Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (405)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

405. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection following the recently published Migrant Rights Centre Ireland Report December 2012 Part of the Family, which illustrates the way the unregulated au pair system is being used to facilitate cheap childcare and that leaves au pairs without basic protections, her plans to address the issue of au pairs here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8223/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department of Social Protection does not have responsibility for the matter raised by the Deputy. As advised by my colleague, Richard Bruton, T.D., Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, in response to Parliamentary Question 6485/13, the National Employments Rights Authority (NERA) investigates complaints in relation to breaches of employment law. Any complaints received by NERA in relation to au pairs would first be examined using the “Code of Practice for Determining the Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals” in order to determine whether or not the person is in fact an employee.

If the person is determined to be an employee, they enjoy the full protection of Irish Employment Law and the NERA inspection and enforcement procedures operate in the normal way. A Code of Practice for Protecting Persons Employed in Other People’s Homes (S.I. No. 239 of 2007) is in place and can be accessed on NERA’s website. Where people have concerns that employees may be exploited, or may be receiving less than their statutory entitlement, the matter should be reported to NERA for investigation.

Section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time) Work Act 2001 provides that all employee protection legislation applies to a person, irrespective of his or her nationality or place of residence, who has entered into a legal contract of employment that provides for him or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a legal contract of employment. Therefore, once it is clear that a person is working under such a contract of employment in another person’s home, on a full-time or part-time basis, that person has the same protection under law as all other employees.

Employments in the State under a contract of service or apprenticeship, written or oral, may be insurable for social insurance purposes. A person aged over 16 years and under pensionable age (currently 66 years) may be regarded as an employed contributor for social insurance purposes and, subject to payment of the appropriate PRSI contributions and satisfying the other qualifying conditions, may qualify for the full range of long and short- term social insurance benefits. For Class A employees, PRSI at the rate of 4% is payable based on their weekly earnings. In addition, employers are required to pay PRSI at the rate of 10.75% in respect of their employees.

In addition, as Minister Burton advised, the Department of Justice and Equality operates the student visa scheme and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have responsibility for childcare matters. Accordingly, any issues in regard to these matters should be addressed to those Departments.