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Domestic workers now acknowledged as employees, what this means for households

Domestic workers now acknowledged as employees, what this means for households
"In a judgment hailed as a victory for domestic workers, the Constitutional Court has confirmed a lower court's order that a piece of legislation is constitutionally invalid."

As the profession ensuring South African homes and businesses are maintained, domestic workers are the backbone of the South African economy, in a sense, they, through their services, forward people the opportunity to focus on their career or business.

But over the years, domestic workers have often found themselves dealing with loose legislation governing the standards or procedures around their employment. However, this has now changed for the better.

Bringing us up to speed with these changes is Newcastle’s employment law expert, Rob Russell of Labour Advice and Dispute Resolution who elaborates, “In a judgment hailed as a victory for domestic workers, the Constitutional Court has confirmed a lower court’s order that a piece of legislation is constitutionally invalid. This is on the grounds that the legislation excludes them (domestic workers) from the definition of an employee. This means employers will have to pay Compensation Fund contributions for their domestic workers, on top of the national minimum wage of R15.57 per hour, along with Unemployment Insurance Fund contributions that employers already pay for their domestic workers.”

When handing down the judgment, Acting Justice Margaret Victor said domestic workers were “unsung heroines”.

She elaborates by saying, “They are a powerful group of women whose profession enables all economically active members of society to prosper and pursue their careers.”

Moreover, she emphasised that given the nature of their work, as well as their relationships with their own children and family members are compromised, while people such as us can pursue our career goals with peace of mind, knowing our children, elderly family members and households are well taken care of.

Following the judgement, Russell highlights that the high court in Pretoria ruled in 2019 that a section of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Disease Act was constitutionally invalid and that domestic workers must be able to apply to the fund retrospectively, with effect from April 27, 1994. He emphasises, “This effect implies, an employer must register with the Commissioner within seven days after the day on which he employs his first employee. An employer must register with the Commissioner by submitting Form W As 2, with the particulars required therein to the Commissioner.”

But who is precisely covered in Domestic Worker Sectoral Determination?

Russell stresses that the term domestic workers cover a more comprehensive range of the workforce than many imagine. Those who fall in this sector include the following:

· All domestic workers in South Africa working in a private household (including farms).
· People employed by employment services.
· Independent contractors who are doing domestic work.
· A person doing gardening in a private home.
· A person driving for the household.
· People who look after children, sick or older adults and people with disabilities in a private home.

With this sector now changing, it is instrumental in ensuring you follow the correct legislation, as not following the proper legislation can land you in a spot of bother with the authorities.

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Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer
Edited: Calvin Swemmer

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