Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte says au pairs and their host families need legal certainty in the wake of a Workplace Relations Commission ruling made last March.

Deputy Rabbitte said, “The ‘Au Pair Placement Bill 2016’ introduced by my party will bring legal clarity and certainty to the situation of au pair exchanges in Ireland. There is currently no definition of an au pair in Irish legislation. This needs to be rectified.

“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. The tradition of au pair exchanges will come to an end if legislation is not enacted to deal with this issue. This would be a tragedy for the families who host au pairs and for the thousands of young people who travel to our shores each year on such exchanges.

“This legislation provides new protections to au pairs as well as host families. It recognises that there is a small minority that abuse au pair placements and need to be tackled. It also acknowledges that there are thousands of young people who travel to Ireland each year on an au pair placement and have a wonderful experience while living with a host family, just as hundreds of Irish people have when they travel abroad on such placements each year.

“This legislation will effectively outlaw the current practice of au pairs and host families finding each other online via unregulated websites. It will also ensure that a written agreement between a host family and an au pair is signed before an exchange begins. This agreement will set out in detail the daily routine for an au pair. The legislation stipulates that if an au pair is working excessive hours then they will automatically be considered a domestic worker.

“A new complaints and dispute resolution mechanism will also be established under this legislation. This will help provide on-going resolution to minor as well as major disputes between au pairs and their host families. Importantly, the definition of an au pair in the legislation ensures that they are not a substitute for other forms of childcare.

“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, while also receiving pocket money of at least €120. They get the opportunity to immerse themselves in a foreign language and culture, while families have additional assistance with their childcare routine.”