Domestic Workers’ Rights Must Not Be Swept Under the Rug

It’s not rare to hear cases of how domestic workers are mistreated in South African upper-class households especially. The fact that these cases often go unreported to labor unions and by the media gives oxygen to the culture of mistreating hired help. For many domestic workers, losing their job can mean losing their family’s sole income.

A few cases that have been reported are those of sexual harassment, incredibly low wages and other kinds of abuse. Although South Africa has labor legislation in place that is supposed to protect domestic workers, it’s not as progressive as it should be because domestic workers often fear reporting incidents or don’t know their rights in certain situations. Domestic work isn’t something you do for a living, it’s not something anyone aspires to go into so we have to understand the main implication it may carry – pain.

According to Statistics SA, there are about a million domestic workers in South Africa (there could be more in rural areas, there’s no way to know for sure). Domestic work here is dominated by women. Another reason why poverty remains inherently sexist. Gender roles play a huge part in discrimination and oppression. It’s a glass ceiling that needs to be broken.

Here’s a summary of domestic worker’s rights:

1. 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.

2. The Right to Fair Hours and Overtime Pay

Domestic workers should work no more than 45 hours a week. You have to pay the 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)

3. Rights Regarding Accommodation

If you charge the domestic worker for accommodation, it has to comply with certain minimum standards laid down in the legislation

4. The Right to Fair Dismissal Procedures

If you dismiss the 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

5. The Right to Sick Leave, Annual Leave, 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

6. 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.



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