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.
WHAT THE LAW 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 (labour.gov.za).
WHAT SHOULD YOU PAY?
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.
DISMISSAL OR TERMINATION
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.