ONLINE recruitment of au pairs leaves young people at "extreme risk of exploitation", the author of a hard-hitting new report has warned.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has called for regulations to establish rights for young people, mainly women, who travel from abroad to take up a position as an au pair. Author and MRCI community worker Aoife Smith said there should be a "clampdown" on precarious online placement websites, with all families seeking au pairs required to use reputable agencies.
"If you are an unscrupulous family there is no one checking on you," said the author, whose new study collated the experiences of 53 au pairs during five months of interviews.
"So many of the au pairs are on so little wages they can't access private rented accommodation if needed, and if they do run away then they are back looking on the internet for another position."
Included in the problems highlighted in the report, 'Part of the family?', was a high level of au pairs claiming exploitation and abuse, with complaints of heavy workloads, long hours and extremely low pay.
• One-third reported not getting any holidays and 36pc felt they were exploited.
• Around 32pc claimed they did not complain as they were too afraid.
• Some 26pc worked between 40 and 60 hours a week and 13pc claimed they were not free to leave the house after their duties were done.
lAround 49pc were paid between €100 and €119 a week.
Julie Kelly from the Au Pair Study Agency in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, has also called for "regulations", saying some online platforms were operating almost like "dating agencies".
The Department for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has confirmed there are no plans to introduce legislation to regulate the sector but individual complaints can be made to the National Employment Rights Authority.