The job of an au pair is to enjoy living with a family and experiencing their culture, and their language. Au pair is French for ‘equal to’ meaning they are considered equally part of the host family, like the role of an older sibling, who would also look after the children of host family on a flexible yet part-time basis.
They are not a nanny which is a full-time paid person who is ‘employed’ to look after a family’s children. An au pair is normally expected to be treated as an equal part of the family, not a servant, do not wear a uniform, and usual practice means they would join the family with meals and activities.
If a family is looking for a full time caregiver for their children then having an au pair is not suitable. The role of an au pair is to share the responsibility of housework and childcare for a temporary basis, whereby both parties benefit from learning about the other’s culture.
The au pair and host family role should be mutually beneficial. Neither party should feel ‘exploited’ from this arrangement. If you are thinking of bringing an au pair into your home or intending on travelling to become an au pair, here is our advice on how to be fair to your au pair and vice versa:
The term ‘light housework’ is notoriously ambiguous and can mean anything from turning on the dishwasher to re-tiling the bathroom. If you expect your au pair to do some washing-up and vacuuming or keep the kids room clean, agree on what is acceptable and set it out in writing . Asking your au pair to hand-wash sheets, mind your kids 24/7 or cook for the entire family everyday is exploitation.
Here are what is generally agreed ofthe duties of an au pair:
There is currently no legislation governing the work and conditions of au pairs. Many au pairs are considered not as employees, but rather as an arrangment through agencies for the purposes of learning about the host families culture and language.
However, a determination by the Workplace Relations Commission in early 2016, held that a specific spanish au pair was an employee and should therefore receive all the rights and entitlements of an employee which would include a written statement of employment, minimum wage, payslips, tax, PRSI and USC must be deducted, annual leave and public holidays, redundancy entitlements, unfair dismissal rights, record keeping requirements, equal rights, maternity entitlements, the right not to be discriminated against, right to privacy, to be registered as an employee with Revenue, minimum notice, rest periods and maximum weekly working hours.
The decision by the WRC is not available for review, as all Adjudications are conducted in private, and it is not therefore possible to assess what relevant factors in that specific case influenced the Adjudication Officer’s decision. However, based on this case, it would seem likely that au apairs will be deemed as employees going forward and families with au pairs should familiarise themselves with the legal entitlements of domestic workers here