Domestic workers

Changes on the cards for domestic workers in 2022

Employment and Labor Minister Thulas Nxesi is expected to issue an updated minimum wage for domestic workers in South Africa in the coming months.

This follows recent proposals released by the National Minimum Wage Commission (NMW) which recommend that domestic workers’ wages be increased to 100% of the national minimum wage.

By law, the minimum wage for domestic workers was initially set at 75% of the national minimum wage in 2020. The Commission has proposed to increase it to 88% of the national minimum wage in 2021 and to 100% in 2022.

“As a result, the minimum wage for domestic workers in 2021 was R19.09 per hour. Equalization of the domestic sector was proposed in 2020 by the committee; where there was a minority report proposing a phased approach.

“In line with its previous proposal, the committee recommends that the minimum wage for domestic workers be raised to the national minimum wage in 2022,” he said.

That would bring the minimum wage for domestic workers to R 23 per hour – a 20% increase from R 19.09 in 2021 – or around R 3,700 per typical working month (20 days, 8 hours per day).

Additional protections

Domestic workers are also expected to benefit from additional protections in their daily work in 2022, both through existing and future regulations.

As of February 2021, domestic workers have been entitled to benefits under the Workmen’s Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act.

Domestic workers who are injured on the job are eligible for the Compensation Fund, and dependents of a domestic worker who died as a result of injuries sustained in the course of their duties may also apply. Employers of domestic workers and employees are also required to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Another important development is the approval by Parliament of ILO Convention 190 on the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, which is expected to be officially introduced shortly.

Three bills on gender-based violence are also under consideration and aim to strengthen the protection of women against sexual abuse and other forms of violence.

Rebound in domestic worker jobs

Data from Statistics South Africa shows that the hiring of domestic workers has also improved significantly compared to 2021 after the sector was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.

The number of domestic workers in the country currently stands at around 900,000, after falling to around 745,000 during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Notably, this annual increase of 147,000 domestic worker jobs was larger than almost any other segment over the past year, overtaking technicians (106,000), crafts and allied trades (78,000), operators of domestic workers. ‘factories and machinery (25,000) and sales and service (20,000), said StatsSA.

The significant increase can be partially attributed to the Covid-19 lockdown, as more than 259,000 domestic workers lost their jobs in Q2 2020 – a decrease of 25.1% over one year.

Domestic workers were effectively barred from working during the country’s highest Level 5 lockdown in 2020. In addition, many households have laid off domestic workers, citing concerns about costs.

Data published by the cleaning service South sweep in June showed that around 20% of domestic workers lost their jobs due to the pandemic over the past year.

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