A look at why it's important to understand and know the law as an employer of a domestic helper after Rami Cheune's ‘Broadacres madam’ expose

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Employees need to be registered with the Compensation Fund within seven days of beginning work. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Employees need to be registered with the Compensation Fund within seven days of beginning work. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

Local actress, Rami Chuene recently topped the trends list after she shared a thread of Tweets exposing what she described as “Broadacres madam” that ill-treated her helper.

According to the shared thread, the employer sent the domestic helper an income and expenditure statement listing all of the food she had eaten, and toiletries utilised.

https://twitter.com/ramichuene/status/1465610108474474505?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

“I wish I could formally lodge a complaint on helper’s behalf. May we be better people and do right by others,” the actress added.  

Rami’s thread is an example of why it is important to understand and know the law not only as domestic helps but employees.

South Africa’s million strong domestic workforce weren’t recognised as employees in terms of the law, which meant that they didn’t qualify for any aid from the national Compensation Fund if things went wrong. 

If they were injured on the job, they couldn’t expect any help from the fund to pay their medical bills, nor compensation if they couldn’t work for months as a result of a workplace accident. 

These are benefits most other workers take for granted but because the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act dates back to 1993 and government hasn’t changed it, domestic workers remained excluded.

This was until last year when the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coid) was amended. This means that all domestic workers will now be covered and they can claim for compensation for accidents that took place as far back as 1994.

The Constitutional court’s decision is significant, says labour lawyer Michael Bagraim.

“Firstly, domestic workers now have access to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies for any injuries that occurred while on duty (which will be covered by the fund).”

 (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
If something happens to your employee and a claim is made for a disability pension, for example, you might be asked to furnish proof of salary such as pay slips and banking records. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

“There are many other benefits to domestic workers, even funeral expenses and lump sum payments for disability. It’s a major benefit all around.”

And it’s not only domestic workers who are entitled to compensation from the fund – their dependents can claim too.

Luke Kannemeyer, head of home cleaning services company SweepSouth, says the order is a critical milestone for domestic workers in South Africa.

“Our research shows that most domestic workers are sole breadwinners and on average support at least five financial dependants,” he says. 

“In the past, an injury at work may have left a family destitute. Now, domestic workers and their families will have some recourse to ensure continued financial support in the case of a prolonged injury, disability or death.” 

The landmark ruling is also good news for employers as it gives them immunity against any civil claims made by their employees for injuries sustained at work. 

Contributions to the fund are around 1% of annual earnings, Kannemeyer says.

“That’s a small amount for the peace of mind to know that your domestic worker is protected should an unfortunate accident occur in your home.”

WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO DO

If you employ a domestic worker (cleaner, nanny, gardener, driver or carer) for more than 24 hours a month you need to register them with the Compensation Fund as soon as possible. Going forward new employees need to be registered with the fund within seven days of beginning work. 

If you hire an employee through an agency, the agency will be responsible for contributing to the fund. Failure to register and pay could result in costly penalties – you could face a 10% penalty, calculated according to what you should’ve paid, plus interest on the annual fee you should’ve paid.

This can become a significant amount that adds up over the years if you fail to pay. And if an employee is injured on the job and you’re not registered and up to date with payments, you could be held responsible for huge amounts of money due to claims.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO PAY

Michael says contributions are determined by taking into account the annual salary of the domestic worker.

The formula for domestic workers is calculated as follows: annual earnings divided by 100 X 1.04.

So if a worker is being paid R5 500 per month, which works out to R66 000 per year, you’ll be required to pay R686,40 to the fund annually.

Once you’ve filed the Return on Equity (ROE) you’ll receive an invoice that you need to pay within 30 days to avoid interest penalties.Employers aren’t allowed to deduct money from a worker’s wages to cover fund contributions. 

The minimum wage for domestic workers is currently set at R19,09 an hour, or R152,72 a day or R763,60 a week.

This works out to R39 707 a year.

Based on this, the annual contribution to the fund for an employee that works a five-day work week would be R413.

But this minimum wage is really the least that employers are required to pay in terms of the law.

A survey conducted by SweepSouth shows the average domestic worker would need to be paid R4 225 per month to cover all their expenses (including food, rent, transport and school fees).

It’s important that you give accurate earnings when filing your ROE declaration. Don’t try to save money by stating that your employee earns less than she actually does.

If something happens to your employee and a claim is made for a disability pension, for example, you might be asked to furnish proof of salary such as payslips and banking records.

 (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Employers are required to submit a Return of Earnings (ROE) annually between 1 April and 31 May. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

WHAT IS COVERED? 

In the event of an accident in the workplace, the employer will need to register a claim at cfonline.labour.gov.za/OnlineSubmissions with doctor’s certificates and other evidence.

This will apply to employers who have registered their workers.

For older cases that occurred before the change to the Coid Act to allow the inclusion of domestic workers in the fund, either the employer or the employee can contact the fund directly on 0860-105-350 or cfcallcentre@labour.gov.za.

BENEFITS COVERED BY THE FUND

  • Temporary total disablement: Payable to an injured employee who’s booked off for a period of four days or more by the treating doctor. All medical expenses will be paid from the date of the accident and the employee will receive 75% of their normal wage if they can’t work for an extended period, up to 24 months.
  • Permanent disablement pension: Paid to an employee once a fund board has investigated the extent of the disability. If as a result of the accident a worker can no longer work at all, they’ll receive 75% of their normal wage in the form of a disability pension for life.
  • Funeral expenses: Currently the maximum amount is set at R18 251 for employees who died on or after 1 April 2019.
  • Widow’s compensation: The surviving spouse is paid a widow’s lump sum (2x75% of the employee’s monthly salary) in addition to a pension (40% of the monthly disability pension) for life.
  • Child compensation: The children of the deceased employee are also paid a pension of 20% of the monthly disability pension up to the age of 18 years or when they get married or financially emancipated.
  • Partial dependency award: Paid to the parents or siblings of the deceased employee if there’s no surviving spouse or child. This is a once-off lump sum paid to one individual based on how dependent the family were on the employee. Whole dependency award: This is a pension award paid to the parents or siblings of the deceased employee who were dependant on the income of the deceased employee. It will amount to 2x75% of monthly salary, plus a monthly pension (40% of the monthly disability pension) for life.

HOW TO REGISTER

Download the CF-1E Form (application for the registration of the domestic worker employer) at tinyurl.com/CFLABOUR.

Download the PDF file and print pages 12-16. Once you’ve completed them you can scan them and email them to registrationCF@labour.gov.za or CFCallcentre@labour.gov.za with the following documents. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24