In the spirit of Women’s Month in August, ProBono.Org’s three offices and Umhlobo Wenene FM collaborated in a three-part radio series to educate women in their vernacular about their rights in relation to certain areas of law.
The first segment kicked off on 11 August 2021 where Cape Town Legal Intern, Nwabisa Sobekwa was interviewed by radio presenter Tozama Ngconogolo regarding Domestic Worker rights.
Nwabisa introduced the organisation and informed listeners about our three regional offices, the matters we assist
with and our exclusions. She also provided our contact details, physical address and the ProBono. Org website.
There were four main questions asked by Tozama, whereafter listeners were given an opportunity to participate by calling in with their questions. The first question concerned the definition of a domestic worker and whether the definition was restricted to females who are employed to fulfil household duties. Nwabisa explained that a domestic worker is a person who is employed to work as a gardener, driver, babysitter, or carer for the aged, sick or disabled in a private household.
The next issue addressed the obligations pertaining to the registration of domestic workers with the Department of Labour.
Nwabisa explained that an employer who has a person working for more than 24 hours per month is obliged to register their domestic worker for UIF with the Department of Labour. Furthermore, the employer must pay a total contribution of 2% (1% contributed by the employee and 1% contributed by the employer), which must be paid within a prescribed period.
Another question concerned the grievance procedure and enforcement of rights when issues arise within the workplace. Nwabisa outlined various scenarios that can put a dent in the employer-employee relationship. She advised that when a domestic worker is disgruntled about working conditions, unfair dismissal/ treatment in the workplace, they can refer the dispute to the CCMA within a prescribed period of 30 days after the dispute arose. The process for dispute resolution at the CCMA was briefly explained as well.
The conversation included other rights relating to leave, salaries/wages and working hours. In relation to salaries, a domestic worker is entitled to a minimum wage of R19.09 per hour (in accordance with the national minimum wage regulations). Furthermore, the employee cannot work more than 45 hours per week and anything over and above those hours entitles an employee to be paid overtime. Moreover, work on Sundays is voluntary and a domestic employee cannot be forced to work on a Sunday or on public holidays. In addition, domestic workers who work on a Sunday or public holiday must be paid double the daily wage.
With regards to leave provision, domestic workers are entitled to annual leave, sick leave and maternity leave. The annual leave is calculated in such a way that a domestic worker is entitled to 3 weeks’ leave per year or an agreement can be reached for 1 day’s leave every 17 days worked. Due to time restraints we were unable to tackle maternity leave and sick leave.
The listeners were then invited to ask questions relating to the topic. In response to a question whether an employer can force their domestic worker to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Nwabisa advised that an employer cannot force them to get vaccinated. According to South African law everyone has the right to freedom of choice and the right to bodily integrity and therefore a domestic worker can refuse to be vaccinated on constitutional and/ or medical grounds.
Another listener asked what precautions an employer needs to take when hiring a domestic worker from a different country. Nwabisa advised the listener that many women migrate to South Africa without proper documentation to seek better opportunities. Sometimes the only document they may have is a temporary residence permit or a passport. In most case these expire, and the domestic worker becomes an illegal immigrant.
It is important that employers check whether their employees are documented and, if not, assist with renewal or an application for a work visa. The listener was advised that employing a person who is undocumented is risky and that the employer should obtain certified copies of the domestic worker’s documents as a precaution.
Another listener asked whether a worker could claim from UIF if they resign based on bad treatment by their employer. Nwabisa advised that when an employer makes the working conditions unbearable to an extent that the employee makes a decision to resign, an employee would be able to claim for constructive dismissal from the Department of Labour.
Nwabisa’s overall experience of the radio interview with Umhlobo Wenene FM was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. She believes it was an opportunity to be able to pass on vital information in respect of domestic worker rights to community members in their mother tongue. It further made her realise the importance of legal education to ensure that people are aware of their rights, have access to information and know-how to go about obtaining services that they may not have known existed. Further sessions in the three-part series were held on: • 18 August, where the topic for discussion was Domestic Violence by Durban Legal Intern, Ntandoyenkosi Mkize; and • 25 August, where the topic for discussion was Divorce by Johannesburg Legal Intern, Khanyisa Molaoa.
Visit our website at www. probono.org.za for podcasts of the series.