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Old 15.05.2012, 05:56
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Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

Hi I am new to this forum, lead here by a google search, trying to find
some help for my 19 year old daughter.
She is from Canada and was working as an au pair in Switzerland but was asked
to leave by her employer. She had signed an employment agreement which and
was supposed to be employed for another two months, get two weeks paid
vacation and have her plane ticket home paid for. As it stands she has
was told she would get two weeks severance (yet to be paid) and thats
it. I really don't know if the the employment agreement was worth the
paper it was written on and whether it's enforceable. My guess is it's
not although it was all arranged by an au pair agency. Her care of the
children was never in question and was told she was excellent with
the kids. They weren't happy that she didn't always keep her room clean
and a few other minor teenager type things but things had been relatively
fine up until a about a month ago. At that point the father who had always
been a bit verbally and mentally abusive towards her stepped things up considerably.
I won't get into specifics but suffice to say I wouldn't treat a dog the way
he treated and talked to her. If I had to guess he was trying to break her
to get her to leave so he wouldn't be obligated to her remaining
tenure. She's pretty strong willed and When she didn't cave he finally
asked her to get out the same day without even ensuring she would have
a place to spend the night.

I really want to see my daughter get some justice for the way she was
treated. I personally could care less about the money, although it does
mean a lot to her fiancial situation, and it would be nice for her sake.
To me it's more about trying to prevent them from hiring another young
unspecting girl and doing the same thing to them. In Canada I could probably
make either a human or employee rights complaint. Is their anything
similar in Switzerland that I can look into for her ? Thanks in advance
for any help or advice offered.
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Old 15.05.2012, 07:51
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

First step is to contact the au pair agency. If your complaint holds up, they won't let the family get another au pair (I say if because, let's be honest, 19 year old girls are not always the most truthful source of information, and the agency old have to look into the situation).

Employment law definitely favors the employer here, but that's not to say its unfair. Check the contract - if it says she gets her flight paid no matter what, you have a clear case. My guess, however, is that it says that in case the contract is broken by your daughter (for example, she steals from her employer) then such obligations don't need to be honored, and that the employer will claim something happened.

I would guess, though never having been in the situation myself I don't know, that your next step would be to register an unpaid debt for the lost wages, cost of housing, and flight ticket back with the appropriate government agency. He is obligated to pay all of those for the duration of the notice period, as defined in the contract.

If you're sure about your facts, then please do pursue this. Too many people get away with this nonsense, because teenage girls are easy to push around.
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Old 15.05.2012, 08:37
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

Contact the Canadian consulate or embassy for help and advice.
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Old 15.05.2012, 08:47
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

It might help if you could tell us where your daughter was working in Switzerland so that local people could give you advice.

I don't have any experience of something like this, but common sense tells me it would perhaps be a good idea if your daughter documented as much of the 'build up' as she can remember, e.g. 2nd April 2012, such-and-such happened so that if you do pursue it she has her facts straight. And obviously keep any written correspondence from the ex-employer.

And for our peace of mind, is your daughter ok? Has she got somewhere to stay here in Switzerland, or is she back home?
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Old 15.05.2012, 09:18
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

We really need to know where she was working, Switzerland is a confederation of 26 cantons, with different offices.

Was she working at: Dorfstrasse, 1795 Courlevon, near Fribourg, Switzerland? There is a similar employer living there!

How long was your daughter working there, and where is she now? The notice period depends on how long she was actually employed. Was the contract she signed with the agency or with the parents? She should contact the agency first, as they will be able to give her local advice on what to do next. If she has not been paid she can lodge a claim at the local debtors' court. Did she work with a residence permit, or was she illegally here on a tourist visa?
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Old 15.05.2012, 10:21
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

JFYI

There are plenty of possibilities in Switzerland to get a free of charge legal advice.

The swiss lawyers association offers such in several communities.

Schweizerischer Anwaltsverband: You may see a lawyer for 15 to 30 minutes with a short question www.swisslawyers.com

There is also the Frauenzentrale (women's help point) that offers a free legal advice. Your daugter may contact them and ask for an appointment.

www.frauenzentrale.ch

Good luck
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Old 15.05.2012, 10:35
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

Main thing is now - is your daughter back with you in Canada- or is she with friends she can trust here?

It is so difficult to judge such a situation from distance, isn't it? Perhaps if she didn't keep her room tidy, she didn't keep the house/kitchen tidy, which was possibly part of her duties? I got a call late one evening from a friend in Switzerland, when I lived in the Midlands UK. She'd no news from her daughter who was working as an au-pair in London, and had phoned the family, only to be told her daughter was no longer with them - but her English was too poor to understand the ins and outs. I contacted the family the next day, who told me the girl was lovely, but totally irresponsible. She'd left the bath run whilst on the phone - and then whole bathroom had flooded and fallen through the ceiling- fusing the electrics and central heating, and smashing all their expensive furniture.
I had to go down to London and found the girl had moved into a squat and attending a miming school. All fine in the end- but I could understand that the family were not happy - this incident being one of many in the same vein. So agreed with Sbrinz- you need to get in touch with the AGency and ask them to find out exactly what the grievances were from the family.

There are many families unfairly exploiting au-pairs- and there are sadly some au-pairs who want to travel and not really get stuck in to do the work either. When we were interviewing a girl to come and be an au-pair with us and the father said 'yes we want her to go and work, as she is a pain in the neck and won't lift a finger at home!' - hmmm she didn't get the job.

Extremely difficult to judge from afar- quite clearly if her work and perhaps behaviour were not up to scratch, she is unlikely to volunteer that information fairly, is she? Main thing is that she is safe- gets over the experience and goes forth. BTW the return fare is normally only paid if the placement is concluded satisfactorily. (which could be a good excuse to sack somebody early).
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Old 15.05.2012, 15:41
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

Thanks for the replies and concern expressed, sorry I didn't
specify that for sure she is safe and out of that environment.
With the help of a fellow au pair and the au pair agency
and people she met she is found a place to stay until she
can decide what to do next. In a way the guy did me a
favor by asking her to leave as she was determined to
stick things out and I was worried things would escalate.

For those who asked she was Zurich. My daughter went over
and above her contract in terms of duties that got heaped
on that were never agreed to like doing general housekeeping.
She isn't perfect but she had lots of previous work experience,
including a summer of child caring and her employers have
always thought very highly of her. This situation was a little
more challenging as she living under the same roof as her
employer. To give one example one of his biggest peeves was like
most teeanagers she left her own room messy. It was supposed
to be her own private space but he started coming into her room
and snooping. At that point her room had to be kept clean at
all times and available for inspection. My daughter obliged,
kept her room clean, but then he starting making issues
of everything and anything he could think of. It had become
a no win situation, no matter how hard she was trying, and I
truly believe she was.

Getting a lawyer involved wasn't really high on my list because
of the cost, the length of time it would probably take (she
is only staying another two months at most) and the chances
of winning against an employer and Swiss resident. Not sure how the
legal system works in Switzerland, but if it's the same in Canada,
it would be a long uphill battle. She did start documenting
things in the last two weeks but I also have all her e-mails to
me explaining what was going on as she came to me for advice.

Rather than some sort of personal lawsuit just to get damages
for her, the money is secondary, I am thinking more in terms
of some sort of action that might effect him from hiring someone
else. I don't want someone elses daughter to go through what
she went through, going 8,000 kms after being lead to believe
she would be part of a family, only to be treated like more like
a slave. Anyhow, again thanks for the replies and concern.

PS If anything good has come out of this, she has finally learned
how to keep her room clean, but I wonder if she will when she
finally comes home
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Old 15.05.2012, 15:51
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

Good to know she is with friends. I really think the only true avenue you have is with the AGency that hired her- or did you go private? We employed several Au-pairs in the UK, and some of their 'colleagues' ended up living with us until we could find a new family, as their were grossly exploited - I'm afraid it is a sad reality all over the world. One reason I always advise going through a proper agency and not private - unless you know, or good friends of your know, the family involved. Not sure exactly how the law stands, but as she is non EU, is she actually allowed to stay?

I do feel for you as sorting this kind of thing from such a distance can't be easy. As you know, rules and regulations do change from K/Canton to k/c here. If no agency is involved, due to her young age, I'd bring here home.
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Old 15.05.2012, 16:22
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

Thats on my list of to do's

The au pair agency did help with arranging the two weeks severance
but it remains to be seen if she will actually be paid. They didn't seem
too keen on getting involved any further and doubted if the mutual
employment agreement would be enforceable. Something they neglect
to tell you up front.

Here is my advice to any girls reading this and thinking of being an
au pair. My daughter has learnt the hard way but hopefully this
would lead to your best results of having a good experience.

1) Deal with a reputable au pair agency. One that does interviews
and police background checks. This one did btw.

2) Don't take a job unless you can talk to all previous au pairs.
Hate to say it, but if they are first time hirers, avoid them
in favor of an employer with a good reputation you can verify.
My daughter was "supposedly" the first au pair they ever had.

3) Look for placement with it's own separate living quarters, like
a granny flat, so you aren't always with the family 24/7. You can
show up, you do your job well, and then have some privacy.
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Old 15.05.2012, 16:23
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Re: Advice or Help for my Daughter in Switzerland

I can't help thinking that the employer sneaking around her room is a just a little bit perverse?
In which case, she should be glad she is out of that situation. Hope everything works out for her.
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