You and Your Rights: Domestic Workers

Summary

  • No more than 10% of entire pay may be deducted from employee wages for accommodation.
  • Domestic workers must be given 12 consecutive hours of break every 24 hours, in addition to 36 consecutive hours rest a minimum of once a week.
  • Domestic workers may not be fired for being pregnant
  • Four weeks notice must be provided to dismissed employees who’ve worked more than six months for the same employer
  • A worker who works more than 24 hours a month for the same employer, must regularly have one percent of his/her monthly wage deducted towards the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Your Rights

Basic Conditions

Domestic Workers have the right to ..

  • Work without sexual harassment, physical harm, verbal abuse or exploitation (like being forced to work overtime without pay).
  • Regular monthly payment of their wages.
  • Refer complaints about their employers to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration).
  • A clear job description as well as written confirmation of their pay, hours, leave and deductions when they start a new job.

Pay

Domestic workers are entitled to be paid a minimum wage. The amount is set by the Labour Department and changes every year on the 1st of November. Download the Wage Tables for Domestic Workers for 2010

  • Wages should be given in a sealed envelope unless paid by bank transfer.
  • A payslip should also be provided with all relevant information.
  • Medical insurance, savings, pension fund contributions, trade union subscriptions, rentals, loans or advances CAN be deducted from wages but the total amount taken off each month cannot be more than 10% of the total pay.   Employers must pay over any deductions and employer contributions to these benefit funds within 7 days.
  • Money CANNOT be deducted from wages for breakages (such as crockery or electrical appliances), damages (such as ironing), meals provided during working hours, uniforms and work equipment.
  • A deduction for accommodation (not more than 10% of total wage) is allowed if the employer provides a room which is in a good condition. The room must have at least one window, a door that can be locked, a toilet, and a bath or shower or access to a bathroom.
  • Domestic workers are entitled to an annual cost of living increase in their wages, linked to the Consumer Price Index.  

Hours

  • 45 hours is a standard working week. Any hours over that must be paid at the overtime rate of one-and-a-half times the usual wage.
  • If a domestic worker is expected to come to work for less than four hours on a particular day, they should be paid for a minimum of four hours.
  • If a domestic worker usually works on Sundays, they should be paid one-and-a-half times their normal hourly rate on those days. But if they don’t normally work on a Sunday and their employer asks them to do so, they must be paid two times the usual hourly wage.
  • Domestic workers should NOT be asked to work more than three hours a day or 15 hours a week overtime. And they must be given a rest period of 12 hours in a row every 24 hours as well as 36 hours together at least once a week.
  • Domestic workers cannot be forced to work on a public holiday. However, if they agree to work on a public holiday, they are entitled to two times (double) their normal daily wages for the usual number of hours they work. If they work for longer (more hours) than usual, they should be paid for these additional hours at their normal daily rate. 
  • They are also entitled to a meal break of one hour if they work for more than five hours in a row.

Leave

Domestic workers are entitled to the following leave: 

  • Annual leave of three weeks a year paid at the normal rate.
  • Sick leave – during the first six months of employment, a domestic worker has the right to one day of paid sick leave for every 26 days she has worked. Over a period of 3 years or 36 months, a domestic worker has the right to paid sick leave that is equal to the amount of days she usually works every six weeks. For example, Sarah works 5 days/week and therefore she will be entitled to 30 days of paid sick leave over three years. Sick leave should be paid at your normal rate of pay. An employer can request a medical certificate if the domestic worker is away from work for more than two days in a row or more than twice in eight weeks.
  • Maternity leave of four consecutive months. It can start from four weeks before the birth or from when a doctor says that leave is necessary. Maternity leave is unpaid but the domestic worker should be able to claim UIF maternity benefits for just over 17 weeks. They must apply for this at least eight weeks before the birth.  
  • Family responsibility leave of 5 days a year. This can be used when a child is born or sick, or when a member of the family dies. It should be paid at the normal rate. The Employer can ask for proof of why the leave is needed.

Dismissal or Notice

  • A Domestic worker CANNOT be fired for taking part in a legal strike or for being pregnant. A dismissal is also considered unfair if an employer doesn’t follow the correct procedures when giving notice or if they discriminate against the employee.
  • If a domestic worker is unfairly dismissed, they must refer the dispute to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) within 30 days. If they were fired because they took part in a strike or were a member of a union, they must refer their complaint to the Labour Department.
  • An employer must give at least one week’s notice of dismissal if the domestic worker has been with them for less than 6 months. But a domestic worker is entitled to at least 4 week’s notice if they have been working for the employer for over 6 months.
  • Domestic workers have the right to stay in any accommodation provided by the employer for one month after receiving their notice or until their contract is due to finish (if that is longer).
  • An employer must provide a domestic worker with a ‘Certificate of Service’ at the end of their employment.
  • If the domestic worker is made redundant or dismissed because of the employer’s changing needs or because he/she doesn’t have enough money any more, they are entitled to one week’s severance pay for every year of service. 

Social Security

  • If a domestic worker works for a single employer for more than 24 hours a month, the employer must deduct 1% of their monthly wage and pay it, along with a further 1%, to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) each month.
  • Domestic workers then have the right to claim UIF benefits if they become unemployed. 

Useful Contacts

Department of Labour

Tel: 012-309 4000

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Web: www.labour.gov.za

South African Domestic and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU)

Tel: 021 448 0045

Fax: 021 448 0047

Web: www.sadsawu.org