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Question

337. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on families using au pairs following a recent ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission; if she will address concerns raised by families who have indicated they will no longer be able to afford to employ au pairs; if she will apply a cultural exchange programme to au pairs operating here as is in place in other European countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6975/16]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): My remit in this area is limited to the immigration status of non-EEA nationals and ultimately this issue is not about immigration but rather the rights of employees. The question of employment rights is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and indeed I understand that the person the subject of the recent ruling referred to by the Deputy was an EU national, who would not need immigration permission to be in Ireland in any event.
In the recent case before the Workplace Relations Commission, the position, as I understand it, an individual working as an au pair was deemed to be an employee, with the entitlements that go with that status, including payment of the minimum wage. While there has traditionally been a social and cultural dimension to work as an au pair, which presumably can continue into the future, this cannot alter the entitlements of individuals deemed to be employees. This applies irrespective of the immigration arrangements under which they are resident in Ireland.
As far as the immigration aspects of this issue are concerned, a non-EEA national would not be granted immigration permission for the primary purpose of being an au pair and I understand that such employment would not be eligible for an employment permit. Persons on student permission with an Immigration Stamp 2 are entitled to engage in casual work for 40 hours per week during the months May to August and for a 4 week period from Mid December to Mid January. Outside that time the limit is 20 hours per week. Working as an au pair during that time is not forbidden but, as stated above, such work is subject to the various entitlements that employees have. Question No. 338 answered with Question No. 331.