Domestic Worker’s Rights in South Africa

domestic worker rights south africaThere are an estimated 1 to 1.5 million workers in South Africa who work as domestics, gardeners, childminders (nannies, au-pairs and drivers of children) and those who work as carers with the sick, aged or disabled in private homes.

While it is up to an employer and employee to negotiate an acceptable contract that states job requirements as well as remuneration, the department of labour has instituted a Domestic Worker’s Act that stipulates certain non-negotiable legal rights.

Here is a short summary of this Act, and the legal rights of domestic workers in South Africa.

What is the definition of Domestic Work?

The Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act (Act No. 4 of 2002) defines a domestic worker as “an employee who performs domestic work in the home of his or her employer, and includes a gardener, person employed by a household as a driver of a motor vehicle and a person who takes care of any person in that home, but does not include a farm worker.”

Legislation: Sectoral Determination 7

Sectoral Determination 7 stipulates conditions of employment for all domestic workers – housekeepers, gardeners, nannies and domestic drivers etc. – including workers who are employed by agencies and those who qualify as independent contractors.

  • wages (which is different for urban and non-urban areas): minimum wages, annual wage increases, deductions etc.
  • working hours: ordinary working hours, overtime hours, night work, standby work, meal intervals, rest periods, work on Sundays and work on public holidays.
  • leave: annual leave, sick leave, family responsibility leave, maternity leave

The Right to be Paid at Least the Minimum Wage

The Department of Labour publishes new minimum pay rates for Domestic Workers according to category A (urban) and category B (non-urban) areas.

The Right to Fair Hours and Overtime Pay

  • Domestic workers should work no more than 45 hours a week
  • The maximum number of work hours per day for a five-day work week: 9 hours
  • The maximum number of work hours per day for a work week that is longer than five days: 8 hours
  • Domestic workers should work no more than 15 hours a week overtime, and no more than 3 hours on any one day
  • You have to pay your domestic worker 150% of regular wages (one and a half times) for overtime work, and double for work on Sundays or Public Holidays (although you cannot force your domestic to work on these days)

Rights Regarding Accommodation

  • If your domestic lives on the property you may deduct no more than 10% of their salary for accommodation
  • If you charge your domestic worker for accommodation, it has to comply with certain minimum standards laid down in the legislation

The Right to Fair Dismissal Procedures

  • If you dismiss your domestic worker during the first six months of her employment, you must give a one week notice period
  • If you dismiss your domestic worker after the first six months of her employment, you must give a 4 week notice period
  • In cases of employee misconduct employers have the right to dismiss an employee with immediate effect, at the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing.
  • In cases where dismissal occurs as result of staff reductions or is due to operational requirements (retrenchment) employers are required to give severance pay of 1 week for each year of service.

The Right to Sick Leave, Annual Leave, Maternity Leave

  • Domestic workers have the right to 4 months of unpaid maternity leave
  • After the first six months of employment, workers may take up to 6 weeks of sick leave on full pay within a 3-year period
  • During first six months of employment, workers may take 1 day paid sick leave for every 26 days worked
  • Employers may insist on proof of illness if a worker is absent for more than two consecutive days or more than twice in an 8 week period.
  • A medical certificate may be provided by a:
    • Medical practitioner
    • Clinic nurse
    • Traditional healer
    • Community health worker
    • Psychologist

The Right to Certain Benefits

  • Employers must register their employees for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and ensure that both parties (employer & worker) contributes 1% of wages. The only condition is that the domestic worker works more than 24 hours a month.
  • If a household employs more than one domestic worker, only one domestic employer registration is necessary.
  • If a domestic works for more than one employer, each employer must register separately and ensure that the domestic worker is registered

The Employer’s Right to choose Plan B

If all of this sounds overwhelming and you aren’t ready for the responsibility of acting as employer to a domestic worker, you may consider hiring a cleaning company to take the burden off your shoulders.