Thousands of domestic workers in the Northern Cape will not benefit from government’s Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme. As one the most vulnerable workers in the labour system, domestic workers may not see any benefit under the new scheme that was introduced due the COVID-19 lock down. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of domestic workers and gardeners are not registered for Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). Other workers in the informal sector will be equally excluded by the new scheme.
Most of the domestic workers and gardeners are breadwinners and without the daily, weekly or monthly wage they won’t be able to provide for their families. Many of these workers have more than one employer to try and make up for the gap of the employers cutting their hours after the Minimum Wage Act (MWA) came into operation.
The Department of Employment and Labour’s directive indicates that the employer may apply for COVID-19 TERS Benefit, on condition that they have been contributing to UIF.
This suggests that there is no relief for domestic workers, gardeners and other workers in the informal sector, who don’t contribute to the UIF. Solomon Star spoke to domestic workers and gardeners from Galeshewe, Greenpoint and Colville on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation. All indicated that their working hours were reduced after the introduction of the good intended MWA which resulted in employers giving them an almost impossible choice of agreeing to decrease working hours and the resultant lower wage or being laid off. They pointed out that as a result of the reduced working hours they had to search for other jobs, sometimes from the employers’ family members, friends or neighbours. “The bosses give you an option, either you take the wage cut and no UIF payments or you don’t have a job. What can I do? Who’s going to provide for my children” said one 47 year old domestic worker.
The new minimum wage for domestic workers (R15.57 per hour) was introduced as 1 March 2020. Transport cost take up a big chunk of the wages as most domestic workers will have to use public transport to get to the employers, who are residing in the suburbs. “We want President Ramaphosa to think about us as well and find a way of also compensating us, because we are also suffering and our children are also hungry” pleaded one elderly domestic worker.