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Calls for legal status for domestics

May 01 2012 15:17 Sapa

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Johannesburg - While compliance with legislation guaranteeing the rights of domestic workers has seen a steady climb, many employers were still not complying, a labour consultant said on Tuesday, Workers Day.

Reasons for the slow rate of employer compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act was often due to ignorance, said Yendor Felgate.

"Our research into why so many employers fail to legalise their domestic service arrangements indicates that while most employers are keen to do the right thing, few are aware that that their two-day-a-week domestic worker qualifies as an employee," said Yendor, CEO of Emergence Growth Services.

"Others are just overwhelmed by the administrative hassle involved in formalising contracts, registering with UIF and producing a payslip.

Non-compliance was therefore mostly not because of malicious intent but due to not knowing what needed to be done or how to do it, said Felgate.

This was probably because the domestic employment industry had been unregulated for many years.

Progress was being made with inspections taking place at both businesses and private homes, said a deputy director in the department of labour's Pieter Laubscher.

Those not complying face fines, prosecution and in extreme cases, possible jail time.

The most recent national census, conducted last year, was expected to declare a conservative figure of approximately 900 000 domestic workers in South Africa.

This figure would be accepted as being lower than the true amount.

It was believed up to 28% of domestic workers still did not have the necessary documentation or a formal employment agreement with their employers.

As a result, the department of labour had initiated on-going inspections to ensure employers complied with legislation.

Laubscher said all provincial offices kept inspection records.

Over the last financial year, 1 913 inspections were conducted in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, with 1 542 of those inspected complying.

Most inspections would continue to be done in residential areas and ignorance would not be accepted as an excuse for non-compliance.

Felgate said, “Domestic employers must realise that inspection teams may arrive at your doorstep and have the right to check your premises, talk to your domestic employee, and to ask for proof of employment requirement compliance.”

David Honeyman, an executive at Guardrisk Allied Products and Services, said employee benefits for those working in corporations were not often afforded to domestic workers.

This was even though it was domestic workers who most required the protection offered by legislation. 

labour laws  |  domestic workers
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