Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare South Fiona O’Loughlin says au pairs have been left in limbo following the failure of the Government to introduce legislation to formally recognise their work.

Deputy O’Loughlin, who is the party’s Spokesperson on Equality, Immigration and Integration, added that legislation is needed to ensure au pairs are not exploited.

Deputy O’Loughlin said, “A recent ruling by the WRC threatens to undermine the whole tradition of au pair exchanges in Ireland. The issue affects some 20,000 families who have in effect been criminalised following the 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 families who host au pairs and for the thousands of young people who travel to our shores each year on such exchanges.

“Fianna Fáil previously brought forward extensive proposals to deal with this issue. The ‘Au Pair Placement Bill 2016’ aimed to bring about 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 is something which needs to be addressed in an urgent manner.

“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 expenses, 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.

“There are clearly problems with the current manner in which au pair exchanges operate in Ireland. Our proposals include the implementation of a new complaints and dispute resolution mechanism. 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 our proposal ensures that they are not a substitute for other forms of childcare.

“The Government has previously pledged to introduce its own legislation to give recognition to the work that au pairs carry out. However we are yet to see any reliable timeline as to when the Government intends on bringing forward proposals on this issue. This is deeply unsatisfactory. Families need to know where they stand on this issue,” concluded Deputy O’Loughlin.