Domestic workers, minimum wage, and the law

According to South African labour laws, domestic workers include employees who perform a range of tasks in households, including cleaning, laundry, cooking, gardening, driving, childcare, and caring for the elderly or disabled.

Employing a domestic worker is common in South Africa, but it is crucial for both employers and employees to understand their legal rights and obligations. Let’s unpack the new minimum wage for domestic workers and how it affects employers, full-time and part-time domestic workers.

The minimum wage for domestic workers in 2024

From 1 March 2024, the Department of Labour raised the new minimum wage for full-time domestic workers from R25.42 per hour to R27.58 per hour. Employing someone for more than 24 hours a month is considered full-time. If your domestic worker works 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, you must pay them at least R1,103.20 a week, averaging around R4,780.50 a month. Employers who pay less may find themselves in trouble with the Department of Labour.

Employers must also note that domestic workers’ wages must be paid in money, not ‘in kind’. So, you can’t claim that accommodation, food or work clothes make up part of their wages. You may include those incentives as perks of the job, but you must pay domestic workers at least the minimum wage.


Rights and obligations of employers

Employers must follow the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and the Sectoral Determination for Domestic Workers (SDDW) when employing domestic workers. You must supply a written contract of employment, specifying the terms and conditions of employment, such as working hours, wages, leave entitlements, and the responsibilities of the job. You must also provide a safe working environment and adequate training on duties the worker must perform.

Full-time domestic workers must be registered with the Department of Labour’s Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), which includes providing a legitimate contract of employment, proof of payment of UIF contributions and a monthly payslip. Failure to register your domestic worker can result in a penalty or fine.


Rights and obligations of full-time domestic workers

Full-time domestic workers are entitled to the new minimum wage of R27.58 per hour and must be registered as employees. Registration includes contributing to UIF and having a written contract of employment that adheres to the provisions of the BCEA and SDDW. You should also receive a monthly payslip and have a safe working environment with adequate training.


Challenges faced by domestic workers

The reality is that many domestic workers in SA struggle with low wages, long working hours, lack of job security and limited access to social-security benefits. They may also lack awareness of their rights under the BCEA and the SDDW, as well as access to legal support when their rights are violated.


Keep detailed records of all UIF payments you make on behalf of your domestic worker


Fines for not registering a domestic worker for UIF vary depending on the specific circumstances, but they can be up to R10,000. In addition to the fine, employers may have to register their domestic worker retroactively and pay any outstanding UIF contributions and other benefits. Legal action or prosecution may also result in more significant fines and potential imprisonment.

Both employers and domestic workers must be aware of their rights and obligations under South African labour laws, specifically the BCEA and the SDDW. By understanding the legal minimum wage for domestic workers, as well as the requirements for employment contracts, payslips, and UIF contributions, both parties can ensure a fair, legally compliant working relationship.

How to register your domestic worker with the Department of Labour for UIF

Follow these steps to register your domestic worker with the Department of Labour for UIF contributions:

1. Check if you qualify

Before you begin the registration process, ensure that your domestic worker qualifies for UIF registration. Domestic workers who work more than 24 hours a month for the same employer must be registered for UIF.


2. Get an employer reference number

As an employer, you must get an employer reference number from the Department of Labour. You can apply online at the UIF eService Portal, or by visiting your nearest Department of Labour centre.


3. Complete the UI-8D form

Download the UI-8D from the Department of Labour website, which is a form specifically for employers of domestic workers. Fill in your details, your domestic worker’s details, and the required information about their employment conditions.


4. Calculate UIF contributions

UIF contributions are calculated as 1% of the domestic worker’s total wage. As the employer, you are also required to contribute an additional 1%. For example, if your domestic worker earns R5,000 a month, both you and your domestic worker will contribute R50 each (totalling R100) a month to UIF. As the employer, you will pay R5,050 a month in total, and your domestic worker will get R4,950.


5. Register your domestic worker for UIF

Submit the completed UI-8D form along with your domestic worker’s certified ID copy or passport and proof of their address to your nearest labour centre or email it to the UIF department at Ensure that you keep a copy of the submitted documents for your records.


6. Set up a UIF payment process

Once your domestic worker is registered for UIF, set up a process for making monthly UIF payments. You can do this through the UIF eService Portal or by using the UIF banking details provided on the Department of Labour's website.


7. Keep records of UIF payments

Keep detailed records of all UIF payments you make on behalf of your domestic worker. You are legally required to provide your domestic worker with a payslip each month, which should include their UIF contributions. Store these records in a safe place, as you may need them for future UIF claims or audits.


8. Update any changes

If there are any changes to your domestic worker’s employment conditions, such as an increase in their wages, ensure that you update the Department of Labour. You can do this by sending a new UI-8D form with the updated information.

By following these steps, you can register your domestic worker for UIF and comply with South Africa’s labour laws.