Domestic Workers' rights in South Africa

The labour relationship between domestic workers and their employers has been neglected for a long time in South Africa and has been addressed by the Domestic Workers’ Act in recent years. Minimum pay rates for domestic workers increase annually, and in 2003 domestic workers became eligible for UIF, allowing them to claim unemployment, illness and death benefits. Click here for more information.

  • Who is a domestic worker?

    A domestic worker is a driver, gardener or person who looks after children, the aged, frail, sick or disabled persons in a private household, but not on a farm. This is the view taken in the Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act, 2002 (Act No. 4 of 2002).

    The Domestic Workers' Act:
    • The Domestic Workers' Act prescribes the minimum wages for domestics and specifies working conditions such as hours of work, salary increases, overtime pay, deductions, annual and sick leave.
    • This legislation also lists the urban areas (classified as A Areas) where one minimum wage applies. A second minimum wage applies to domestic workers in non-urban areas (B Areas).

  • To whom does the Domestic Workers’ Act apply?

    The Act applies to the estimated 1 to 1.5 million workers in the country who work as domestics, gardeners, child minders (including drivers of children) and those who look after the sick, aged or disabled in private homes. The legislation also covers domestic workers who work as independent contractors.
  • How do I calculate my domestic workers’ Wage?

    More information on this topic can be found here.
  • Hours of Work, Leave and Dismissal

    Current legislation is very specific, and accordingly domestic workers should work no more than 45 hours a week, and should not work more than nine hours a day if they work a five-day week, or alternatively, they should not work more than eight hours a day if they work for more than five days a week.
  • Is there a union for domestic workers?

    Yes, there is - the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers' Union (SADSAWU). There is also a Sectoral Determination in place.
  • UIF for domestic workers

    It is required that both the domestic worker and their employer must contribute 1% of their wages to the Unemployment Insurance Fund as from 1 April 2003. The only qualifying criterion is that the domestic worker works more than 24 hours a month.

    You can register online for UIF here.
  • Who has to register for UIF as a domestic employer?

    If your employee works for you for more than 24 hours per month, by law, as an employer, you are required to register both yourself and them with the UIF Department and contribute towards the fund.

    • In a situation where one household employs more than one domestic worker, it is required that only one domestic employer registration is completed.
    • If a domestic worker is employed by more than one employer, each employer must register separately and ensure that the domestic worker is registered. This requirement is also applicable to labour brokers, employment agents or any person/entity that administers the relationships of more than one domestic employer.
    • Separate registrations are also required in cases where a commercial employer is also a domestic employer. Registration and payment of contributions of domestic workers may not be included in that of a commercial enterprise.
    • People employed by businesses that are run from private households are not regarded as domestic workers.
    • People employed by corporate entities (body corporates, etc.) as gardeners or cleaners in housing complexes are also not regarded as being employed in private households.
    • Legal entities such as Companies, Close Corporations, Partnerships and any other Corporate Bodies cannot be viewed as domestic employers.

  • General information

    • Domestic workers should work no more than 15 hours a week overtime, and no more than three hours on any one day. They should also receive double pay on Sundays or public holidays.
    • Employers whose domestic workers live on the property may deduct 10% of their salary for accommodation, providing the accommodation complies with the minimum standards laid down in the legislation.
    • An employer wishing to dismiss a worker must give a week’s notice if the domestic has been employed for six months or less and four weeks' notice if he or she has worked for more than six months.
    • Domestics are also entitled to severance pay of one week for each year of service, as well as four months' unpaid maternity leave.
    • All employers must register their employees for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and are advised to sign an employment contract with their domestic worker. A sample employment contract can be found here.
    • All UIF beneficiaries who continue to receive UIF benefits after they have returned to work and fail to inform the UIF about their new status are committing an act of fraud.

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