A woman in England admitted to iWitness News today (Friday) that she has given babysitting jobs to Vincentians not permitted to work in the United Kingdom, and paid them less than half of what her website promises, and way below the national minimum wage.
Tami Ade, manager of Wonder Care, contacted iWitness News saying that the agency will stop its illegal practices — which have left a number of Vincentian women disillusioned after spending thousands of dollars to travel to England to take up babysitting jobs.
Wonder Care’s website says it is “a growing, reliable and vibrant business specialising in live in / out Nannies, Moher’s (sic) Help, Au pair and Cleaning services”.
Ade’s call came hours after iWitness News published an article on the experience of “Stacy”, a St. Lucia-based Vincentian woman, who quit her job and travelled to Wolverhampton in December to take up a babysitting job with Wonder Care.
Stacy came forward after Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves warned Vincentians on Wednesday that offers of babysitting jobs in England could put them at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.
He further warned that travelling to England to take up these offers could hurt the individual as well as SVG.
iWitness News did not disclose “Stacy’s” real name, but Ade correctly identified Stacy by her real name.
“The person I’ve here is [name omitted]. She is 28 years old. I’ve got her chats here. I have her picture. I’ve got nothing to hide. I don’t like it when people go back and tell lies. They should do that and I see that it’s becoming a pattern,” Ade said at the beginning of the conversation.
During the conversation, she admitted to facilitating people in breaking England’s employment laws, and then underpaying them for the work they do.
Wonder Care’s website says that the agency gives its clients “the opportunity to choose the best candidate to care and support your child/children.
“Our staffs are specialised, friendly and here to welcome you by helping you meet your essentials. We source our candidates from all over the world to give you variety and ensure that they are DBS/police checked, medically certified, fully trained and capable of doing the job tactfull.”
However, in the conversation with iWitness News, Ade admitted that many of the Vincentians who she recruits do not have babysitting experience.
She further used that as a reason why her agency paid Stacy less than one half of what the website promises.
“She contacted me when she got to the UK. No. Prior to her coming to the UK, actually,” Ade said, when asked about how she came to Stacy.
“She said she was coming to the UK and she would like a job. Obviously, I did say to her, you haven’t got the right to work. My company is a registered company… And I said to her, but she was like, ‘Oh. But my friends told me about it.’
“I said, ‘Yes, but, obviously, it would be under the books. We are not legally meant to recruit you or to offer you a job without a work permit.’ So she knew clearly what she was coming into. She had a contract, which was sent to her…”
However, while Stacy told iWitness News that she had contacted Ade on the recommendation of her (Stacy’s) cousin who is in England on the same programme, she said she was never told until she arrived in England that she would be paid 200 pounds (1 pound = approx. EC$3.66) a week.
Stacy further complained that while she had signed up for babysitting, she realised in the eight days that she spent on the job, that she was meant to be not only a babysitter but also maid.
‘I don’t condone nonsense’
Ade said: “When people are placed, I don’t condone nonsense. I represent both the client and the candidate and I say to them clearly, even before coming on the job, most of the clients are professionals. And [Stacy], this lady in question knew clearly what she was signing up for. I told her the job is babysitting and housekeeping. You are going to do house chores; you are going to be required to clean.
“And because it is just a child, you will be paid 200 pounds per week. They provide food and accommodation.”
Asked what the standard wage is for people who are providing baby-sitting services, Ade said, “It varies and that’s the thing.”
The UK government’s website says that people 23 and over are to be paid a minimum wage of 8.91 pounds per hour.
This means that at the minimum, Stacy, who said she worked 13 hours a day, six days a week, should have been paid 694.98 pounds per week.
Asked to explain Stacy’s low wage, Ade said:
“Because, obviously, when you are living with these clients. Obviously, you don’t pay rent and they provide you with food. So, obviously, that counts to the amount you would pay because if you were living out, you get the full amount. A lot of these ladies can testify. I’ve dealt with a lot of them.”
Ade denied that Stacy was working 13 hours a day, saying that it was 12 hours.
iWitness News noted that Wonder Care’s website says that a live-in nanny taking care of one baby, gets 7 pounds per hour.
This, we noted, translates to 84 pounds per day.
And, as Stacy was meant to work six days a week, her wages should have been 504 pounds per week.
“So the missing bit is she is not trained, she has no qualification and she was offered the job,” Ade said.
“So she doesn’t get the same pay as somebody who is trained.”
Paid less than half of advertised wage
iWitness News, however, noted that notwithstanding this, the worker, paid 200 pounds per week, would be getting less than half of what the website advertised.
Ade said: “That needs to be reflected — but obviously, we are not meant to employ her in the first place.”
iWitness News responded: “And then you say you don’t want to come across as exploiting?”
Ade responded: “I have just said to you that all of this is gonna stop because I have just had a meeting with my manager and I have said to her this is what’s going on. This is what’s going on, and this has to stop.”
Asked how her agency justifies taking more than 400 pounds of what would have been Stacy’s pay, Ade said:
“If you were renting and buying your food—”
iWitness News, however, noted that it is a fact of the job that for a babysitting job, one would stay at the property during the time in which one is providing the babysitting service.
We likened it to some restaurant workers getting free meals during their shifts.
iWitness News asked Ade to explain her company’s justification for taking more than 400 pounds from a worker’s pay packet weekly and giving them just 200 — presuming that they were employed at the absolute minimum wage.
“Obviously, most of these clients know that you are coming in to live — These people, don’t forget they are not qualified. They have no certification,” Ade said.
“Then why are you employing them?” iWitness News asked.
Ade said that maybe she should not be employing them.
“That’s what we are looking into, because, obviously, this has come out now and I am saying to everyone, I have put it on the platform that going forward, this has to stop and it will stop. It definitely will stop.
“Because when people refer people and say, ‘she is just trying to make a living. She just wants the job’ and then you feel like you are helping but people just say, ‘No. You are exploiting them.”
iWitness News noted to Ade that what she was doing is against the laws of the United Kingdom.
We pointed out that as a consequence of Vincentian passport holders not requiring visas to go to the United Kingdom, one could buy a ticket and, once UK border authorities are satisfied, the Vincentian visitor is allowed to remain in the UK for six months.
iWitness News told Ade that people buy one-month return tickets to the UK and tell border authorities there that they are on vacation, although they are travelling to the United Kingdom to work as babysitters.
“And they are going there on a promise that your organisation has held out for them to get a job. How is that not exploitation? And being paid wages that people in the United Kingdom would not work for?”
Ade said that women who come to the United Kingdom refer their friends to her.
“Some of them have come on holiday. They are like, ‘I am here on holiday for a month. Do you have a job? I am just looking to make some money.’
“Not all of them have the intention of staying, until they get into the job. And I personally don’t speak to the majority of them from St. Vincent except someone who is in the job has referred somebody and said, ‘I have a friend who wants to do this and then she says I am still in St. Vincent, do you want to speak to her?’
“I say, ‘I dunno.’ And then they go ahead, send the number, and then they contact and say, ‘Oh I am still in St. Vincent; I have plans of coming down.’
“But, obviously, with this particular person (Stacy), she contacted me from St. Vincent; she did. So it’s not the case.”
“‘Babysitting and housekeeping are two different things.’”
iWitness News asked Ade why she remembered Stacy’s case so clearly.
“The reason why I remember is because she mentioned Wolverhampton. She was specific in some areas. She contacted me when she was leaving. She said, ‘I thought it was babysitting. Babysitting and housekeeping are two different things.’
“I said, ‘No. I did tell you it was babysitting and housekeeping. And then I forwarded to her the message I sent her before leaving St. Vincent. And then she said, ‘No. I can’t be paid [that] – this way is too low and then she left. And that is the last I heard of her.”
Asked if Stacy initially left the family with whom she worked because of the wage, Ade initially said, yes, but later said that Stacy left after being asked to take out a garbage bin.
“She called me and said, ‘Is part of my job taking out the bin?’ And I said, ‘Taking out the bin is part of housekeeping. Yes.’
“So she said, ‘But I am here for babysitting. And I said, it is babysitting and housekeeping.’ I can read the chat here.”
Stacy told iWitness News that she was fired after one week on the job, because she was unable to take out a large garbage bin that the woman whose child she was babysitting had called from work, instructing her to.
Ade said that on Dec. 8, she messaged Stacy saying, “I was made to understand that this job is not for you or probably you are not interested. So I sent her that message when she contacted me saying, ‘Hi’ and she didn’t say anything.
“And then the client called me and said I am not sure the lady is really keen on this job because, obviously, we told he to do a certain chore and she said no, that she doesn’t think it’s part of the job. So they asked her (Stacy) to call the agency.
“And when she called, she said, ‘Housekeeping is very far different than babysitting.’
“So this is her writing to me: ‘I came to do babysitting, not house chores and still care for the child for 200 pounds.’”
Ade said she told Stacy that the job was housekeeping and babysitting.
“And that was our last conversation. So she left two days into the job. And the next thing her mom messaged me and said she was looking for a job. And I said, ‘No, you can’t be looking for a job when your daughter doesn’t want a job.’ So I didn’t even entertain her mom.”
Stacy, who returned to St. Lucia on Dec. 26 — told iWitness News, on Friday, that she stayed on the job from Dec. 1 — one day after she arrived in the United Kingdom — until Dec. 8, when she was fired.
iWitness News noted to Ade that, generally, when a Vincentian is granted leave to remain in the United Kingdom, the stamp in the passport clearly says that employment is prohibited.
“So, in essence, you are admitting to me that your agency facilitated people in breaking the laws of the United Kingdom, and in so doing put them at risk of exploitation,” iWitness News said.
Ade claimed that Stacy signed a contract with the client but could not say whether this was before or after she arrived in the United Kingdom.
“The contract she signed with me, there’s a picture here, but for some reason it’s not downloading. I’m just gonna do a screenshot. It’s not downloading because I guess it’s been a while. And because I don’t save all these documents, I can’t retrieve it,” Ade said.
Stacy, however, denied signing a contract, adding that when she arrived in the UK she got a message about what was expected of her.
Ade said she had “a few” Vincentians working for her. However, when asked how many is “a few”, Ade asked, “Currently working?
“Oh no! I’ve put a message out. I’ve put a message out and I have told we have to stop this. We have to stop employing candidates who have no right to work. Because most of the candidates who are coming here are from St. Vincent — without the right to work, [they] are from St. Vincent.”
iWitness News said maybe the reason is that Vincentians do not require a visa to travel to the United Kingdom.
“The reason why I’ve called you is because these women, young ladies, older ladies, I tell them what is the stick. That’s the key thing I don’t rule out. I tell them, I let them know.
“So you coming in and pretending like you have no knowledge of what you are getting into is false. That’s what I want to bring across to you. Fine, obviously, it’s against the law and I acknowledge that. But don’t act like you don’t know. Don’t play innocent, don’t play like a victim because that’s what I get from this story. When she came out and said certain things about not knowing. She knew.”
‘That’s the policy’
Ade confirmed that Stacy was correct when she said that the agency gets the workers’ first two weeks’ pay
“That’s the policy. I didn’t set it. That’s the policy. Because the agency found you a job, they got you a job so they don’t take commission off the amount you are paid.”
She said that in the United Kingdom, when an agency gets someone a job, it’s “on commission”.
“So for instance, if the job is at 12 pounds per hour, they pay you 9 pounds or maybe 10 pounds…”
iWitness News pointed out that it had received reports of people quitting their jobs and walking away from years of benefit to take up these babysitting posts in England.
“I personally talk to these people and I tell them, if you have a job, don’t leave your job. Don’t do that,” Ade said.