Many households employing domestic workers on wrong side of the law

Multitudes of households employing domestic workers are on the wrong side of the law and they could face grim consequences if discovered by the department of labour which has promised to jack up inspection of compliance with relevant regulations.

A statement issued by Emergence Growth Services and Domestere, advisory firms specialising in domestic worker conditions, said both residential and commercial compliance with the provisions for domestic workers, as set out in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and Occupational Health And Safety Act, has experienced a steady, but slower than expected uptake. This results in many domestic workers not to enjoy the employment rights guaranteed by these two Acts. The other implication is that non-compliant employers are in fact breaking the law and are subject to fines, prosecution, and in extreme cases, possible incarceration according to the department of labour.

Yendor Felgate, CEO of Emergence Growth Services, a provider of human capital management, said in most cases non-compliance may be completely unintentional and that adoption of compliance may be hindered due to mass ignorance.

Pieter Laubscher, Deputy Director for Electrical Engineering within the Department of Labour, was quoted saying the reasons for the slow rate of compliance of employers has not yet been fully determined. However steady progress is being made and the department’s inspectors are not experiencing much.

David Honeyman, Executive at Guardrisk Allied Products and Services, a division of Alexander Forbes, was quoted saying domestic workers often do not enjoy insurance benefits that many businesses provide to their employees.

The most recent National Census is expected to declare a conservative figure of approximately 900 000 domestic workers in South Africa, although this figure would be accepted as being lower than the true amount. It is also suggested that of this, up to 28% of domestic workers remain without the necessary documentation or agreement of formal employment with employers.

Previous statements by the Department of Labour have included strong messages regarding the on-going battle for Act compliance.

“Our research into why so many employers fail to legalise their domestic service arrangements indicates that while most employers are keen to do the right thing, few are aware that that their two-day-a-week domestic worker qualifies as an employee, said Felgate. Others are just overwhelmed by the administrative hassle involved in formalising contracts, registering with UIF and producing a payslip.”

“Non-compliance is therefore, in the majority of cases, not a result of malicious intent, but rather a result of simply not knowing what needs to be done, or how to do it. Sadly, this is probably a result of many years of unregulated domestic employment, where domestic work was seen as an informal career and therefore not subject to any employment legislation. While I do think that it is generally known that domestic workers are entitled to employment rights, our research suggests that there may be confusion as to what these rights are.”

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