Domestic workers: Should I have an employment contract?

October 5, 2016 Carolee

All workers have certain rights under the Constitution of South Africa and labour regulations. Just like any other type of employment, all domestic workers should be employed in terms of a signed employment contract.
The position of domestic workers is regulated by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which needs to be read along with the Sectoral Determination governing the Domestic Worker Sector. The guidelines that are set out in the Determination must be reflected in the contract of employment. Any provisions or conditions which are less favourable than those set by the Determination are invalid.
A domestic worker is a gardener, driver or person who looks after children, the aged, sick, frail or disabled in a private household, but not on a farm. This is the view taken in the Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act, 2002 (Act No. 4 of 2002).
One of the main advantages of using an employment agreement is that it allows for a high level of specificity regarding the details of the employment. It allows for both parties to negotiate the terms under which they are willing to cooperate with one another.
Another advantage is that, should a dispute arise over a particular aspect of the employment, the agreement can be referred to in the future. The written document can be used as evidence if necessary.
Employment agreements are also important for fostering a positive relationship between the employer and the employee. Employers usually feel that an employment agreement creates an enhanced degree of structure in the work relationship. For employees, an employment agreement can provide a sense of stability and security.
An employer must supply a domestic worker with written particulars of employment, containing the following:

  • Full name and address of the employer
  • Name and occupation of the domestic worker or a brief description of work
  • Addresses of various places of work
  • Date on which employment began
  • Ordinary hours of work and days of work
  • Wage or the rate and method of payment
  • The rate of pay for overtime work
  • Any other cash payments
  • Any payment in kind and the value thereof
  • How frequently wages will be paid
  • Any deductions
  • Leave entitlement
  • The period of notice to terminate employment; or if employment was for a specific period, the date when employment is terminated.

Employment agreements are binding and have their share of both benefits and drawbacks. The decision to enter into one should not be taken lightly. If you need advice on whether to enter into an employment agreement or the terms included in it, Reyneke Attorneys will be able to provide you with valuable services whether you are an employer or an employee in need of an employment agreement. Feel free to contact us with any related queries.