Policy issues relating to childcare fall within the remit of my colleague, Ms Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Issues relating to employment rights policy fall within my remit. Ireland’s body of employment rights legislation protects all employees legally employed on an employer-employee basis in Ireland. Therefore, once it is clear that a person is working under a contract of employment in another person’s home, on a full-time or part-time basis, that person has the same protection under employment law as other employees and as such, it is my view that no additional regulation is required.
It is important to distinguish such domestic employees from an au pair placement. A genuine au pair placement falls outside the scope of the employer-employee relationship.
The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has encountered individuals, described by their employers as au pairs, who have been found to be domestic employees and as such are fully protected by the State’s employment rights legislation. NERA investigates such employers who are using the term au pair to avoid their statutory obligations under employment law. Complaints received by NERA concerning au pairs would first be examined using the “Code of Practice Determining the Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals” in order to determine whether or not the person is in fact an employee. Where the employment status of the person cannot be established or is in dispute the matter is referred to the Scope Section of the Department of Social Protection.
Where a person has concerns that employees may be exploited or are receiving less than their statutory entitlement, the matter can be reported to NERA for investigation. Cases for redress on matters relating to Employment Equality or Employment Rights legislation can be made on the workplace relations complaint form available from NERA or online at ww.workplacerelations.ie.