September 9, 2019

Keeping your house in order: Domestic workers and the law

Many South African families employ a domestic worker, either on a part-time or full-time basis. The employee-employer relationship is often casual, and the domestic worker can come to feel part of the family. However, there are still legal requirements that the employer must adhere to. Doing so, and making sure everything is agreed upon in a contract, can stop the relationship from turning sour in the long run. Here is some important information to remember:


The minimum wage is reviewed yearly, in November. At the moment, the National Minimum Wage for domestic workers working more than 27 hours per week is set at R15 per hour. Regardless of whether wages are paid via EFT or in cash, employees should be provided with a payslip. You must keep copies of these for at least three years.


You may deduct medical aid, savings, pension fund, trade union subscription, rental, and loans or advances (less than 10% of the total wage) from an employee’s wages. It’s important to note that only 10% or less of the wage can be deducted for accommodation, and this amount can only be deducted if the room is weatherproof and in good condition, has at least one window and a secure, locking door, and is fitted with a bathroom. 

Breakages, damages, meals provided during working hours, clothing and work equipment may not be deducted from the employee’s wages. 

Working hours

According to guidelines published by the Department of Labour, domestic workers may only work for a maximum of 45 ordinary hours a week, after which overtime will apply.   


According to the Department of Labour, employees are entitled to:

  • Annual leave (three weeks/ 1 day for every 17 days worked/ 1 hour for every 17 hours worked)
  • Sick leave (for every 36 month cycle, the equivalent of six weeks’ working days)
  • Maternity leave (four consecutive months of unpaid leave)
  • Family responsibility leave (five days per year)


If you employ someone for more than 24 hours per month, you must register them for UIF, and deduct 1% of their wages, which must be paid to UIF.

Termination of employment 

If you have employed a domestic worker for more than six months and wish to terminate their employment for whatever reason, you must give them four weeks’ notice. 

If you can no longer afford a domestic worker, you must give them severance pay, which equates to one week’s pay for every year of employment. 


The employment contract should clearly stipulate the following: 

  • Working hours
  • Pay details (including deductions)
  • Leave provisions 
  • Notice periods

If you need help in setting up a contract, or any advice regarding labour law or disputes, contact our office on 011 347 0300 or make an appointment.

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