Migrant Rights Centre hails 'ground-breaking' au pair ruling

Tuesday 08 March 2016 22.46
The family accepted the ruling and paid a total of €9,229 ordered by the commission
The family accepted the ruling and paid a total of €9,229 ordered by the commission

A Spanish childminder who won a landmark case against an Irish host family to be treated as an employee has said she hopes au pairs will "no longer be exploited as cheap labour".

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, took a case to the Workplace Relations Commission on a number of employment grounds.

Ruling in her favour, the WRC found the family breached several employment laws, including that she was not paid the minimum wage.

It ordered that the woman should be compensated for money owed for work, rest, annual leave and public holidays.

The family accepted the ruling and paid a total of €9,229 ordered by the commission.

The au pair was paid €100 a week plus board for between 30 and 60 hours of work per week during her employment with the family between August 2014 and January 2015.

In November 2014, she was paid €200 a week when her employer was away and she assumed full responsibility for household activities and looking after the children, 7am-6pm Monday to Friday.

The au pair issued a statement through Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, which assisted in taking the case to the WRC. 

"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.

"With this judgment I feel respected for my work at last."

She added: "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."

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Edel McGinley of the Migrants Rights Centre Ireland said this was a "ground-breaking case because it establishes without a doubt that au pairs are workers".

"This case really shows and makes it crystal clear that an au pair is an employee and has to be treated as such."

She said the MRC is currently working on 40 au pair cases, some of which are expected to be settled and others to be heard at the WRC. 

"If you are an employer of an au pair do not fall into the trap of not paying them proper wages. It's illegal," Ms McGinley added. 

Watch a special RTÉ Investigations Unit programme aired in December 2015: Ireland's Au Pairs

Keywords: au pair