An au pair who was charged over €500 by her employers when she decided to leave has been awarded total compensation of almost €5,500 by the Labour Court.

In February 2016, Dayana Jonson Goncalves Generoso from Brazil started working as a live-in au pair with married couple Thomas and Bernardine McCormack from Milltown in Dublin.

As an English student, her visa permitted her to work for 20 hours a week during term-time and 40 hours a week during the holidays. She had certified attendance at her school of over 92%.

Her duties were to look after their children aged 3 and 1 and do some housekeeping.

She worked from 7am to 5pm every day - plus four additional hours babysitting - bringing her working week to 54 hours - exceeding the 48 hour limit provided for under the Organisation of Working Time Act.

She was paid €150 per week plus board and lodging - an effective hourly rate of €2.78, and well below the then national minimum wage of €9.15 per hour.

She did not receive any written contract or statement of her terms and conditions of employment.

In July, when she decided to leave giving two days notice, the McCormacks told her that she must give them a payment of €540 in lieu of four weeks notice.

Mr McCormack told the Labour Court he got the idea that she would have to give four weeks' notice from when he worked in Dunnes Stores, where he would have had to give four weeks notice.

The legal minimum notice period would have been one week.

The McCormacks drafted a document for her to sign her consent, and she handed over €510 - all the cash she had at the time - in lieu of notice before she left their home that evening.

Ms Generoso told the court that she had not been made aware of her rights. 

At the appeal, their solicitor Richard Grogan argued that because Ms Generoso was working in excess of the hours permitted under her visa, the contract was illegal, and could not be enforced - meaning Ms Generoso would not have been entitled to rely on employment rights protection.

However, the Labour Court ruled that Ms Generoso had entered into a valid contract which could not be rendered illegal by the number of hours which she had been required to work by the McCormacks.

At last month's hearing, Thomas McCormack told the Labour Court that he "hadn't a clue" that he was entering into an employer-employee relationship with Ms Generoso, or that a person working in his home had the same rights as other workers.

He noted that hundreds of other families could find themselves in the same position.

The Labour Court awarded Ms Generoso €4,947.05 to bring her wages up to the national minimum wage, along with €510 to reimburse her for the "notice" money which she had been forced to pay to the McCormacks.

The Workplace Relations Commission had previously found in Ms Generoso's favour on a number of other employment issues, but the McCormacks had not chosen to appeal those findings.

Solicitor Richard Grogan who represented the McCormacks said he had no comment.