Press Centre

MRCI Calls for Regulation of Au Pair Sector: New Study Shows Over One Third of Au Pairs Felt Exploited

Part of the Family cover

PRESS RELEASE: 17 December 2012

A new study by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) shows the unregulated au pair sector in Ireland leaves au pairs completely unprotected and wide open to abuse and exploitation. MRCI is calling for a regulatory framework to establish rights for au pairs and to set industry standards.

The research, ‘Part of the Family?’ was conducted with 53 au pairs in Ireland over a five month period. It shows young au pairs, predominantly women, working excessively long hours with heavy workloads, given too much responsibility while receiving low payment.

The report highlighted ad hoc recruitment practices, unsuitable placements, poor vetting procedures, the lack of support available for au pairs, psychological stress for young au pairs, and a lack of concern for the welfare of the au pair who is increasingly being relied on to provide full-time childcare in host families but without the protection of legislation. Recommendations call for an urgent need to regulate the sector and prevent further exploitation, as is best practice in other EU countries.

Aoife Smith of the MRCI and author of the research, said: "The Au Pair is not a worker. It was intended to be a cultural exchange programme. Au pairs are not protected by employment legislation. However, the research shows they are being used as a cheap form of labour to provide childcare."

She continued, "We need regulations to establish rights for au pairs and host families.  We need an Au Pair Visa for non EU au pairs. We need to clamp down on precarious online recruitment that poses a serious threat to the health and safety of au pairs. There should be vetting procedures and model contracts established to outline hours, duties and payment. If a host family is found to be abusing au pairs, they should be banned from accessing further au pairs."


Full report: click here

Notes to Editor:

MRCI (2012) Survey findings of 53 Au Pairs showed:

  • 58% were EU Citizens
  • 38% held Student Visas
  • 2% Undocumented
  • 2% were Working Holiday Visas
  • 36% reported being exploited as an au pair
  • 42% received no written contract
  • 51% claimed the situation was worse than they expected
  • 15% had to be ‘on call’ at night
  • 13% reported not being free to leave the house after duties were done
  • 21% worked more than eight hours a day
  • 26% worked between 40 and 60 hours weekly
  • 8% worked in excess of 60 hours weekly
  • 17% were paid less than €100 per week
  • 49% were paid between €100 and €119 per week
  • 21% did not receive regular breaks
  • 27% worked Sunday – 83% of these did not receive extra payment
  • 41% worked Bank Holidays – 76% of these did not receive extra payment
  • 30% reported not getting any holidays
  • 29% felt they had not learned about Irish culture
  • 26% reported not being included in family activities
  • 23% claimed they did not feel valued and respected by their host family
  • 25% had worked previously as an au pair in Ireland - 77% of these reported being exploited in a previous au pair position
  • 58% of all respondents had never made a complaint.
  • 32% of these claimed they did not complain as they were too afraid or did not know where to go.
  • 68% were aware of au pairs being treated badly in Ireland