In Iceland Au-pair placement is a kind of cultural exchange and is defined in the explanatory notes of the Act on Foreigners as a “…temporary reception by families in exchange for certain services, of young, foreign individuals who come to increase their language skills and even their professional skills, as well as expanding their cultural horizons by obtaining more knowledge of the country they are in”.
Young women who work as Au Pairs in Iceland are a particularly vulnerable group of foreign workers for various reasons.
An au pair in Iceland can only be a foreign national between the age of 18 and 25 years of age during their stay. When they arrive they have often travelled here alone and have little to no Icelandic language skills to support them in connecting with their new environment and people they will encounter.
The terms of a work and residence permit for an Au Pair are strict regarding salary, working hours, accommodation and length of stay. While this is a good thing one must understand work and accommodation are the premise for the legal right to be here, with the primary source of support and information being the family they reside with and work for.
Here at W.O.M.E.N in Iceland, we also understand that Au Pairs have little to no knowledge of helpful resources locally if they should find themselves in need of assistance. We look upon them as welcome members to our community and encourage other members to be aware of and off support to young foreign women working as Au Pairs here in Iceland.
Red flags to be aware of
and inform Au Pairs of
More work than agreed on (especially house chores or working for the family’s company)
Different living conditions than agreed on (state of the room, level of privacy)
Not receiving wages in accordance with the agreed upon wage
Exploitation and illegal labour (too many hours of work, working for others than the family per se, working for a company, etc)
Wages withheld if complaints are made or noncompliant
For more information about the terms of work and rights an Au Pair has, review them here on the Directorate of Immigration’s website.
You can review more information about a legal contract used to issue work and residence permit for an Au Pair here.
General terms for being an Au Pair in Iceland (As found on Au Pair World Website)
Situations of abuse
It is very important to recognize any form of abuse or violence if they should arise
Harassment, threats, blackmail
Denied rights to essential privacy
Physical abuse or threats of physical abuse
Sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual propositions
Racial discrimination or abusive discriminatory communication
Denial of personal freedoms outside of working hours
Isolation from society: limited amount of persons to reach out to, limited means of transports (very common in rural areas)
Limited access to information about the place of residence and services available to an Au Pair.
Lack of direct regulation or independent oversight other than through the Directorate of Immigration (who control residence permit rights) or the families who form a contract and essentially are the employers and providers of accommodation for an Au Pair.
Lack of knowledge of rights and protections in the general labour market in Iceland
Lack of professional oversight regarding terms of childcare and or domestic labour allowing for lines to blur regarding workload expected of Au Pair.
Pay scale is not in tact with minimum wage allowances in Iceland. Contract terms only suggested minimum wage amount, far below collective wage agreements in the labour market therefore not allowing Au Pair fair starting point when agreeing to terms of employment.
What to do if you are in this situation
or you know someone who is?
If you believe you are in danger of being or are experiencing abuse, call or utilise the anonymous webchat at 112 emergency services.
If you need to flee an abusive environment or belive you are a victim of Human Trafficking you can contact:
Bjarkahlíð Family Justice Centre (Reykjavík)
Bjarmahlíð Family Justice Centre (Akureyri)
The Women’s Shelter (Reykjavík)
The Women’s Shelter (Akureyri)
If you have issues with safety and or health conditions in your place of employment contact The Administration of Occupational Safety and Health (AOSH)
The Police (Information on website about filing a complaint or contacting local police authorities)
Directorate of Immigration (Contract infringements, denial of rights and reporting abuse by employer)
Peer Support counseling here at W.O.M.E.N
Legal Advisory for Foreigners Human Rights Office Iceland
Read More on the subject here: