A Fianna Fáil TD believes she and thousands of other families are efficiently classified as criminals because of a lack of regulation around au pairs.
In the Dáil last night, Anne Rabbitte said there is no legal definition of au pairs, a situation which has created a “legal lacuna” for host families and au pairs.
She highlighted a recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruling on au pair payments, which, said Ms Rabbitte, “threatens to undermine the tradition of au pair exchanges”.
In March the WRC ordered a Spanish au pair be paid at least the minimum wage.
“The issue affects 20,000 families who use au pairs and who have been criminalised by the ruling,” Ms Rabbitte said during a discussion on a Fianna Fáil private member’s bill to regulate the use of au pairs.
Ms Rabbitte told the Dáil that as a mother who works full time, she needs the support of an au pair. “I don’t see myself as a criminal and that’s what I would be classified as,” she said.
The bill lays down a maximum of 30 hours’ “light domestic help” per week in exchange for “hospitality, lodging, and pocket money”.
Ms Rabbitte said while the idea of providing pocket money rather than a wage has been criticised, “such criticism is misguided”.
Junior Minister Pat Breen said Fine Gael would not be supporting the motion, adding that it is “completely silent on employment law”.
“Do the members opposite truly believe that one human being should work 30 hours per week, or seven hours per day, for another in return for board, lodging, and pocket money? That is why we cannot support this,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Maurice Quinlivan said his party would be opposing the bill and described it as “vague and lacking clarity”.
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