Au pair/domestic workers in the UK are entitled to the National Minimum Wage

We were approached recently by a client who was a live-in domestic worker. She had been working approximately 60 hours per week, and receiving payment amounting to £1.92 per hour – well below the national minimum wage of £8.72 per hour. Her employer suggested that the worker was not entitled to the national minimum wage, because of the ‘au pair/domestic worker’ exemption.

Our support and recommendation

In order to clarify her legal entitlements, EERC immediately contacted solicitors from the Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU). ATLEU have confirmed that in accordance with the latest case law (Puthenveettil v Alexander & George, & Others 2361118/2013) the exemption is likely to be found unlawful. As a result, according to a recent article published in The Guardian, the UK Government has now asked the Low Pay Commission to make recommendations for amending the exemption in accordance with the judgment.

“The exemption, which was originally designed to apply to au pairs, applies to workers who live in an employer’s family home and are treated “as a member of the family” and benefit from accommodation and meals. But the tribunal heard that the rule has also been applied to maids and other servants, many of whom are migrants.“ As advised by ATLEU, “[t]his is a loophole that has been a conduit to slavery. Traffickers have used [it] to bring in women to households who suffer all kinds of abuses.”

Whilst changes to the exemption are to be made, in the meantime the suggestion that live in domestic workers are not entitled to the national minimum wage should be resisted.