Know the laws pro­tect­ing do­mes­tic work­ers

Many do­mes­tic work­ers are paid well below the min­i­mum wage, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port. Here’s what the law has to say


THEY’RE the heart of many house­holds, keep­ing the wheels turn­ing as they cook, clean and take care of kids. Many peo­ple will read­ily ad­mit they’d be lost with­out their do­mes­tic work­ers. And yet a shock­ing new re­port shows that de­spite all their hard work and loy­alty, many do­mes­tic work­ers are shame­lessly ex­ploited.

Long hours, week­end work, low pay and bosses who are will­ing to flout labour laws – it seems that’s the norm for the ap­prox­i­mately one mil­lion peo­ple em­ployed in South African homes.

It’s painful to imag­ine some­one be­ing paid just R110 for eight hours of back­break­ing work.

Yet this is what many of the re­spon­dents sur­veyed by do­mes­tic ser­vice com­pany Sweep­South re­ceive.

For its an­nual re­port on pay and work­ing con­di­tions the clean­ing out­fit in­ter­viewed 1 300 do­mes­tic work­ers and found an alarm­ing 43% were only be­ing paid be­tween R1 100 and R3 000 per month.

This is much lower than the R275-R300 per day rate the South African Do­mes­tic Ser­vice and Al­lied Work­ers Union (Sad­sawu) rec­om­mends.

But pay isn’t the only is­sue. An alarm­ing 85% re­vealed they didn’t re­ceive paid leave while 62% said they aren’t reg­is­tered with the Un­em­ploy­ment In­surance Fund (UIF) and 61% re­ported they didn’t have work con­tracts.

Sweep­South CEO Aisha Pan­dor ­be­lieves the sur­vey re­sults are a re­flec­tion of what’s go­ing on in many house­holds.

“On the one hand we’ve seen gov­ern­ment do­ing a lot in this re­gard, set­ting out leg­is­la­tion to pro­fes­sion­alise this in­dus­try, but the lev­els of ad­her­ence from em­ploy­ers is con­cern­ing,” she says.

Pan­dor says it’s time em­ploy­ers wise up to their le­gal obli­ga­tions.

“These re­quire­ments are in place to en­sure work­ers re­ceive what is due to them,” she says.


Leg­is­la­tion sets out a num­ber of rules to en­sure fair treat­ment of do­mes­tic work­ers. These in­clude draw­ing up of em­ploy­ment con­tracts, the is­su­ing of payslips, leave, over­time, ben­e­fits and the like.

Ex­am­ples of con­tracts and payslips can be down­loaded from the depart­ment of labour’s web­site (


South Africa’s min­i­mum wage is de­ter­mined by the num­ber of hours per week worked and where you live.

Do­mes­tic work­ers em­ployed in the ma­jor cities should be paid a min­i­mum of R13,69 per hour if they work more than 27 hours a week and R16,03 per hour if they work less than 27 hours.

Work­ers out­side those ar­eas must be paid a min­i­mum of R12,47 per hour if they work more than 27 hours per week and R14,72 if their hours are fewer.

Sad­sawu gen­eral sec­re­tary Myr­tle Wit­booi says a fair salary for an eighthour day would be be­tween R275 and R300, in­clud­ing trans­port.

“We need to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the money that our do­mes­tic work­ers pay to get to work – some­times it can be up to R60 a day,” she says.


The law stip­u­lates that upon pay­ment em­ploy­ees should re­ceive a payslip show­ing full re­mu­ner­a­tion and de­duc­tions.

Per­mit­ted de­duc­tions med­i­cal in­surance, sav­ings, pen­sion or prov­i­dent fund, trade union sub­scrip­tions, sav­ings, ac­com­mo­da­tion, loans (de­duc­tions for ac­com­mo­da­tion and loans should not amount to more than 10% of to­tal wage).

De­duc­tions not al­lowed break­ages for crock­ery or elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances, dam­ages (iron­ing), meals pro­vided, uni­form and train­ing.


This should be no more than: 45 hours a week Nine hours per day for a five-day work week Eight hours a day for a six-day work week.


A do­mes­tic worker may not work more than 15 hours over­time per week.

They shouldn’t work more than 12 hours on any day, in­clud­ing over­time.

Over­time must be paid at one and a half times the em­ployee’s nor­mal wage or paid leave can be given off in lieu.

If they are re­quired to work on Sun­days they should be paid dou­ble the daily wage.


Do­mes­tic work­ers are en­ti­tled to a one­hour lunch break af­ter five hours of work. An agree­ment can be made to shorten the break but to no less than 30 min­utes.

If an em­ployee has worked over­time they are en­ti­tled to a sec­ond break which should be no less than 15 min­utes and they should be re­mu­ner­ated if this isn’t taken.


Work­ers em­ployed for six months or less are due a no­tice pe­riod of at least a week. Those em­ployed for longer re­quire a four-week no­tice or one-month no­tice pe­riod. If you re­trench an em­ployee due to a change in your fi­nan­cial or fam­ily sit­u­a­tion and you can’t find them al­ter­na­tive em­ploy­ment, you have to pay sev­er­ance pay – one week’s pay for ev­ery 12 months of con­tin­u­ous ser­vice.


Ac­cord­ing to Sweep­South’s sur­vey, 79% of do­mes­tic worke r s are the bread­win­ners in thei r fami l ies but in the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate they’re feel­ing the pinch be­cause their em­ploy­ers can’t or won’t pay them what they de­serve. Many work­ers put up with be­ing ex­ploited be­cause they can’t af­ford to run the risk of los­ing their jobs. Stats SA’s Quar­terly Labour Force Sur­vey shows that in the first four months of the year around 15 000 do­mes­tic work­ers lost their jobs. “This mas­sive fluc­tu­a­tion shows the eco­nomic in­se­cu­rity that work­ers in this sec­tor live with as a daily fact of life,” Pan­dor says.

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