Do you have a one day per week domestic worker? Labour lawyer warns you may be legally liable for employee benefits

A labour lawyer has warned households that they are legally liable to provide domestic worker benefits, even if a domestic renders services once a week. Picture: Dawit Bogale/Pexels

A labour lawyer has warned households that they are legally liable to provide domestic worker benefits, even if a domestic renders services once a week. Picture: Dawit Bogale/Pexels

Published May 16, 2024


A labour law expert has warned households who employ the domestic services of cleaners, cooks, gardeners and pool men - even just once a week, that they could be legally liable for employee benefits if they rendered a service beyond 24 hours monthly.

Domestic workers play a critical role in the machine that is South Africa, helping households with children, cooking, cleaning, the garden, pool services, the dogs and other household functions that busy parents cannot do themselves.

According to Stats South Africa’s latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey for 2024, there are around 869,000 domestic workers in South Africa.

Stuart MacGregor, a labour law practitioner and consultant to the South African United Employer Organisation (SAUEO) said that in SA, the moment you hire a domestic worker, even if it's just once a week, you become a domestic employer with significant legal responsibilities.

He said that many South Africans are not aware of this and wrongly believe that if you hire foreign workers, you are exempt from complying with domestic employment laws.

This is far from the truth, he said.

MacGregor said non-compliance to domestic employment laws can lead to severe penalties and legal repercussions, including hefty fines and negative outcomes at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

MacGregor said domestic workers include people providing services within private households, including cleaners, gardeners, dog walkers, drivers and caregivers for children, the elderly, or the sick and disabled.

You need to understand your duties

In terms of the consequences for South Africans of non-compliance with labour laws, MacGregor said that failure to comply with legal obligations can result in hefty fines and penalties of anywhere between R10,000 to R50,000, subject to the severity and duration of the violation.

“Additionally, if your domestic worker lodges a claim against you at the CCMA and you are found guilty of unfair labour practices, the worker may be awarded financial compensation.”

He emphasised that South Africans must provide their domestic workers with an employment contract and job description.

“It is mandatory to furnish domestic workers with employment contracts and job descriptions if they work 24 hours or more monthly, ensuring transparency and clarity regarding roles and responsibilities,” he explained.

MacGregor said that it is important that employers maintain records containing essential employee information, including identifying documents and contact details, occupation hours and documentation on remuneration.

“When the employee no longer works for you, you must retain these records for at least three years thereafter,” he added.

Another important matter that most South Africans do not know is that domestic workers are entitled to leave pay.

MacGregor said that all domestic workers are entitled to leave specified types of leave pay.

“If it is general leave, for example, it is calculated based on one day's leave for every 17 days worked, regardless of the number of days worked per week,” he explained.

“Understanding your duties and rights as a domestic employer is paramount for fostering a fair and just working environment. By adhering to legal requirements and ensuring transparent employment practices, employers can protect their own safety and rights as well as that of their domestic workers,” MacGregor emphasised.


In South Africa domestic workers are entitled to a minimum wage of R27.58 per hour, as of February 2024.

According to the median earnings data from Stats SA, domestic workers have the lowest median salaries in the country. They earn around R2,350 a month.

Your domestic worker must also be registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) through the Department of Labour.

According to the department all domestic workers are allowed to work a maximum of 45 ordinary hours per week.

This can be broken down as follows:

  • A maximum of 9 hours per day if working for 5 days a week.
  • A maximum of 8 hours per day if working more than 5 days a week.