Following a court case in Ireland in March 2016 there has been a lot of confusion regarding the status of au pairs in Ireland. In this court case the judge awarded the Spanish au pair more than €9,000 because the family weren't compliant with aspects of the Minimum Wage Act, and other aspects of Irish employment law. For a more detailed analysis of this courtcase see the complete article published in lexology.
Status of au pairs
There is currently and never has been specific legislation governing au pairs in Ireland. As such there is no specific law governing the work and conditions of au pairs. According to the Council of Europe an au pair is a young foreign person who comes to improve their linguistic and possibly professional knowledge as well as their general culture by acquiring a better knowledge of the country where they are received.
As Ireland has not ratified the 'european agreement on 'au pair' placement and protocol, the status of au pairs may not be defined under a cultural exchange programme in Ireland, even though it is accepted to be a cultural exchange programme in other countries in Europe and throughout the world.
What does this mean for families and au pairs in Ireland?
Unfortunately the relevant decision of this court case is not available for review, as the adjudication was conducted in private. As a result we are not aware of the what relevant factors influenced the Adjudication Officer's decision in this case. For this reason it is not possible to know what the outcome of any future similar court cases would be.
However from our understanding of this court case, it is likely that au pairs are going to be deemed to be employees until such time as au pair-specific legislation is established. Families with au pairs are encouraged to review their own arrangements in order to consider whether or not they may be exposed in terms of a complaint by their au pair to the WRC.
Current situation of au pairs in Ireland
In recent times, there have been a number of articles in the national press and radio stations stating that Fianna Fail have proposed an au pair bill to govern the au pair programme in Ireland. This legislation would outline conditions including au pair working hours, household duties, money and obligations of the host family. Details of what would constitute household duties would be decided by an Au Pair Accreditation Council. The bill is also aimed at cracking down on the "less regulated elements" of the au pair agency sector. According to an article in the Sunday Independent newspaper if the legislation is enacted, au pairs could only be hired through accredited au pair agencies.
As always if we are made aware of any other developments in the au pair situation in Ireland or in any other country, we will keep you informed.
Other related articles:
au pair programme Ireland
Petition for au pair legislation in Ireland