herald

Friday 31 October 2014

Au pairs 'treated like slaves' as job market dries up

AU Pairs and nannies working for Irish families are "treated like slaves" by their employers, it is claimed.

Workers in the domestic sector are barred from leaving the house, work up to 15 hours a day and even have their mobiles taken off them.

A spokeswoman for the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said: "The cases range from lesser breaches of employment law to full-on cases of modern day slavery, where their movements are very controlled, they are not allowed to leave the house without permission, and they are not permitted to make friends within the community.

Options

"Our experience over the years, consistently, is that workers don't think they have same rights and entitlements in private homes.

"But they do have the same under Irish law, and we have been advocating for these rights for the last decade."

As the global recession has drastically limited other job prospects, nannies and other domestic workers are enduring even more awful conditions than before, she said.

"The sense we get from the case work is that they are all the more likely to tolerate bad working conditions because there are a lack of options to move.

"Some unscrupulous employers take advantage of this, knowing there are less options out there," said the spokeswoman. "They stay in even the worst cases, and tolerate high levels of exploitation."

Au pairs are not considered employees under State law, and are generally brought in to offer a helping hand to a busy family by minding children and doing light housework.

But agencies throughout the country are now campaigning for the enforcement of legislation to protect them -- particularly young women brought here through the internet.

Caroline Joyce, owner of Cara International Au Pair Agency, said: "We are concerned with girls coming through the internet, through search engines. When families search for girls directly, it's difficult.

"There are families that are not suitable and abusive and go beyond the regulated hours.

"I've heard of situations in Ireland, where a young woman was block laying in the house, and had been brought in to do au pair work.

"She was working full time in a care home and doing 20 hours a week on top of that, and she was of course zombied at the end of it. We keep trying to address the problem for both parties.

"The Government keeps turning a blind eye, and it's going to take a child dying or when something else happens, that they realise something needs to be done."

The Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland has revealed the horrible conditions that some domestic workers are forced to endure.

Childcare workers within the home are particularly vulnerable, due to the fact that they are brought in to mind children and sometimes expected to take care of them 24 hours a day.

cmcbride@herald.ie

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