About 1.5 million South Africans are registered as domestic workers, but many more people are thought to make a living from domestic work.
Although the sector has become slightly more regulated over the years, labour lawyer Michael Bagraim says that, for the most part, domestic workers still aren't sufficiently recognised by the Labour Department.
The Sectoral Determination 7 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act outlines the wages and conditions of employment for the domestic worker sector.
The Act says a domestic worker may not work more than 45 hours per week, if they do they must be paid overtime.
Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler says very few domestic workers have written employment contracts stipulating their wage rate, maximum hours of work or annual leave.
Moreover, most of them aren't registered by their employers for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) or for Workmen’s Compensation.
Many domestic workers are still working without any contracts setting out their duties, hours of work, leave or sick leave.— Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist
I'm pretty sure that many employers of domestic workers have never even looked at that legislation to find out if they are complying.— Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist
So, what happens when a domestic worker is injured on duty?
Bagraim says employers can be held liable for injuries that domestic workers suffer on the job.
He advises that employers register domestic workers for UIF and for Workmen’s Compensation.
Bagraim adds that employers should invest in hospital cover and medical aid for domestic workers, where possible.
The majority of domestic workers I speak to have no registration whatsoever.— Michael Bagraim, Labour lawyer
Domestic workers are the most repressed part of the workforce... It's poverty-stricken employment.— Michael Bagraim, Labour lawyer
Domestic workers have completely been left out in the cold— Michael Bagraim, Labour lawyer
If a domestic worker is sick, she is not going to earn.— Michael Bagraim, Labour lawyer
He laments that inspectors at the Department of Labour are unable to enforce compliance for every household and says trade unions do not feel incentivised to protect the domestic worker sector.
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