Domestic Worker's Rights in South Africa

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Who is a Domestic Worker?

A domestic worker is a gardener, driver or person who looks after children, the aged, sick, frail or disabled in a private household, but not on a farm. This is the view taken in the Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act, 2002 (Act No. 4 of 2002).

The Domestic Workers' Act

The Domestic Workers' Act sets out minimum wages for domestics and specifies working conditions such as hours of work, overtime pay, salary increases, deductions, annual and sick leave.

This legislation also lists the urban areas (classified as A Areas) where one minimum wage applies. A second minimum wage applies to domestic workers in non-urban areas (B Areas).

To whom does the Domestic Workers Act apply?

To the estimated 1 to 1.5 million workers in the country who work as domestics, gardeners, childminders (including drivers of children) and those who look after the sick, aged or disabled in private homes. The legislation also covers domestic workers who work as independent contractors.

What is the Minimum Wage for Domestic Workers?

Click here to see a detailed list of minimum wages for all areas.

Hours of Work, Leave and Dismissal

According to the legislation, domestic workers should work no more than 45 hours a week, and should not work more than nine hours a day if they work a five-day week, or more than eight hours a day if they work for more than five days a week.

Domestic worker should work no more than 15 hours a week overtime, and no more than three hours on any one day. They should also receive double pay on Sundays or public holidays.

Employers whose domestics live on the property may deduct 10% of their salary for accommodation, providing the accommodation complies with the minimum standards laid down in the legislation.

An employer wishing to dismiss a worker must give a week of notice if the domestic has been employed for six months or less and four weeks' notice if he or she has worked for more than six months.

Domestics are also entitled to severance pay of one week for each year of service, as well as four months' unpaid maternity leave.

All employers must register their employees for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and are advised to sign an employment contract with their domestic worker.

Sick Leave

Workers may take up to 6 weeks of sick leave on full pay in a 3-year period. However, during the first 6 months of employment, workers are only entitled to 1 day’s paid sick leave for every 26 days worked.

Employers may insist on proof of illness before paying a worker for sick leave.

A medical certificate may be provided by a:
  • Medical practitioner
  • Clinic nurse
  • Traditional healer
  • Community health worker
  • Psychologist

An employer may require a medical certificate before paying workers who are absent for more than 2 consecutive days or who are often absent (more than twice in an 8-week period).Fees that are paid for medical treatment by an employer may be deducted from the workers’ pay.

Is there a union for Domestic Workers?

Yes, there is - the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers' Union  (SADSAWU). You can find out more about SADSAWU here.

Can Domestic Workers receive training to upgrade their skills?

Yes. This year a massive training project, the Domestic Workers Skills Development Project, was launched. Financed by the Department of Labour's National Skills Fund to the tune of R120-million, the project aims to train 27 000 domestic workers around the country over the next three years. Trainees will receive formal recognition for their skills.

The training is being overseen by the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta), which has set up a discrete chamber for domestic services, based in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

Visit the Services Sector Education and Training Authority website for more information, or contact their office on (041) 582-4000.

UIF for Domestic Workers

Domestic workers and their employers must contribute 1 percent of the wages to the Unemployment Insurance Fund as from 1 April 2003. The only condition of this is that the domestic worker works more than 24 hours a month. Registration cannot be backdated.

 

  • Where one household employs more than one domestic worker, only one domestic employer registration is necessary.
  • If a domestic worker is employed by more than one employer each employer must register separately and ensure that the domestic worker is registered. This also applies to agents or bookkeepers administering the affairs of more than one domestic employer.
  • Separate registrations are also required in cases where a commercial employer is also a domestic employer. Registration and payment of contributions of domestic workers may not be included in that of a commercial enterprise.
  • People employed by businesses that are run from private households are not regarded as domestic workers.
  • People employed by corporate entities as gardeners or cleaners in housing complexes are also not regarded as being employed in private households.
  • Companies, Close Corporations, Partnerships and any other Corporate Bodies are not domestic employers.
  • It is deemed fraud when beneficiaries who are receiving benefits return to work, but fail to inform the Fund about their new status and continue to draw benefits.

 

  • With thanks to southafrica.info

Read more

  • For more: Visit www.labour.gov.za where you also find a link to the Provincial Offices and Labour Centres.

  • Call UIF Head Office Tel: (012) 337 1700 for terms and conditions.
  • Find out all about state Minimum Wages for all official sectors.