An investigation to assess whether or not the employers of domestic workers do comply with the minimum conditions of employment as laid down in: Sectoral determination 7: Domestic worker sector.
This research set out to ascertain whether the employers of domestic workers within the Msunduzi Area do comply with the requirements of Sectoral Determination 7: Domestic Worker Sector. For domestic workers who were exploited during the apartheid era, this determination was perceived as a mechanism that would liberate them (Department of Labour, 2005, p.7). Trade unions use collective bargaining as a tool to fight for employee rights. Domestic workers are unionised, but their trade unions are not as powerful as their counterparts in the private sector (Department of Labour, 2005, p.7). According to Huber (2001, p.20), one of the reasons domestic workers were excluded from most labour laws was the belief that it would be difficult to check whether or not each individual employer complied with the laws. This problem still exists and needs to be solved. Government laws were meant to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation (mainly farm and domestic workers), but what is actually happening is that, rather than protecting employees from exploitation, they serve as corrective action. They are only implemented when there is a case between an employee and the employer. The government has a responsibility to protect vulnerable employees such as domestic and farm workers. The mechanism instituted by the government to protect domestic workers was through the promulgation of Sectoral Determination 7: Domestic Service Sector, which lays down minimum working conditions for domestic workers (Department of Labour, 2005, p.9). The main aim was to alleviate exploitation of domestic workers by the employers due to the power imbalance between these two parties (Department of Labour, 2005, p.9). This study compares what the employer offers to an employee in terms of wages, working hours, meal intervals and leave. From the observation of the research, little research has been done on the compliance or non-compliance with Sectoral Determination 7: Domestic Service Sector, within the Msunduzi Region. The outcome of the findings from this research were that the minimum salary for those employees who work more than five days are R727,60 instead of R861,90 and for those domestic workers who work for five days a week it is an average of R528,93 instead of R567, 79. The results indicated that many of the standards set down by the government are clearly not being met by the employers of domestic workers, for example minimum wages are not being paid and maximum hours are being exceeded. The determination stipulated that the maximum hours that should be worked a week is 45 hours and a maximum of nine hours per day; this was not in line with the standards, seeing that the average amount of time worked per week by respondents was 46.9 hours and 9.3 hours per day. As far as meals are concerned Sectoral Determination 7: Domestic Worker Sector, indicated that the standard should be an hour meal interval for every five hours worked. Respondents from this study disagreed that they were given an hour-long lunch time and reflected that the average time taken for meals was only 30 minutes. Finally, domestic workers need to have annual leave of 21 consecutive days (Department of Labour, 2005, p.9). This standard was not being met, as the average number of days being given for annual leave is 16.5 days. Maternity leave should be given as four consecutive months for domestic workers. It was found that 89,3% of domestic workers were given maternity leave of less than the stipulated four consecutive months. Domestic workers should be given five days' leave for family responsibility (Department of Labour, 2005, p.9). The respondents indicated that this was not adhered to, as the average number of days being given to the domestic workers for family responsibility was 1.4 days. Only 13,8% of domestic workers were granted five days' family responsibility leave and approximately 67,6% received less than five days for family responsibility leave. The study recommended that there should be some kind of government policy of doing consistent spot checks in different areas in the Msunduzi Area and possibly the rest of the country. This will require the Department of Labour to increase its manpower. More labour inspectors will be needed to ensure that this whole area is sufficiently monitored. The study revealed that union officials need to devise means and ways of coming into contact with domestic workers. Employers were expected to have a copy of Sectoral Determination 7: Domestic Service Sector available, within easy access of domestic workers.