You & your domestic / 'madam'
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 Act all about?In a special sectoral determination, the Basic Conditions of Employment 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).
- The Department of Labour has an online section focusing on domestic workers where one can find additional information on the act, conditions of employment, contracts, unemployment insurance and others.
What is the minimum wage?Domestic workers working in designated urban areas for more than 27 hours per week should receive R1 746.95 a month, at an hourly rate of R8.95, while those working in designated non-urban areas should receive R1 491.86 per month, at an hourly rate of R7.64. Domestic workers working in designated urban areas for 27 hours or less per week should receive R1 237.60 a month at an hourly rate of R10.48, while those in designated non-urban areas should receive R1 056.35 a month, at R9.03 per hour. The minimum wages given are applicable from 1 December 2012 till 30 November 2013.
How many hours a day can a domestic worker be expected to be on duty?According to the legislation, domestics 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. Domestics should work no more than 15 hours a week overtime, but never more than 12 hours on any one day. Overtime is at one-and-a-half times the normal wage (or the employee may agree to receive paid time off). They should also receive double pay on Sundays or public holidays.
What about accommodation?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.
What happens when things go wrong?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. The services of an employee may not be terminated unless a valid and fair reason exists and fair procedure is followed. This is outlined in the Labour Relations Act (Code of Good Practice, in Schedule 8).
Are domestic workers entitled to UIF?If your domestic works for you for more than 24 hours a month, they must be registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund. It is the employer's responsibility to register their domestic worker with the UIF, and to ensure payment is made. Monthly contributions are 2% of the worker's wage (split evenly between the employer and the employee). Employers are advised to sign an employment contract with their domestic worker and are obliged to issue a regular pay slip.
- Sample contracts are available off the Department of Labour's website at www.labour.gov.za.
- Visit the Department of Labour's uFiling site at www.ufiling.co.za
Is there a union for domestic workers?Yes, there is - the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union, which has around 25 000 members.
- Read an interview with Sadsawu's Esther Stevens by the International Trade Union Confederation
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