Host families who violates the terms and conditions of the Au Pair Scheme
Blacklisting and quarantine for abusive host families and host families who violates the terms and conditions for the au pair permit?
In July 2013 the Norwegian Parliament passed an amendment to the Immigration Act making it possible to blacklist host families who violates the terms and conditions for the Au Pair Scheme or otherwise abuse the au pair.
As au pairs you are invited to Norway to learn about culture and Norwegian language. Cultural exchange means participation in the family, in their daily activities and routines, eat with them, talk with them and play with the children. Cultural exchange is a mutual thing and au pairs are also expected to participate in the family and as such should be ON EQUAL TERMS with the host family. When invited to the summer house or the mountain cabin you are invited there to spend leisure time, and not to clean or serve. Christmas Eve is not about serving at a dinner party but to learn about Norwegian Christmas tradition. And May 17th is not a day of work, but of leisure and celebration – with ice-cream, hot dogs, parades and marching bands!
Unfortunately, we see many families that fall into the category of families that should be banned from having au pair. Often we receive reports on families that expect the au pair to work more than five hours per day. Many work between 10-14 hours per day. We see work-lists in such detail that you have to be a professional cleaner, an expert nanny or at least excellent at multitasking to be able to complete all tasks. But au pairs are not cleaners or professional nannies and should not be expected to work as one. You are not supposed to do hard labour, and not at all do tasks such as paint the house, plumbing, electrical work, wash windows on the outside, wash the family car, chop wood, look after children during the night or take care of disabled children or elderly people, or clean for a neighbor, the grandparents etc.
In all this, families who treat the au pair scheme as access to cheap labour often use abusive language, threats and different forms of direct and indirect force. Other families intentionally fail to pay the allowance, to deduct and pay the taxes, or fail to pay the holiday money. We also see families who does not provide sufficient food to the au pair and have made it clear that they do not intend to. Other families repeatedly violates the privacy of the au pair. Others do not provide a separate room for the au pair. And again, too many ask the au pair to look after their children while they go away for a week-end or a night.
Cultural exchange may cause misunderstandings and at times it is difficult to understand the other part as we have different upbringing and cultural references that make us interpret the other with a different view. This is often the core of cultural learning, and which we through dialogue may resolve and learn from. However, some families resolve conflicts by yelling and shouting to the au pair. Yelling and screaming are not acceptable and definitely not part of the cultural learning and exchange.
If your host family commits any of the acts as stated above it may qualify for registration in the quarantine (blacklist) if repeated multiple times or as a one-time act if deemed sufficiently severe. Some cases may amount to forced labour and as such is a criminal offense under the Criminal Code, Section 224, see further information below.
It is important that au pairs being subject to this sort abuse report the host families either to the police or to the UDI directly.
If the host family should be black listed the procedure will be as follows:
The au pair should send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the local police station and file a complaint against the host family. If the UDI decides to establish a case against the host family, both au pair and host family shall have the opportunity to give their statement before the UDI decides what proceedings they will issue against the host family. The local police takes the statement from the au pair and/or the host family.
The au pair shall also have sufficient time to look for another host family while the abusive host family is under investigation. Also, if the UDI dismiss the allegations, the au pair should not risk consequences of any kind.
It is important to know that this is not a criminal offense for which the host family has been charged of. The UDI as a public authority has the power to decide the outcome of the complaint based on information received. The decision can be appealed to UNE.
The regulations for the procedure can be read here (in Norwegian only).
Cases of forced labour, Criminal Code, Section 224.
If the host family is;
Any of these acts, either together or separately may amount to a criminal offense. The purpose of the threats would usually be to force (direct/indirectly) the au pair to work long hours, either in the private home of the host family or in the business of the host family (agriculture, cleaning, restaurants, shops etc.) and as such may be defined as forced labour. The very nature of the forced labour will vary from case to case. The same will apply to the force used. What is important is that the combination of long working hours on a non-voluntary basis is unlawful.
If that is the case, it is important to seek assistance and help from the local police. The police has an obligation to inform you of your right to legal assistance and to apply for a reflection period. Also, the Au Pair Center assist and will be able to provide basic food and lodging until other arrangements have been found. Please do call the Au Pair Center if you are in need of guidance and help if you find yourself in a situation as described or if you know of some au pair that are living under such conditions.
A link to more information on trafficking here (in Norwegian though).