Katherine Zappone rejects Fianna Fáil call for au pair regulation

FF says lack of job definition puts au pairs at risk of exploitation.

Katherine Zappone rejects Fianna Fáil call for au pair regulation

Picture by: Charlie Riedel / AP/Press Association Images

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has rejected Fianna Fáil's call for a private members' motion to regulate the use of au pairs in Ireland.

The bill was proposed last night in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil's spokesperson for children and youth affairs, Anne Rabbitte, said that there is currently no legal definition of au pairs in Ireland, which she argued puts people at risk of being exploited.

She urged the minister to consider the idea of setting up of an agency to deal with the placement of au pairs.

Ms Zappone said in response that setting up an agency would cost about €500,000 a year.

The debate follows a ruling made by Workplace Relations Commission last March, in which a Spanish au pair was awarded €9,000 and won the right to be paid at least minimum wage.

Ms Rabbitte said that the tradition of au pairing was a beneficial experience for young people.

“We should be looking to continue the tradition of au pair exchanges. Young adults who embark on them benefit by living in Ireland for up to a year with no accommodation expense.

"They get the opportunity to immerse themselves in a foreign language and culture, while families have additional assistance with their childcare routine.”

However, she said that the ruling by the WRC threatens to undermine its intended nature.

“The ruling made by the WRC threatens to undermine the whole tradition of au pair exchanges in Ireland. This issue affects 20,000 families who have in effect been criminalised by this ruling."

Ms Zappone said that the proposal ran contrary to the ruling of the WRC, the National Minimum Wage Act and the Court of Justice of the European Union.  

Both Sinn Féin and Fine Gael said that they would not be supporting the bill.