"It's a two-way road": a reader responds to the way we treat our nannies


After writing our article on the minimum wage tables for domestic workers and nannies for 2018, we thought we’d follow up with a few things to consider that go beyond the financial. We titled the article ‘We should be giving our nannies and domestic workers more than just the minimum’.

We had many responses to both articles – some of which can be read in a separate article – but we thought one reader’s letter in particular had a very good point suggesting that employer and employee both need to mutually respect their agreement and each other.

This is what he had to say: 


Thanks for this very important piece of news about the above mentioned topic. So needed, I must admit.

Well I have a somewhat different but very interesting side to this.

So my wife and I (a mutli-cultural couple) live in the Northern Cape and we are both not from here. She's from Gauteng and myself, a Capetonian.

We have two boys and live in a relatively okay house. Not that big and not that small either. For the last 14 years of marriage, I think we've had something like 8 or 10 domestic and/or nannies. Not to mention the gardener. Some of them signed a contract for being a nanny or a domestic work or both.

This is where things got a little weird for me in particular.

I'm a non-white. I grew up in a family where 5 kids had to share a house with 2 parents, living in a 2-bedroom house. But we understood what it meant to have a lot and to have nothing, to appreciate what you have now because tomorrow you might not have anything, to respect people and their "stuff", to respect and honour those who are older than you, and the list goes on.

So the fact that we've had almost 10 different employees is not due to the fact that we were bad employers who were utterly rude, racist, unappreciative, underpaid our employees, never spoiled them, never baked a cake for their little one who has his/her birthday, never gave them a bonus, rejected a request for leave or even a birthday gift for themselves. In fact, we went out of our way to make sure that we treated them like people that are part of the family. 

My wife is a perfectionist and she grew up in a very racist family. When she was younger she told herself, never do I ever want to treat people the way my family does. So our outlook at life and whoever is working for us stems from that. Treat people with respect, honour them, assist them where needed.

So signing a contract and setting out working hours, UIF, meal times, responsibilities from both employer and employee is stipulated in that contract. I can't think of one thing that is left out because my wife did her homework. She made sure that she follows the law to the letter and whatever the labour law requires of a contract, it would be in there.

Coming back to the weird part, we do everything we can for our employees but we simply just don't get the same in return. In a relationship there is always a give and take and if the one is always giving, he/she will feel abused or not taken care of or appreciated. The same I would say should count for a domestic worker/nanny/gardener and his/her employer. Both should feel happy at the end of the day. Both should feel I am happy to work here or... I am happy to have him/her working for me.

Sometimes I think our domestic workers or nannies think their jobs are not important and they don't need to sign a contract. Some actually left the contract on the table unsigned. And when my wife asked why it was not signed the answer was "I don't think I want to sign it but I still want to work here" or "I am still thinking about it" (not that there was a second job lined up).

It's sad to see after so many years of democracy, our people are still not being educated.

From our side we try our best but it’s a two-way road."


*Letter edited for length

Read more:

What are you paying your nanny or domestic worker? Does she live in or out? Does it include transport? Do you have a contract and are you paying UIF on her behalf? Send us your comments to and we may publish them anonymously. Please note that we unfortunately cannot offer legal advice.

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