Hiring a Domestic Worker: What you need to know

Many South Africans hire domestic workers for their homes and are required to comply with the applicable labour Legislation. In our experience, the majority of people who employ domestic workers in their homes, do not fulfil their legal obligations as employers; exposing themselves to the unnecessary risk of fines, labour disputes and possible Compliance Orders.

Should you wish to avoid these problems, it is vital for you to comply with the guidelines set out herein. The law provides employers with significant tools to protect their rights and interests, but employers who choose to wait until problems arise, end up paying a lot more to sort out issues that could have easily been avoided.

The Labour Laws applicable to domestic workers are quite extensive and we understand that people who are not from a legal background will not have the requisite knowledge to apply these. Listed below are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions:

What legislation applies to domestic workers?

Domestic workers enjoy similar protection to other employees, however, the law recognises that they are required to be highly trustworthy and that not all domestic employers are able to afford the wages that would be applicable to corporate employees. The Domestic Workers’ Act covers all staff that work in homes including gardeners, cleaners, cooks, nannies and au pairs. Domestic employers are also required to comply with the requirements that are set out in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and National Minimum Wage Act.

Do I need an employment contract with my Domestic Worker?

Before a domestic worker begins working for you, you are required to draw up and have them sign a written employment contract. This contract sets out the basis of the employer-employee relationship and ensures that the respective rights and obligations of both parties are clearly set out and agreed in advance of the employment relationship coming into existence. This will help to avoid basic disputes and should set out clear rules and sanctions for breaches of these rules.

What should I pay my domestic worker?

In January 2019, the National Minimum Wage was set at R20/hr for most employees and R15/hr for Domestic Workers. Although this is the legal minimum, many believe that this is not a market-related salary and should therefore, only be used as a starting point for staff with no experience, or who are on probation, or still in training. It is a legal requirement that you provide your domestic employee with a pay slip every month which sets out the applicable deductions such as UIF. (As from 1 April 2013, domestic workers and their employers must each contribute 1 percent of their wages to the Unemployment Insurance Fund.) Other deductions such as medical aid or pension are permitted but should be agreed in advance.

How many hours can a domestic employee work?

The law states that Domestic Workers may be required to work up to 45 hours in a given week (lunch and tea breaks are not considered worktime and are added to the 45 hours above). They should not work more than nine hours a day if they work a five-day week, or more than eight hours a day if they work for more than five days a week.

How do I fire a domestic employee?

You are not legally allowed to affect a summary dismissal (termination without notice) if you have not first conducted a disciplinary hearing and allowed your domestic employee a fair opportunity to respond to the charges that you wish to dismiss them on. These charges must be stated in writing, with sufficient particularity as to allow your staff member to prepare a defence to them. Your employee is also required, or should reasonably be expected to know, that should they be found guilty of the charges, their employment with yourself may be terminated. Following the incorrect procedures or firing a domestic worker for non-lawful reasons could result in your having to compensate them for up to 12 months’ salary.

Should you wish to be certain that you are complying with your legal obligations with respect to your domestic staff, please contact us to assist you. For as little as R2,500.00 we will draw up a personalized employment contract for you, that will ensure that you are protected if things don’t work out as expected. Trust the experts, use The Labour Counsel.

The Labour Counsel offers a wide range of services, including the issuing of proper employment handbooks and conducting fair disciplinary hearings. By ensuring that you have the correct offer of employment and Disciplinary Code, we are able to eliminate the stresses that result from hiring the wrong candidate!

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