According to the Socio Economic Rights Institute of SA, many domestic workers continued to be subjected to exploitative working conditions. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
According to the Socio Economic Rights Institute of SA, many domestic workers continued to be subjected to exploitative working conditions. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

‘Domestic workers also need income protection’

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published May 17, 2020

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Cape town - The South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers’ Union (Sadsawu), represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (Seri), has made recommendations to the National Command Council, the employment and labour minister and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) commissioner.

The submission is seeking a declaration of domestic workers as UIF contributors so they can access income protection during the State of Disaster.

Seri attorney Khululiwe Bhengu said only about 20% of domestic workers were registered for UIF.

She said the majority of domestic workers cannot access the Department of Employment and Labour’s Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) because their employers did not fulfil their legal obligations.

“Registering an employee for UIF is the duty of the employer which entails that the employer and employee must both make a 1% contribution for the duration of the employment. Most domestic employers just don’t want to take that responsibility,” Bhengu said.

Seri’s letter recommended that the minister and the UIF board, relying on Section 69 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, declare domestic workers as UIF contributors for the purpose of the act and specifically for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The letter also recommended that the department create a mechanism for domestic workers to access TERS directly from the department, as individuals or through their unions.

Bhengu said it was likely that some domestic employers, the majority of whom are rarely held accountable for their transgressions, would rather dismiss their employees unfairly than pay their debt.

“In the case of vulnerable sectors like domestic work, the department needs to find creative solutions to support workers while holding employers accountable,” she said.

“During the lockdown the department has neglected to directly address the 1 million domestic workers and their employers, leaving this vulnerable sector without clear direction.

“There hasn’t been a specific fund or relief designed for domestic workers and that is why we have recommended that the minister declare them as UIF contributors, so that they can access the Covid-19 TERS fund.”

Sadsawu’s general secretary Myrtle Witbooi said the Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in loss of income for many domestic workers.

“Many of them are told ‘no work, no pay’ and are not able to benefit from the relief scheme,” Witbooi said.

She said some registered domestic workers reported that their applications for TERS had been declined. She said they advised their members to apply for the social distress grant.

@Mtuzeli

[email protected]

Cape Argus

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