More and more millennial’s are joining the workforce and running their own households, becoming the biggest employer of domestic workers. However, according to a new report by SweepSouth, 16% of 1300 South African domestic workers polled, revealed that they are mistreated in the workplace.
Domestic workers have been the cornerstone of successfully-run households in South Africa for several generations and this does not seem to be changing as more millennial’s become the major employing group of domestic workers. According to Statistics South Africa, in 2017 over 1 million people were employed as domestic workers. It only makes sense then, that a 2019 report on ‘Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Workers in South Africa’ is released by a digital domestic worker booking platform, – Uber for Domestic Workers, if you will – SweepSouth.
Fitting, because this is how we (read: millennials) are now finding and sometimes building lasting relationships with domestic workers. It seems, no one has time to find a helper via the friend-of-a-relative-of-a-friend route that our parents usually used, and we simply have trust issues, tbh. Apps like SweepSouth that promise to do the vetting process on our behalf gives us a strange sense of comfort in booking a stranger to come into your home to clean, from your smartphone.
There are many things that can contribute to a rocky relationship between you and your domestic helper, chief among them it seems, is navigating how a senior in age (which most domestic workers are) and young you can make it difficult to cultivate a respectful power dynamic because most of us were taught to listen to, obey and respect our elders growing up. Despite that, it is very important for employers of domestic workers, especially, to remember that “the average domestic worker is paid below minimum wage (R20 per hour)” which is already stressful without dealing with an abusive employer.
No matter what kind of domestic-worker employer you are; full time, live-in, a few hours a week or occasionally, you need to treat your employees fairly and with respect. Here a few things that could help you become a good domestic-worker employer:
1. Pay Your Domestic Worker According to Labour Law Standards
According to the report, domestic workers earn about R2 500 per month (R17 per hour for a seven-hour work day) and must spend this on food, transport, school fees, rent, data and airtime. At the bare minimum, you should be paying your domestic worker R20 per hour or more to meet the minimum working wage. It is always advised to pay above the minimum working wage according to the scope of work for your domestic worker and because R20 per hour is not a proper living wage for domestic workers or anyone else, for that matter.
2. Help Protect Your Domestic Worker Against Unemployment
Between 2018 and 2019, “15 000 domestic workers lost their jobs due to the poor economic environment.” The report by SweepSouth found that 62% of domestic workers were not registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and 27% did not know whether they were registered or not. That is potentially just under 90% of the domestic work force’s incomes being completely unprotected from the effects of a job loss.
It would be good to find out if the help you employ is registered with UIF and if not, to assist in getting them registered AND contributing to their UIF as one of their employers. According to the Department of Labour in South Africa’s website as of May 2019, “it is the responsibility of the employer to fill in and submit forms to register themselves and their workers” for UIF. There are currently 5 different ways to register for UIF; online by visiting the DOL website, downloading and submitting completed forms via email, via telephone, fax, mail or visiting a labour centre.
Other things to consider contributing to with your domestic worker are medical aid, pension, and funeral cover.
3. Give Your Domestic Worker a Pay-Slip
Too many of us think of domestic work as an informal trade which is supported by the fact that 61% of the polled domestic workers stating that they do not receive payslips at the end of the month while 15% said they do not receive paid leave.
We all know how important being able to provide a pay slip is for a number of different services, insurance, etc. is (along with the dreaded proof of address). Not having a pay slip limits access to loans/grants, bank accounts, in some cases schooling and so much more… really, we all know this.
By creating and giving your domestic worker a weekly or monthly payslip, it goes a long way in them being able to prove their employment at different institutions if a contract of employment is not in place – which you should also get, by the way. There are plenty of payslip templates available online with a quick Google search.
4. Find Ways To Upskill Your Domestic Worker
Most jobs in South Africa have internal training and upskilling programs for employees and this should be no different for domestic workers, especially those working for the same employer on a consistent number of hours weekly, monthly and annually. SweepSouth found that at least 55% of domestic workers have completed high school or higher education.
Upskilling could be as simple as contributing to the completion of a driver’s licence, enrolling in a short course or extended higher education programs. Besides it being an incredible thing to do for someone under your employ, you can qualify for tax rebates or refunds and earn BBBEE points for doing so.
It is very important to know what you are legally obligated to as an employer of not only domestic workers but for anyone that you pay to perform a regular set of tasks or services. With the extremely high unemployment rate in South Africa, it is amazing that some of us are able to provide some sort of stable work to those who are skilled and seek it but it goes a long way when those same workers are treated fairly, taken care of and provided with a positive workplace where they can grow.