Nearly one million South Africans are employed as domestic workers in private homes across the country. It’s a viable and important career choice for many, but it’s important that prospective employers (and employees) understand their rights.
In 2022, Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi is expected to update the minimum wage to 100% of the National Minimum Wage. This would raise the salary of a domestic worker to R23 per hour, up from R19.09 in 2021 or R3700 per month (full day, weekday employment).
Additional protection will also be introduced, allowing domestic workers injured on duty to claim from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.
There are nearly 2 000 domestic cleaning positions currently listed on classifieds site Gumtree, according to Gumtree’s marketing manager Estelle Nagel, but the site still occasionally encounters job listings below the current minimum wage.
“It’s important for both parties to understand their rights. Unfortunately, some employers take advantage of the desperation of job seekers. Even if the applicant accepts the salary, you can still land in hot water, so don’t pay your staff less than their due.”
Some of the rights you should take note of:
- You must give notice of termination of employment in writing. One week’s notice in advance has to be given to employees that have worked for you for less than six months; after that four weeks’ notice is required. All monies owed including wages, pro rata leave, and other fees must be paid.
- If you terminate employment for a live-in domestic worker, you must also provide one month’s notice to for the worker to leave the supplied accommodation.
- Your domestic worker must be registered for UIF.
- Your domestic worker cannot work more than nine hours a day for a five-day work week or eight hours a day for a six-day work week, and cannot work more than 15 hours overtime per week.
- Workers are entitled to a one-hour break for a meal after five hours of continuous work.
- Your domestic worker is entitled to public holidays and must be paid double their normal rate if they choose to work on a public holiday. Full-time workers are entitled to 1 day of leave for every 17 days worked.
- You are not allowed to deduct any money from a domestic worker’s wages without written permission.
- You may deduct no more than 10% if accommodation is provided, if the accommodation provided meets certain standards.
Nagel says domestic workers applying for work at private residences must know their rights. “More than a quarter of a million domestic workers lost their jobs in the second quarter of 2020, and many lost valuable income during the lockdown. This can cause some job seekers to throw caution to the wind when it comes to applying for work, but it’s important to protect yourself and know what your rights are.”