Domestic Workers Leave, a basic guide

On the subject of leave for our domestic workers. What exactly are they entitled to?

ANNUAL LEAVE

….The annual leave entitlement is 21 days (this is equivalent to 15 working days). In terms of the law this can be taken as and when due; so if the worker has worked for 4 months, she may then take a week’s leave or save it up to take all 3 weeks at once.

The law does allow for negotiation about when the leave may be taken, should there be no consensus, the employer has the ultimate say. However, it is wise to plan in advance and ensure that you and your employee know well in advance when leave should be taken. So if December is a busy time of year for you, or you are in the hospitality business it would be wise to put into the employment contract that a condition of employment is that leave is not taken during the busy season. You can always add an addendum to your contract; this must be in writing and be accepted and signed by both parties.

Public holidays do not form part of the leave period; that is to say that should the leave period fall over public holidays then the leave needs to be extended by the equivalent days.

Leave pay is when the employee is paid for the days that they don’t work. Leave pay is accrued at the rate of 1 days pay for every 17 days actually worked. Leave pay can be paid either at the beginning of the leave period or on the employee’s regular pay day but that is up to the employee.

Should you be going away and want your domestic worker to take his/her leave during that period, you need to communicate this with your employee, well in advance. If your employee is only entitled to 1 week’s leave and you wish to be away for 2 to 3 weeks then the following conditions apply:

This must be paid leave

If you want it to count as the leave allocation for the coming year, it is wise to get a signed agreement to this effect.

MATERNITY LEAVE

Your female domestic worker is entitled to 4 months maternity leave. This is unpaid leave and the employer is obliged to keep the job open for her. Should the employee decide to return to work earlier, then a certificate of fitness from a medical officer is required.

SICK LEAVE

Sick leave is a little more complicated. Sick leave is made available during successive 36-month cycles beginning on the commencement date. During each cycle 30 days paid sick leave is available. This allowance is non-accumulative. During the first 6 months of service sick leave is granted at the rate of 1 day sick leave for every 26 days actually worked. Any sick leave granted will reduce the overall entitlement for the first cycle. A medical certificate, properly issued, is required for any absence of more than 2 consecutive days. This requirement also applies should the employee be absent on more than 2 occasions during an 8-week period. Where your employee takes a day to go to the clinic for whatever medical reason, it counts as sick leave – the employer should be notified in advance and a note from the clinic must be produced.

FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY LEAVE

After 4 months service the employee becomes entitled to 5 days paid leave in each leave cycle for the birth or illness of the employee’s child or in the event of the death of any of the family i.e. spouse or life partner, parent (natural or adoptive), child (natural or adopted), grandparent, grandchild or sibling. This entitlement is non-accumulative. The employer requires that the employee provide reasonable proof that the event did, in fact, happen before payment will be made. So a copy of a sick note for a child, or a copy of a death certificate should be provided and make sure that you clearly communicate that you need these proofs to your employee. It might also be useful at the outset of the employment to list family names and relationships. This limits leave being taken to attend the funeral of a distant great aunt.

In all of the above, have the employee sign a leave request form which specifies the number of days leave taken and the day on which the employee is required to return to work. Also, include a desertion clause, so that in the event that an employee fails to return to work on a specified date, you can send a registered letter or telegram of warning to the address supplied by the employee. Failure to respond to this warning within 7 days of posting can result in dismissal without further warning. Should you not do this and the employee turns up two weeks later, it can be difficult to deal with especially if you have employed someone else in the interim.

….Where you employ somebody to cover for your domestic worker, make sure that you take the same precautions as you would for a full time employee – get their details; sign a short term contract – make sure that they cannot presume that it is full-time employment.

Above all, keep detailed records. Keep an employment book where you record all details of occurrences – be it relating to leave, breakages and/or absenteeism. Record the dates and details, keep sick notes and have the employee sign acknowledgement, where possible.

Source: Marvellous Maids – www.marvellousmaids.co.za

1 Comment
  1. Thank you for writing this article in terms readers can actually understand. This topic can be confusing, but you made it so clear that I am glad I landed here.

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