By: Poelano Malema
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.
No salary increase
“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.”
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. ”
Taking her belongings
Some employers take away employees’ belongings, such as passports or ID cards, and claim it is for security purposes. This is illegal.
Image courtesy of Pexels/ @Andrea Piacquadio