Employers are using the pandemic as an excuse to terminate domestic workers

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The global pandemic has upended life as we know it, with millions of people becoming sick, losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet as the local lockdowns brought the economy to a halt. 

But, it seems that many employers are using Covid-19 as an excuse to let their domestic workers go. 

Bernard Reisner of Cape Labour and Industrial Consultants in Cape Town, says he has had numerous employers approach him to terminate the services of their domestic worker due to Covid-19.

However, they cannot cite this as the reason for termination as it constitutes an automatically unfair dismissal on the grounds of illness.

"The domestic worker could claim up to 24 months’ compensation and/or re-instatement with retrospective pay at the Labour Court, if a judgement is ruled in favour of the domestic worker," Reisner warns employers using this tactic. 

Also read: Your guide to compensating your nanny (and tips for nannies on asking for a raise!) 

Also, UIF isn't an easy way to ease one's conscious, as over half a million employers of domestic workers are not registered with UIF, and/or are in arrears.

This precludes the domestic worker from registering and claiming UIF benefits, he says. 

But, as much as the law is there to protect domestic workers, including child minders and nannies, many do not have the necessary assistance nor resources to declare labour disputes at the CCMA/Labour Court, Reisner adds. 

Minimum wage increase 

Adding to the financial challenges faced by many South African employers, is the new domestic worker minimum wage increase will took effect from 1 March 2021.

At R19.09 per hour, it is hardly a living wage, but for some the increase is a stretch too far. 

Also read: Are you paying your nanny a living wage? Probably not 

"These increases come at difficult time for both employers and employees – the latter struggling to recover from the impact of Covid-19 disruptions on earnings and employment prospects," reports Cape Labour and Industrial Consultants. 

The national minimum wage is the amount payable for the ordinary hours of work and does not include payment of allowances (such as transport, tools, food or accommodation) payments in kind (board or lodging), tips, bonuses and gifts.

To find out more about your domestic worker or your nanny's rights, see here.

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