Young childminders from overseas are being obliged to work in the “black market” because of a lack of clear government rules on au pairs, the Dáil has been told.
Fianna Fáil children’s affairs spokeswoman, Anne Rabbitte, criticised the Government’s delays on reporting on the situation. She said board and lodging allowances relating to au pairs dated back to 2002 and there was no sign of a promised official review.
“Families need to know where they stand on this,” Ms Rabbitte said. She added that the legal vacuum meant many au pairs were now working illegally.
Last March the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland urged that all au pairs, traditionally students learning English in Ireland and helping with childminding, should be paid the minimum wage.
It followed a ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission that a Spanish woman had been exploited and awarded her over €9,000 in back pay and compensation.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions also said au pairs should get the minimum wage. But others close to the sector said this was an excessive demand and called for better informal rules on au pair’s conditions.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, replying for the Government, said the review was continuing as part of an overall study of childcare. She noted calls for formal and legally-binding arrangements set against others seeking a code of conduct.
“Many families will want to continue with more informal arrangements. But we certainly need good guidelines,” the Justice Minister said.