Covid-19: Domestic workers still unsure what their rights are
Pinky Mashiane, president of United Domestic Workers of South Africa, said domestic workers remained extremely vulnerable as there were no official measures in place to protect them at this stage.
“Some employers will pay their domestic workers’ medical bills if they get infected, but others are expected to dispute that they had contracted the virus while on duty. This is especially in light of them having to travel on public transport to work.”
Mashiane urged employers to place their domestic workers on paid leave during the lockdown period. “Workers depend on their jobs to provide for their families. They obviously cannot work from home and many are experiencing uncertainty about their jobs.”
Those whose employees have registered them for UIF benefits will be able to claim if they lose out on their salaries. But Mashiane said the problem was that many employers had not yet registered their workers.
While President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the establishment of a fund to assist the vulnerable during this time, Mashiane said he did not specifically address the plight of people such as the domestic workers, who were extremely vulnerable.
The organisation and other unions have approached the Department of Labour to ask that a special fund be made available to assist these people financially if they were not paid during this time.
A petition, endorsed by Mashiane, set up by coalition unions and other interested parties, has been sent to the government, in which they are asking that the most vulnerable, which includes domestic workers, also be covered during this time by the UIF.
Mashiane said if this was not possible, they called on government to set up an emergency fund for this category of workers.
She said this was the only way many of them would be able to survive the lockdown. She said she had been inundated during this time by domestic workers who were sent home by their employers without being paid.
Some complained that their employers had locked them into the premises, as they don’t want them to come into contact with others who might be infected, thus spreading the virus to the homes of the employers.
Maria Masemola, who has been working for her employers in Lynnwood, Pretoria East, for 10 years, was among those who yesterday asked Mashiane for help. She was about to go to her clinic for her monthly chronic medication, when her employer refused her permission to go.
“She said she would rather make me an appointment with a general practitioner, but I am not allowed to go to the clinic and bring the virus home. I am very upset.”
Masemola said her employer told her if she went to the clinic she had to go straight home to Mamelodi. “Went to the clinic and I am now going home. I have no idea whether they will pay me for this time,” she said.