You and Your Domestic Worker
Domestic work within our households continues to be undervalued and is invisible, yet in reality, it forms the backbone of our daily lives. Our trusted domestics, be it a person working in a private home, a gardener or a caretaker of children, the aged, disabled or frail members of our families eases our burden to keep up with life’s demands. However, few people realize that with the luxury of employing a domestic worker, it makes you an employer, attracting legal responsibilities.
Although the Domestic Workers’ Act sets out minimum wages for domestics and specifies working conditions such as hours of work, overtime pay, salary increases, deductions, annual and sick leave, it is unfortunate that the legal dispensation in South Africa has to date ignored the plight of domestic workers. The primary reason is that domestic workers are excluded from the protection afforded by the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. The implication for domestic workers is profound. Whenever a domestic worker becomes injured or disabled because of work, they will not be eligible for statutory compensation of their medical expenses or be suitably compensated for a loss of income.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to a certain extent provides financial relief for all workers during periods of unemployment, including unemployment relating to illness, maternity and adoption, but does not extend to medical expenses caused by injury or even worse the need of dependents in the case of death.
So what happens if your domestic worker is injured in the workplace?
The employer’s house is the workplace of the domestic worker and therefore the employer has to take reasonable measures to ensure that the house presents a safe working environment. This duty also extends to safety in respect of pets. The truth is that even with the best precautions, accidents do happen. As domestic employees are not covered under workers’ compensation legislation, the employer may end up with paying for the medical expenses or arrange for a visit to a doctor at the employer’s expense. In addition, a domestic worker is entitled to sick leave, bringing about further expenses for an employer in appointing a temporary replacement worker.
A householder’s insurance policy usually covers accidents to people in your employ in your home and this may vary from insurer to insurer. However, even where such cover applies, it may be of little assistance to a domestic worker in the event of an immediate need or where the injury or disease was caused outside of the workplace, for example, caused by a taxi accident whilst the domestic worker was on his or her way to your home.
It may also follow that an Employer is required to deal with an employee who has an illness or an injury that is affecting his or her work rendering them incapacitated either permanently or temporarily at some point in time. This scenario can be rather challenging and when dealing with incapacity resulting from ill health or injury, the fairness of such terminations will also be determined by a fair procedure and a fair reason for such termination in terms of Labour law. All the procedural steps of the termination should be followed for the dismissal to be substantive and procedurally fair. Ill health incapacity as a principle should be dealt with by an employer with a cautious approach and it should consider, amongst other things, the guidelines of the Legal Code before termination of employment.
It is clear that injury and disease pose major risks to both the employer and a domestic worker, and may become worse if a domestic worker institutes civil proceedings against his or her employer for damages suffered due to an occupational injury or disease. The employer may also be liable for up front expenses such as ambulance transport or medical care.
In order to curb the risks for both the employer and domestic worker, a unique insurance policy was created by Yambu, underwritten by reputable insurers, specifically catering for employers who are sensitive to the needs of their domestic workers. For a mere R149.00 per month, your domestic worker will enjoy a death benefit of R30 000, disability benefits of R30 000, accident benefits of R6 000 and even a maternity benefit of R8 000. These benefits extend beyond the workplace and will allow you as an employer to take care of those who takes care of you.
Yambu is an acronym for “Your Answer Must Be Us” and for more information, you are welcome to visit our user-friendly website at www.yambu.co.za and explore what we offer for you and your domestic worker. You can even apply online for Yambu cover or request a callback from our dedicated team.