South Africans employ an estimated 900,000 domestic workers. They assist us with a range of tasks that keep our homes running smoothly – from cleaning and gardening to cooking and childcare, their contributions are invaluable. However, as an employer, it is vital that you recognise and fulfill your legal obligations in order to establish a fair and lawful working relationship.

Compliance with these legal requirements has become increasingly important as law enforcement authorities become more and more vigilant in ensuring adherence, so without further ado let’s delve into the details of what the law expects from you.

Firstly, what do we mean by “domestic worker”?

In the context of this article, domestic workers refer to individuals who work in your home, including gardeners, cleaners, cooks, nannies, caregivers (to children, the aged, the sick, the frail or the disabled), au pairs, chauffeurs and the like. Excluded are farm workers and those working less than 24 hours a month for you.

5 key requirements
  1. Employment Contract: It is essential to sign a written employment contract with your domestic worker. This contract should specify important details, including full name and ID number, remuneration, working hours, overtime, leave (annual, sick, maternity, compassionate, family responsibility), and job description (list roles and responsibilities). Having a clearly defined contract protects both of you and ensures a fair working relationship to your mutual benefit.
  2. Minimum Wage: The current National Minimum Wage (NMW) for each “ordinary hour worked” is R25-42. Assuming a work month of 21 days x 8 hours per day, R25-42 per hour equates to R4,270-56 per month. The Living Wage calculator will help you check whether or not you are actually paying your domestic worker enough to cover a household’s “minimal need” (adjust the “Assumptions” in the calculator to ensure that the figures used are up to date).
  3. Pay Slips: Every month, you must provide your domestic worker with a written pay slip. The pay slip should include your and your employee’s details, the ordinary and overtime hours worked during the payment period, the applicable rate of remuneration, and any deductions made by you. This document ensures transparency and accountability in the payment process.
  4. UIF Registration: You must register your domestic worker for UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) and make monthly contributions. This will provide short-term relief to your employee during periods of unemployment, maternity leave, or illness. Both of you must contribute 1% of wages each month (i.e., 2% in total). Failure to comply is not only unfair to your employee, but it also exposes you to penalties and other legal consequences.
  5. COIDA Registration: Under COIDA (the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act), you must register your domestic worker with the Compensation Commissioner to ensure that your worker (or dependants) is eligible for compensation in case of injuries, disabilities, or illnesses sustained while on duty.

It is crucial to understand that non-compliance with these obligations can lead to severe consequences for you, with the risk of legal disputes, referrals to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration), Labour Court fights, and so on.

Familiarise yourself with your obligations, seek professional guidance if needed (dismissals and retrenchments are particular minefields here!) and prioritise the well-being of your domestic workers to maintain a positive and lawful working relationship.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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