(photo by dreamstime)
According to a recent article in the Herald, au pairs in or heading to need to be careful. The article reports that some au pairs are being forced to work 15 hour days, barred from leaving the host family’s home, and even have their mobile phones confiscated. This information came from a migrants’ rights representative, who claims that some au pairs living in Ireland are being treated like second-class citizens at best, while others are being used and treated as full-on slaves. She reports that many au pairs are under complete control of their employers and are not free to do anything without approval from them.
These are serious accusations, and while I am not in Ireland do not know how much of this is true (although it appears legitimate, if social workers focused on migrants’ rights are involved), I do know that it is very important for au pairs to do their homework and make sure that they will be working for a caring, welcoming family who will treat them as one of the family and not a servant. While it is not always possible to know exactly what you are getting into, the best way to ensure not becoming a slave (or even a second-class citizen – not as dramatic, but also not fun!) is to go through an au pair agency.
With human trafficking so prevalent in today’s world, it is important to take precautions and be as safe as possible. It is also important to remember that those already employed as au pairs have the same employee rights as others. Because you are working in a family’s home does not mean that you are not a real employee. On the contrary, au pairs enjoy legal employment status. This means that au pairs are only required to perform the tasks stated in their contracts within the specified number of work hours, no more. If the situation is not what has been stipulated, it is important to turn to the agency or to government officials for help.
Remember, au pairs are employees and part of the family – or at least they should be! Any sort of behavior control or abuse should not be tolerated under any circumstances.