We received an email this week from a host family, who had received a letter off the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI). The MRCI, acting on behalf of an au pair previously employed by their family, was threatening to bring a law suit against them and sue for non-payment the minimum wage.
According to the host family:
“there are 30-40 cases pending at the WRC which involves over 1000 au pairs, and this is increasing on a weekly basis”
“I definitely think host families need to be made more aware of the whole situation and that they are opening themselves to a huge liability”
Their original advert for the job was posted earlier this year and the au pair worked and lived with the family for around 5-6 months. So this family are potentially looking at having to pay their ex-employee the shortfall of 5-6 months of the difference, between what they were, and what they should have been paying them.
Our host family’s signing-off comment was
It looks like this is going to be very costly.
On the subject of the cases themselves, Aoife Smith of MRCI said:
the length of time to resolve each case varies depending on the parties willingness to resolve the issue. Situations can be resolved very quickly in some cases, where the families recognise their responsibility and make payment immediately, or it can take longer if disputes arise or if going through the Work place Relations Commission and labour inspectors.
and that the role of the MRCI is to
provide advocacy to au pairs in a number of ways. An au pairs come to our Drop In service, sometimes the au pair is happy to receive support to self advocate and discuss employment concerns with the family herself, other options include MRCI advocating on behalf of the au pair with her consent, if this is unsuccessful, MRCI may refer the case to the Workplace Relations Commission and/or Labour Inspector who will then investigate the case, they may also carry out an inspection and seek employment records etc. A complaint made to the WRC may result in a hearing at the WRC.
We strongly advise all host families to read our other blog postings, on the WRC/MRCI court case and ruling, and the minimum wages that an au pair, or any other domestic worker is entitled to, as an employee. This posting is most definitely not meant to put you off hiring an au pair, it is only meant to make you aware of the possible consequences if you fail to pay your au pair the minimum wage.