Signs you are mistreating your domestic worker

Signs you are mistreating your domestic worker

Don’t be caught on the wrong side of the law. Below, an agent shares six signs that indicate domestic worker abuse.  

Domestic worker
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In 2016, the story of Rachel Makhubela got many South Africans talking. Makhubela, in her interview with ‘Checkpoint’, spoke about how she experienced abuse from her employers as a live-in domestic worker. From being expected to work seven days a week to being underpaid, sadly, Makhubela’s story resonates with many domestic workers in South Africa.

According to 'Checkpoint', in 2016, the CCMA reported that 10% of the calls it received were from domestic workers reporting legal violations.

Maphuti Poto of 'Potom Domestic Agency' in Midrand has been in the domestic agency business since 2014. Over the past years she has not only helped many domestic workers secure jobs, but has often had to resolve issues between employers and employees.

We spoke to Poto about some of the abuse that domestic workers face.

- Lack of salary increase

According to Department of Labour’s Domestic Workers Minimum Wages 2016 – 2017 report, a domestic worker who works more than 27 ordinary hours a week is supposed to earn R2422.54.

However, many employers pay their domestic worker less than this.

"One of the most unfair things that employers do is when they refuse to increase their employees’ salaries. Some employers start off their employees with an amount that is below the approved wage and promise to increase it after the probation period ends. However, you find that years go by without a person's salary being increased. This is not only unfair, but illegal."

- Expecting your domestic worker to work abnormal hours

Ideally, employees should work for 27 ordinary hours a week, but Poto says in some homes, domestic workers are expected to work from early hours of the morning until when the family decides to go to sleep.

"It sometimes even gets worse to a point where nannies are expected to sleep with babies and attend to them during the night. The domestic worker is basically always on duty."

- Not allowing your domestic worker time off

"Some of the clients I get want live-in employees. Usually such clients and employees would agree to allow their employees to get time off for one weekend in a month. But sometimes you find that employers go back on their word and refuse employees time off."

- Refusing them to watch television

"I've had instances where employees complained that their employers would leave with the television cables to ensure that their domestic workers don't watch any television during the day."

- Feeling threatened

Poto adds that some people even go as far as dismissing their domestic workers because they feel they are competition and are out to get their husbands.  

"Some employers can get really jealous when they see their domestic workers dressing well etc. They feel threatened by them and would start mistreating them and even forcing the domestic worker to always be in their room if they are not working. They assume the reason the domestic worker is dressing well is because they want to entice their partner."

- Denying them food

"Refusing your helper food or even dismissing them just because you feel they eat too much is not right. Of course people must be reasonable because food is expensive, but to chuck someone out just because you feel they eat too much is not right. "

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