Press Centre

Au pairs and domestic workers launch new Labour of Love campaign in Dublin

Au pairs, carers, and domestic workers today (Friday 6th March) launched Labour of Love, a new campaign focusing on the rights of workers in private homes across Ireland.

The campaign aims to combat the widespread underpayment, exploitation and abuse of workers providing essential care and housekeeping services. Labour of Love is calling for

  1. recognition of the employment rights of au pairs, including the right to minimum wage, and
  2. the introduction of a work permit for the domestic work sector, to recognised increased labour market demand for migrant workers in the provision of care and domestic labour in private homes across Ireland.

Jane Xavier, domestic worker spokesperson and former au pair, said “Contrary to popular belief, au pairs in Ireland are workers, not cultural exchange participants. In law, au pairs have the same rights as any other workers.  In practice, however, we are being used for full-time flexible childcare and domestic labour for a fraction of minimum wage.  This is unacceptable in 2015. We need to ensure that au pairs know their rights as workers and families know their obligations as employers.”

Aoife Smith of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) stated, “In recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of exploited au pairs coming to our centre. These young women are working in excess of 40, 50, 60 and even 70 hours weekly for very little pay, and they are afraid to leave even the most exploitative situations because they risk being left homeless.”

Ms Smith continued, “Au pairs are working long hours in family homes across Ireland, providing essential childcare services in a country where crèche fees are among the highest in Europe and where the state is not investing in public childcare systems. Despite the importance of their work, au pairs are being paid a pittance. Their basic employment rights are being completely ignored.”

The campaign is also calling for the introduction of a dedicated employment permit for domestic work, to match increasing demand for care of the elderly, childcare and household services.

Ms Smith stated, “Domestic work is essential to all economies as it enables others to work outside the home. Demand for domestic work in Ireland has increased but discriminatory immigration and employment polices have created a sector rife with exploitation, poor conditions and even trafficking. The State has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of all domestic workers are protected and that our employment and immigration policies reflect labour market needs. We need a work permit to recognise the demand for migrant domestic workers, and we need au pairs’ rights to be enforced.”

For more information on our work with au pairs, check out our briefing paper and Jane Xavier's recent speech.