like any others.”
“We are currently supporting other au pairs to speak to their employers and to take cases if necessary, and we encourage all au pairs to come to us if they need information or advice. This International Women’s Day, we’re determined to stamp out the exploitation of these women who do such essential work.”
The family have accepted the judgment and paid the award in full.
In response to the judgment, the au pair stated:
“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. That's what through the Migrant Rights Centre and the decision of the Workplace Commission I have been able to obtain: respect and credibility. And it is proof of the important work being done by au pairs and domestic workers to get our rights.
I would say that it is very important for everyone to become aware of this situation, and I hope that au pairs will no longer be exploited as cheap labour.”
Aoife Murphy, MRCI Communications 086 368 7901 / 01 524 1454
Virginija Petrauskaite is available for interview.
Selected stats from MRCI survey of 554 au pairs:
– 48% were Brazilian, 28% were Spanish
– 98% female
– More au pairs were aged 31 – 35 (15%) than aged 18 – 20 (10.5%)
– 43% EU citizens, 43% on student visas
– 37.2% had no contract at all, 40% verbal contract only – so almost 80% have no written contract
– 20% (1 in 5) paid a fee to get the job
– 37.6% were expected to work more than was originally agreed
– 37% work 6-8 hours per day, 31% work 8-10 hours per day.
– 30.7% asked to work when they were sick
– 58% are paid €120 or less per week
– 1 in 10 do not have their own bedroom
– 1 in 5 are expected to be on call at night
– more than 1 in 5 (22%) do not feel comfortable in the house