The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland has said some au pairs are working 40, 50, 60, and up to 70 hours a week in private homes.
A spokesperson said they were doing full time childcare, working on call at night, working weekends, working public holidays, for an average of €100.
An investigation by RTE’s Investigations Unit revealed an increase in the number of reports of negative experiences among the estimated 20,000 au pairs working in Ireland.
The programme called ‘Ireland’s Au Pairs’ found that in some cases families were offering just bed and board to au pairs with no wages or pocket money.
One Au Pair tells how she worked with a family six days a week, an average of 12-14 hours per day and was paid €100 a week, less than €1.50 an hour.
The RTÉ Investigations Unit posed as a Dublin family with two children looking for an au pair. A researcher also posed as a potential au pair.
Despite claims of vetting both au pairs and host families by a number of au pair agencies, no checks were made on either the potential au pair or the potential host family.
In a statement, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said that once “a person is working under a contract of employment (written or verbal), on a full-time or part-time basis, that person has the same protection under employment law as other employees.”
If au pairs are workers then they are protected under Irish and European law it they are therefore entitled at the very least to the national minimum wage of €8.65 per hour.
Kieran Mulvey, Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission, said that au pairs are not in Ireland to be exploited but are in fact domestic workers.
He advised host families that should they bring an au pair into their home, they will be considered employers and au pairs will be considered employees.
In relation to au pair agencies, Mr Mulvey said the time for ambiguity was well past, he said the Workplace Relations Commission believes they are operating as regular employment agencies and should be registered and licensed appropriately.