A recent Workplace Rights Commission decision confirmed that au pairs are workers, and are entitled to all the benefits and protections of employment legislation in Ireland.
Since the news broke, there has been some confusion as to what this means, so our legal officer Virginija Petrauskaite has set out the facts here.
Au pairs are workers
The International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers Convention, ratified by Ireland in 2014, defines a domestic worker as a person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship. This definition includes au pairs. All employment laws must comply with the provisions of the Convention and equally apply to au pairs as to other workers.
All workers in Ireland are covered by all employment laws. A worker under Irish law is a person who works under a contract of employment. A contract may be oral or in writing. Therefore, a person is a worker if s/he is:
- Directed by a person as to how, when and where the work is to be carried out
- Works set hours or a given number of hours per week or month
- Receives a fixed hourly/weekly/monthly wage
There is no legal definition of au pair in Irish legislation, just as there is no legal definition of software engineer or CEO; so of course, this does not mean they are not covered by employment law.
What are au pairs entitled to?
Au pairs, like all other workers, are entitled to:
- A written statement of terms and conditions of their employment (a contract)
- At a minimum the national minimum hourly rate of €9.80 (the new minimum wage as of January 2019)
- A payslip or a statement of wages
- No more than 48 hours' work per week on average
- Breaks, public holidays, annual leave and Sunday premium
- Minimum notice before dismissal
- A safe and healthy working environment
- Privacy, respect and the safeguarding of their dignity and privacy
- Registration as an employee with Revenue and the Department of Social Protection
- Retain their own personal documents (such as passports, id, drivers licence, etc) and not be required to hand these documents over to employers
- Freedom from discrimination due to gender, family or civil marital status, age, disability, race, sexual orientation, religion or membership of the travelling community
- Maternity entitlements
What are the responsibilities of an employer?
- Provide a written statement of terms and conditions of employment detailing hours, rates, duties, breaks/leave entitlements, treatment of travel time etc
- Safeguard the privacy and well-being of the employee
- Not keep any personal document belonging to an employee
- Agree all additional duties by prior agreement only
- Reimburse out-of-pocket expenses promptly
- Facilitate the employee in the free exercise of personal pursuits
- Not restrict the employee’s right to trade union membership
- Keep detailed records in relation to all employees (these records must be kept for up to three years)
Myths and Misinformation
The following address the most common queries that MRCI has received in recent months.
Au Pairs are NOT mostly young and inexperienced individuals – while a small percentage of the au pairs working in Ireland are under 21, MRCI’s casework data suggests that the majority of au pairs are older, highly-educated (third level degrees obtained from their home countries) and experienced in a variety of professional fields such as law, business, marketing or teaching. Some au pairs are themselves parents.
Casual childcare arrangements with neighbours/ friends are NOT subjected to the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. There is no definition of casual employment or casual employee in the Irish employment legislation.
Grandparents will NOT be subject to the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. The National Minimum Wage Act 2000 does not apply to immediate family members. Section 5 of the Act clearly defines immediate family members who are exempted from this Act. For example, grandparents minding their grandchildren do not have to be paid €9.55 per hour. In fact, they don’t have to be paid at all unless parents choose to do so.
The employer CAN make deductions from wages where the employee is provided with meals and/or lives in the place of employment. NB as of January 2018 these rates have changed -see http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2017/si/440/made/en/print
Who to contact
If you are an au pair and have questions about your rights as a worker, please contact us. Our services are free and confidential.
If you are employing an au pair and have questions about your rights and responsibilities as an employer, check out the Workplace Relations Commission site.
*Au pairs in other European countries
A Council of Europe Agreement on Au Pair Placement of 24 November 1969 provides a set of rules for au pair placements in some countries and defines the conditions governing such placements. Ireland has never ratified this Agreement, and it is the opinion of the MRCI that we should not ratify it at any point in the future; such agreements create a hierarchy of workers and workers' rights, and add to the devaluing of important work carried out primarily by women.