In the UK, regulation 57(3) of the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 has meant that live-in domestic workers who are treated as a member of the family are not entitled in law to receive the national minimum wage, or any salary at all.
Often referred to as the ‘family worker exemption’, it means that an employer facing a claim that they failed to pay their live-in domestic worker a salary, or one in line with the national minimum wage, has a potential defence. Workers who may have been subjected to serious exploitation or abuse would then need to show that they were not treated as a member of the family to achieve justice.
ATLEU, a charity providing legal representation to victims of trafficking and labour exploitation, are delighted that after years of litigation, research and making the case for the family worker exemption to be removed, they finally have some good news. On October 27, 2021, the Low Pay Commission stated that the exemption is not fit for purpose.
The Low Pay Commission has recommended that the exemption be removed in its entirety, stating:
If the government wishes to retain an exemption it would need to introduce a visa route for au pairs and amend 57(3) to avoid a loophole for exploitation. The exemption should clearly state what is meant by an au pair and the scope of their duties to ensure that it cannot be applied to domestic workers, to care workers, or to au pairs who are de facto working as cleaners and nannies without adequate remuneration or genuine cultural exchange. The exemption should also expressly state that it cannot be relied upon by those employed under an overseas domestic worker visa.
ATLEU are urging the government to take up this recommendation and stop rogue employers from exploiting their workers. Read more about their work and the importance of this recommendation being taken up here.