Au pair payout
  • Nannies who worked in the United States between 2009 and 2018 have landed a nearly R100 million settlement from agencies they accused of helping to exploit them.
  • The average individual payouts will come in at around R50,000 – including for one original South African claimant, and some of her colleagues.
  • It's not clear how many South Africans will be receiving cheques, but all future US au pairs can expect better information on pay and working conditions.
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Some South African nannies who worked in the United States will be receiving cheques that should average around R50,000 each as part of a class action settlement in a case around pay and working conditions.

A US district court last week gave final approval to a settlement between au pairs and a group of agencies that facilitated their employment in America between 2009 and the end of 2018.

The settlement creates a fund of $65.5 million, not much short of R100 million, that will be shared between lawyers and around 10,000 au pairs who filed claims as part of the suit.

See also: Silicon Valley parents are so panicked about kids' screen time that they're having nannies sign 'no-phone contracts' and posting photos of rule-breakers online

The organisers of the claim told Business Insider South Africa that it was not clear how many South African nannies form part of the group, in part because some South Africans on the database of claimants have addresses in the United States or other countries, as they continue to work abroad.

But he is "confident lots of South African former au pairs will receive cheques," said David Seligman, executive director of the non-profit Towards Justice, which initiated the claim in 2014.

A South African woman was among an original group of 11 au pairs from around the world that initially took their agencies to court.

The group said the agencies had colluded to keep their salaries low through mechanisms that included making it seem as if a US federally mandated minimum wage was the maximum they could earn, and ignoring overtime worked.

At the heart of the lawsuit was the question of whether au pairs were employees, or more like family friends helping out around the house while experiencing life in another country.

In terms of the settlement the agencies have not admitted to wrongdoing, but have agreed to in future make sure au pairs know they can negotiate payment above the minimum wage of just under $200 a week (around R2,700), after a deduction for accommodation and food.

Some 160,000 au pairs were believed to have been eligible to join the suit, but only around 10,000 participated by formally registering their claims.

Details of the settlement, and how to get in touch with the claims administrator are available on the website.

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