*Updated 5 May 2020
Many employers are still not aware they’re breaking the law when it comes to their relationship with their domestic workers.
A blitz by the Western Cape Department of Labour found only 48% of households complied with the laws governing the employ of domestic workers.
It’s vital we get a grip on this situation by providing our domestic employees with work contracts clarifying their terms of employment, just as we’d expect from our own employers.
Domestic workers are an integral part of the South African landscape, providing the ever more prevalent working moms with a crucial extra pair of extra hands as they rush around to get everything done.
Can you really say thank you enough to Mavis for the care and attention she gives your children when she looks after them every day?
Or the sanity she restores to your pigsty of a house where dirty dishes and toys are strewn everywhere when you fly out the door every morning?
Stricter labour laws
Domestic work arrangements have been agreed very informally in the past with few employer and employee relationships documented in proper, written contracts.
But, as a result of too many domestic workers exploited, working in unfavourable conditions, for too long hours and poor pay, the Department of Labour has regulated this sector.
On top of this more strict law enforcement, more domestic workers are ready to take an employer to the CCMA in event of a dispute, whether justified or not. Without some formalized agreement between employer and worker, getting a fair outcome becomes much harder.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act requires employers to conclude a written employment agreement with their domestic workers, gardeners and childminders (including drivers of children) and those who look after the sick, aged or disabled in private homes.
These prescriptions include the following:
Payslips: Every domestic worker should receive a written payslip on payday setting out the employee’s details, the ordinary and overtime hours worked during the payment period, the applicable rate of remuneration and any deductions made by the employer.
No deductions may be made from a domestic worker’s pay for breakages, work clothing or meals provided.
If accommodation is provided, no more than 10% of the worker’s monthly salary may be deducted as an accommodation allowance.
A domestic worker must be given a meal break of at least 30 minutes after every 5 hours of continuous work.
Overtime: A domestic worker may not be required to work more than 15 hours of overtime in any week. Any overtime worked must be remunerated with additional pay or leave.
Public holidays: If a public holiday falls on a day on which a domestic worker would usually work, the employer must pay the domestic worker for the day, even if the domestic worker doesn’t work that day.
A domestic worker can only be called upon to work on a public holiday if there is a written agreement allowing for this. Such work must be remunerated by double pay.
Annual leave: Every domestic worker is entitled to 3 weeks annual leave.
The only way to clarify what each party can expect and have to contribute to the relationship is by signing a Domestic Employment Agreement prior to employment.
This work contract sets out the duties, hours and place of work, wages, overtime, leave and termination of services for a clear understanding of the terms of employment.
See the South African Department of Labour’s official website, which has everything you need to know about employing domestic workers.
LawUnlocked, an online legal service which offers customised legal contracts via its website, allows employers of domestic workers to buy their own custom-drafted domestic employment contracts for a small fee.
Nanny agencies, such as SuperNannies, Sugar & Spice and Village Nannies will also assist with nanny contracts.
A basic contract with your nanny should be given at the start of employment and include the following:
Employer and worker details
Employer’s full name
Employment details (nanny or domestic worker or gardener, etc)
Place/s of work
Date of employment
Working hours and days of work
Salary or wage, or the rate and method of calculating wages
Rate for overtime
Any other cash payments
Any payments in kind and their value
Frequency of payment
Value and payment for any food or accommodation.
Any leave to which the worker is entitled
Period of notice required
Period of contract
This document must be updated if any details change. See more on the Department of Labour's website.
An employer must keep a copy of this document while the worker is employed, and for 3 years thereafter.
If a worker is unable to understand the contract, the employer is to explain the information in a way that the worker understands.
Whether employing someone for a few days or per month, a work contract is the only responsible and fair way to give a domestic worker the security she needs to perform her job.
While tending to the legalese might not come naturally, it’s essential to establish a happy work environment.
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Let’s be fair: it’s a damn hard job.
Would you scrub, clean and polish, 45 hours a week, for the minimum wage? A work contract’s the least we can do.
Bernard Reisner, an Industrial Consultant, has published a domestic worker booklet, “You, Your Domestic Worker and the New Laws”.
The booklet informs employers of their rights and obligations. It is written in simple, everyday language and contains all requirements of the law pertaining to domestic workers.
It covers a wide spectrum of information from contracts of employment, pay-slips, written warning formats and a certificate of service. It sets out all the basic employment standards specifically aimed at the domestic worker sector.
It is essential reading for employers of domestic workers, domestic workers, au pairs, gardeners and persons employed by a household to drive a motor-vehicle.
The domestic worker booklet is available from Cape Labour and Industrial Consultants, 3 De Lorentz, Street, Gardens, Cape Town 8001.
Is your contract with your domestic worker in order? What are your views on contracts for domestic workers and nannies?
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