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Unions want members to benefit from UIF though employers didn't contribute to the fund

Domestic worker Nomathemba Daka at work in Mondeor.  File Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi  African News Agency (ANA)

Domestic worker Nomathemba Daka at work in Mondeor. File Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 14, 2020


Domestic worker unions are seeking for their members to be declared as Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) contributors as a result of employers’ reluctance to register them before the coronavirus outbreak.

SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers’ Union (Sadsawu) general secretary Myrtle Witbooi said the Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in loss of income for many domestic workers.

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

According to the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri), who represent Sadsawu, only about 20% of domestic workers in the country are registered with the UIF.

“This means most domestic workers cannot access the Department of Employment and Labour’s Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters), because domestic employers did not fulfil their legal obligation to register them,” Seri said.

On April 28, Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said employers who had not registered their employees for UIF were to register them in order to benefit from Ters.

Seri attorney Khululiwe Bhengu told The Star that despite the minister’s announcement, the union was concerned that employers would not register their workers because of possible debt caused by the outbreak.

“The issue is that there is not going to be willingness on their part to register, especially because some may now have debt. We’re talking about people who did not want to register their employees when they didn’t have to do any undertaking for debt,” she said.

Bhengu said the 20% of UIF registered domestic workers already showed an unwillingness from employers to register their workers.

Department of Employment and Labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane said any employer who did not register to pay money to the fund or withheld Ters money due to workers were considered non-compliant. He said employers found non-compliant would have action taken against them.

United Domestic Workers of SA president Pinky Mashiane said the union sent a letter to the department last week asking that employers not be penalised for not registering their workers.

“Our aim with amnesty is trying to make employers comply and we want the government to find a friendly way to protect domestic workers from retrenchments and dismissal,” she said.

Mashiane said if employers were not penalised by the government it would promote employer compliance.

The unions, as well as the Izwi Domestic Workers’ Alliance, sent recommendations to the department and the UIF commissioner to declare domestic workers as UIF contributors for the duration of the pandemic.

The unions also made recommendations that the department create a mechanism for domestic workers to access Ters directly from the department as individuals, or collectively through their unions.

“If they are declared as UIF contributors and are able to access the funds, it makes things much easier for domestic workers,” Bhengu said.


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