Minimum wage for au pairs could destroy industry, says agency
A ruling that au pairs must be paid the minimum wage will decimate the industry, according to an agency director.
Sean Kavanagh, of SK Au Pairs, Dublin, is calling for a separate minimum wage for au pairs, but a migrants' rights watchdog wants them included in all current employee legislation.
A Spanish au pair was awarded €9,229 on Monday after the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found she had not been paid the minimum wage of €9.15 per hour and was not afforded annual leave entitlements.
Virginija Petrauskaite of the Irish Migrants' Rights Centre said the organisation is dealing with 40 cases of families allegedly abusing au pairs' working rights.
Ms Petrauskaite told the Irish Independent that four of the cases are waiting on a hearing date, while up to seven more could be taken to the WRC after their complaints are lodged.
"This judgment is crystal clear - the au pairs are not excluded from employment legislations. They should be treated like all workers," she said.
However, Mr Kavanagh said thousands of families could now let their au pairs go because of Monday's ruling.
Some 20,000 au pairs come to work in Ireland each year. But Mr Kavanagh estimates that if families had to register themselves as employees and pay the current minimum wage, this figure could fall to just 1,000.
"We estimate that the value of a room in say, Ranelagh, with heating, electricity, internet and food is about €180 per week, so we think if they were paid €130-€150 on top of that, they would be happy with that," Mr Kavanagh said.
Sheila O'Malley, of Practical Parenting, believes the issue is the burden placed on parents to pay childcare costs they can't afford.
She called on the incoming government to intervene and subsidise childcare.
"The cost of childcare is an issue for many parents and it's putting them under huge pressure," Ms O'Malley said.
"So many working couples that have families are in a situation where they really do have to cobble it together.
"It's a very hard situation where they're looking at what they're earning and looking at what they're paying out and the truth is, there's very little left after that.
"The Government certainly needs to make things easier for working parents and there are plenty of other countries that have done it well," she added.