Cape Town - Employers of domestic workers should recognise that their homes are workplaces and thus must create a fair and mutually beneficial working environment for them and employees.
This is according to Social Economic Rights Institute (SERI) researcher Kelebogile Khunou, who together with the Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance created a guide for employers to inform them of their rights and obligations and also to provide practical advice and support to assist them in improving their employment practices.
Izwi co-founder Amy Tekie said that one of their findings during a public awareness campaign about domestic workers’ issues was that many employers of domestic workers were unaware of the laws which regulated domestic work, and their rights and responsibilities in the domestic employment relationship.
Because of this, Tekie said, domestic workers always bore the brunt of employer non-compliance with labour laws such as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. This resulted unfair working conditions such as low wages, long hours with no overtime payment, and the constant threat of dismissal.
“Domestic workers are isolated because they work in different places. They are afraid to stand up because they might lose their jobs. South Africa has laws to protect domestic workers and make sure they're being treated fairly, even if they don't have legal papers in South Africa,” she said.
Khunou said domestic workers were an essential part of many families and the child and home care they provide contributed to the national economy by enabling others to carry out their own jobs.
“Domestic workers, over 95% of whom are women, are primary breadwinners for hundreds of thousands of families and yet they often lack recognition as real workers and work under unfair conditions.
“The user-friendly guide provides legal advice and guidelines on how to begin and manage the domestic employment relationship.
“It provides guidance on the interview process, the terms of employment from the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (such as working hours, overtime and leave), the requirements of the written particulars of employment and on maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship.”
The Employing a Domestic Worker: A Legal and Practical Guide (August 2021) can be downloaded at www.seri-sa.org.