Domestic Help & Child Care

The safest and most effective way of sourcing good domestic help is by referral from other expatriates, neighbours, associates, Elliott Corporate Relocations or a reputable employment agency. As a domestic worker will have the “run of your home” it is imperative that you ensure you have at least one contactable reference to vouch for her / him.  If you are in any doubt, we strongly recommend that you arrange for a security background check (Elliott Corporate Relocations do not provide this service but can co-ordinate it on your behalf).  In addition, please ensure that the domestic worker is a South African citizen or permanent resident by requesting a copy of her Identity Document.  The fine for employing an illegal immigrant is high, and payable by the employer.

Although we understand the concern many expatriates have about the high incidence of HIV / AIDS in South Africa, it is not permissible by law to discriminate against any potential employee on the basis of his or her HIV status. Doctors will not test for HIV/AIDS without the consent of the person concerned and without an undertaking that counseling will be provided in the event of the test being positive.  Our best advice, since HIV/AIDS is not easily transmitted and TB on the other hand is, is that if you have young children who will be in the care of a domestic worker, you arrange for TB screening.

Domestic Workers are defined as workers who perform any of the following duties in the home of an employer: cleaning the house; looking after children, the disabled, sick or the elderly; gardening and driving.

  • Contract and Records – an employer is required to enter into a written contract of employment with the domestic worker and to issue them with some sort of pay slip every month.

  • minimum wage has been introduced – it is set at a fairly low level, so we recommend that you pay a market related wage for the area you live in.

  • All domestic workers who work for an employer for more than 24 hours (effectively three days) a month must beregistered by their employers with the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund), and contributions to the UIF have to be paid. The easiest way to register your employee is online at: www.labour.gov.za or www.uif.gov.za. The employer and employee will have to contribute 1% (each) of the worker’s salary to the UIF, payable by 7th of each month. Failure to register workers could mean a fine of R5000. Please see below additional information on how to register and how to pay this insurance.

  • Annual increase – every domestic worker must get an 8% annual increase even if he/she earns more than the prescribed minimum wage.

  • Hours – by law domestic workers may not work more than 45 hours per week at basic wage rate.

  • Overtime – overtime is payable at a rate of 1.5 times the ordinary hourly rate, when a domestic employee works more than 45 hours The maximum overtime an employee can legally be asked to work is 15 hours per week.

  • Overtime rates – domestic workers are entitled to double pay on public holidays or Sundays, unless they work regularly on a Sunday as part of their 45 hour working week, in which case the rate is 1.5 times the hourly rate.

  • Leave – domestic workers are entitled to:

  • three weeks ordinary leave  per annum (15 working days)

  • 30 days sick leave per three year cycle. It is acceptable to ask for a doctor’s note for all occasions when sick leave is taken. We recommend that you particularly insist on one when the sick leave falls on a Monday or Friday.

  • 4 months unpaid maternity leave (you are required to keep their job open for them, although you may, employ a temporary replacement while your regular domestic is on maternity leave)

  • 5 days paid “family responsibility” leave per annum (to attend to family responsibilities like death or sickness of an immediate family member).

  • Termination of employment – either party may terminate the contract of employment by giving written notice: one week’s notice if the domestic has been employed for less than six months and four weeks’ notice thereafter. Grounds for dismissal must be fair and in line with The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (see additional details under Dismissing a Domestic Worker, below).

  • At the end of your assignment, it is compulsory that you give your domestic staff one month’s written notice and that you fulfill your obligations as employer: namely; payment of any leave due; one month’s salary and one weeks wages for every year worked. If you find your domestic worker reasonable and acceptable alternative employment, the week’s salary for every year worked and notice can be waived. However, if you are taking over a domestic worker from a colleague or neighbour, it is just as well to ensure that they have settled their obligations to her in full as you may find that you are obliged to assume these employment obligations.

Salaries are negotiable and dependent on skills, job requirements and whether the domestic lives in or out.  The South African Domestic Workers Association suggests salaries that are on the low side therefore, given that most expatriates live in more up-market areas and demand, in these areas for good experienced domestics is high, we suggest the following guidelines:

 

 

Daily Chars:                        R140 – R150 per day with a meal provided whilst on duty, plus transport (R20– R30 taxi fare depending on where they live).

Live-in Domestics:            8.5 hour day, 5 days a week with basic skills, R2 000 – R2 200 per month

                                                                (Refer to the section below with regard to Accommodation and Rations)

Skilled Domestics:            Skilled (i.e. cooking, child-minding, driving), 2 500 – R3 500 + per month

                                                                (Refer to the section below with regard to Accommodation and Rations)

Live-In Domestics


If a domestic worker ‘lives-in’, an employer may not deduct more than 25% of her wage for accommodation, though typically deductions are not made. It is customary to equip the room with basic furniture (bed, bedside table); cooking facilities and a small refrigerator – these items can be very inexpensively acquired – see Directory. Domestics will typically have their own bed linen, towels and personal items. It is also customary to provide them with 2 uniforms or overalls (available at all major supermarkets).

 

In addition, it is customary to either supply “rations” or basic foodstuffs each month to supplement their income (see list below).  You may wish to supply these basic items or simply pay your employee an additional R500 – R600 per month, if the latter is more convenient.

 

  1. Meat e.g. stewing steak or chicken pieces (5 kgs)

  2. Mealie meal / Samp / Rice (a large bag)

  3. Dried sugar beans            

  4. Sunflower oil    

  5. Peanut butter and/or jam

  6. Tea or Coffee

  7. Sugar (2.5kgs)

  8. Toilet paper, soap, deodorant

  9. Vegetables and fruit are always welcome

     

Chars tend to work from 8.00 – 4.30, though this is dependent on the time they can get to and from the house, as they are reliant on public transport. It is customary for them to have tea and bread for breakfast and lunch. They will be less involved in the family’s life, focusing on their chores: washing, ironing and cleaning.

 

All South Africans are entitled to treatment at government medical facilities and the cost for consultations and treatment is minimal – please bear in mind though that queues are long so it may take your domestic entire day to receive treatment. You are not obliged to take them to your family doctor and/or pick up their medical expenses – if you choose to do so; this is entirely at your discretion.

 

Some employers take out a pension plan and adjust their domestic worker’s wages accordingly. It is important that any such arrangements/benefits and particularly deductions should be discussed in detail with the domestic worker first.

Domestic workers generally fall under the tax threshold (unless of course they earn more than R72 000 per annum – R6 000 per month) 

As stated above; all domestic workers must be registered with UIF and it is the responsibility of the employer to make the payments to the Fund. The simplest way to register is on the website.

 

Application Forms


These are available online or can be collected from any Department of Labour, Provincial office or Labour Centre (Contacts: Department of Labour: 011 497 3000 / Sandton Labour Centre: 011 444 7631; Website: www.labour.gov.za)

  1. Employer is required to complete Form UI 19 in respect of his employees

  2. Employer must register as an employer using form UI 8D

Both the above can be downloaded from the website

 

The domestic worker’s contribution is 1% and the employer’s contribution is 1% - equaling 2% of the domestic employee’s cash salary. For example on a salary of R2200 per month, the sum of R22 a month would be deducted from the employee’s wages and the employer would pay another R22, making the monthly UIF contribution R44. Employers usually elect to pay their contributions 12 months in advance, however, they may not deduct more than the 1% contribution from the employee’s wages per month.

The contributions can be paid at the Department of Labour or Labour Centre or directly into the Fund’s bank account, quoting the UIF employer reference number to:

 

Bank:                               First National Bank

Branch Code:                    253145

Account Number:               620 524 00547

 

As for all categories of employee in South Africa, domestic workers are protected by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and cannot be wrongfully or incorrectly dismissed, without the very real risk of your being summoned to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration). This is not to say that you cannot dismiss a domestic worker who is not performing her duties. However, please err on the side of caution before dismissing a domestic worker – we suggest you consult your company HR Manager or another professional if in doubt.

 

The following procedures must be followed when giving notice to a domestic worker:

  1. 3 written warnings, detailing areas of poor performance / misdemeanours etc.

  2. 1 month’s notice in writing, signed by you and the employee

  3. 1 month’s salary – it is not advisable to have the domestic work out her notice period in the event of dismissal, simply pay her the month’s salary and other monies due and allow her to leave

  4. Payment of any leave due

Typically, the tenant maintains the pool and garden for the duration of the lease – which includes: keeping pools free of algae, clean and topped up; and keeping gardens neat, tidy, free from weeds and regularly watered. Apart from obviously wanting to enjoy a sparkling blue pool and lovely garden, as previously stated, the costs of “rehabilitating” pools and gardens is high therefore, unless you are an enthusiastic gardener and have the time to properly maintain a pool, we recommend that you contract professional services to provide weekly maintenance services.

Swimming pools are one of those “great to haves” but are high maintenance! Johannesburg’s summer storms, lightning, rain and hot weather can play havoc with the chemical balance and turn a sparkling blue pool green overnight!  Pool service companies will maintain the pool on a weekly basis (check chemical balance; add chemicals; and backwash the filter).  The typical cost for an average size pool (including the chemicals) is around R650 per month. Since the permanent marking caused by growth of algae is costly to remove and sometimes requires complete resurfacing of the pool (R3 500 plus), professional pool maintenance is well worth the cost.

Whether or not you elect to contract maintenance to a pool service company, please refer to the following if you have a swimming pool:

  • Swimming pools should be fitted with a Barracuda or similar automatic pool cleaner,. Thesework off the filtration system, vacuuming the bottom and sides of the pool when the filter is on. The hoses and other working parts may need to be replaced periodically, which is typically the tenant’s responsibility.

  • Pool filters should be back-washed weekly, normally undertaken by the pool services contractor. However, if you elect to do it yourself, please ensure that the landlord provides you with detailed instructions on how to operate the pool filtration system.

  • When leaves settle on the pool and become saturated, they drop to the bottom. This disturbs the pH balance and also causes stains. We recommend that you scoop the leaves off the surface of the pool on a regular basis and clear the leaf skimmer if fitted. The landlord should supply you with a leaf scoop and brush for the pool. A surface skimmer is an excellent addition to the pool equipment, and aside from the above mentioned problems with leaves, greatly enhances the appearance of the pool.

  • Chlorine is the most commonly used chemical (although some pools are salt chlorinated and require special instructions and treatment). The most convenient method of adding chlorine is a chlorination “buoy,” which lasts for a month or more, however, in summer, and particularly after storms, you will need to add a few cups of dry chlorine (HTH brand or similar) every week.

If you are maintaining the pool yourself, you will need to purchase pool-testing strips to regularly test the chemical levels. Aside from the chlorine, you will occasionally need to add other chemicals as indicated by the colour indicated on the test strip.  HTH Help Line: 0800 22 22 40

  • Pool chemicals are dangerousand should be kept out of the reach of children.  Product instructions should be strictly adhered to.

  • Pool safety nets / fences: if your pool is open to the street or accessible to the public, you are required to have a safety net or fence. If it is enclosed and you have young children of your own, or guests or domestic workers with young children, please take special care as drowning accounts for a large number of child deaths in South Africa, and happens in an instant. It is good idea to arrange for swimming instruction if you have young children who cannot swim.

There are a large number of reputable garden service contractors who provide weekly garden maintenance.  These companies will provide a team of staff and the necessary equipment to mow the lawn; trim and weed the flower beds. The cost per month varies between R550 and R900 depending on the size of the garden. These contractors do not water the garden or plant annuals and shrubs unless by request and usually charge an additional fee, per quotation.

 

If the property you have rented has an irrigation system, it may be manual or computerised.  If the former, you will need to switch it on (early morning is best) and if the latter, it will be programmed to come on automatically.  In both instances, please ensure that you have an operation manual and that the landlord has fully explained its operation as you may want to adjust the settings and times, depending on weather conditions.  In most instances it is your responsibility to maintain the system (replace broken sprinkler nozzles, etc.) and report breakdowns to the landlord promptly

 

If the garden does not have an irrigation system, you will need to have a hosepipe and sprinklers to manually water the garden regularly, especially during the winter months (May to September) when very little rain falls.  In this instance you may decide to employ a gardener once or twice a week rather than a garden service.

 

The same conditions apply to gardeners as do to domestic workers (see above) however, typically they do not “live-in”; are not provided with “rations” and do not have access to your home.  As for domestic workers, please ensure that any gardener you employ has been reference/security screened. Gardeners (but not garden service employees) will expect breakfast and lunch – sandwiches, tea or coffee for breakfast and a meat or chicken pie with bread, baked beans or something similar for lunch.  Beyond the above, you are not expected to cook meals for gardeners, domestic workers or daily chars. If you employ a gardener, you will need to purchase the necessary tools for your gardener to work with – lawnmower, spade, fork, rake, wheelbarrow etc.

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