The rights of your domestic worker when it comes to coronavirus

The rights of your domestic worker when it comes to coronavirus

Can your domestic worker stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic and still expect to get paid? This is what the experts have to say.

Domestic worker
Domestic worker/ iStock

Several companies have requested their employees to work from home to avoid putting them at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

But can domestic workers choose to not report to work to self-quarantine and still get paid?

READ: Signs you are mistreating your domestic worker

Kgopotso Maunatlala, an assistant lecturer and a PhD candidate at the University of Pretoria under the law faculty, says if domestic workers experience the symptoms of coronavirus, they should test immediately.

“If the test comes out positive, they are entitled to a paid sick leave,” she says.

" They are employees, therefore, all legislation covering employees also covers domestic workers, this includes acts such as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Employment Equity Act. So, they are entitled to leave. Their health also matters,” she adds. 

READ: Social distancing guide: Five effective ways to self-quarantine

“If she is not sick and she has not tested, she cannot be paid for sick leave because she is not sick, but there is annual leave that she is entitled to,” says Maunatlala.

“However, if it goes beyond the scope of the annual leave days that are prescribed, there is no basis for which she can be paid,” she adds.

This means that if the employee has not tested positive and decides to stay home and not work over and above the prescribed approved annual leave days, there is no basis for her to get a salary.

Maunatlala says the fear of being sick cannot be reason enough to stay home and get paid.

In cases where the family decides to self-quarantine and sends the domestic worker home, they are to pay her, because it was not her decision not to work.

Maphuti Poto, who runs a domestic worker agency in Midrand, urges both employees and employers to take the necessary precautions to ensure they are safe.

READ: Gautrain implements coronavirus measures

“As much as employers take the necessary precautions to ensure their children are safe, they should also ensure that the domestic worker’s working conditions are safe,” says Poto.

To help keep their homes safe, employers can buy hand sanitizers, or make sure that there is soap for washing hands.  

“Domestic workers must wash their hands with soap and water, wear gloves and masks if necessary. They must comply with what the government is saying when it comes to the precautions."

Poto also adds that domestic workers cannot simply stay at home and avoid coming to work if they are not sick.

“According to the Law, an employee is entitled to 21 days leave days a year. That’s what they must get,” says Poto.

The South African Labour Guide says: "The entitlement is 21 consecutive days annual leave on full remuneration, in respect of each annual leave cycle, and if an employee works a five-day week then this is equal to 15 working days, or if the employee works a six-day week then it is equal to 18 working days." 

When it comes to sick leave, The South African Labour Guide says: “An employee who works 5 days per week is entitled to 30 days every 36 months. An employee who works 6 days per week is entitled to 36 days sick leave every 36 months. Where an employee works Monday to Friday, plus every second Saturday, the employee is entitled to 33 (30 + 3 Saturdays) day sick leave.”

Image courtesy of Instagram/ AndreyPopov

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