Home Living in South Africa House & Home Hiring a domestic worker in South Africa
Last update on August 13, 2020

After you’ve moved to South Africa, you may consider hiring domestic help for your home. Ensure that you follow the rules and regulations for hiring a domestic worker in South Africa.

If you’ve just moved to South Africa, this is one item on your moving-in list where things progress swiftly. That is why it is best to put some thought into hiring domestic help in South Africa ahead of time.

Domestic help in South Africa

Having domestic help (a maid) is the one thing you will absolutely cherish in South Africa. There is some paperwork to deal with. But I will walk you through the process; it will be well worth it because having domestic help is simply wonderful. Just think – I’m sitting here researching and typing expat advice columns while my laundry is being ironed and my bathrooms cleaned!

Valuable jobs

Almost all middle-class South Africans employ domestic workers: housekeepers, nannies, gardeners, and so on. As an expat, you probably will, too. In fact, you might be expected to; this gives a valuable job to someone who most likely supports a large family with it. As soon as you move into your house, people knock at your door for domestic work.

Do you want someone coming in several times a week? Or do you want her to live with you? In that case, she occupies the domestic quarter, something most houses here have (if typically not very spacious).

And are you looking for someone mainly to clean, or also to watch your children? Whatever you hire her for, she will spend a fair amount of time on ironing, whether you think that’s necessary or not. It’s just the Law Of Domestic Workers, I think.

Finding good domestic help

The best way to find good domestic help is to hire someone who’s worked for another expat family before. There are agencies you can contact as well, such as Marvellous Maids, but they charge a fee for the referral. While they perform a background check, the best background check is for you to talk with the previous employer. That way, you’ll find out whether and why they were happy with her work.

If you’re moving into the Dainfern area of Johannesburg (a prime expat location), get a hold of the Dainfern newsletter. It has an excellent classifieds section advertising domestic workers.

The legalities of employing a maid

So you’ve found a maid – now what? Judging from my own experience, I would have just told you, wonderful, you’re all set, happily ever after. Domestic workers are protected by law. All regulations regarding domestic workers are on the Department of Labour website.

Read through the various guides, but don’t be frustrated if it seems a bit much to remember. Basically, there is a minimum wage (around 1,500 ZAR per month). There are rules regarding work hours, overtime, annual leave, public holidays, payslips, unemployment insurance, and termination.

How much should you pay?

Typical salaries for domestic workers range from 1500ZAR to 3000ZAR per month for working Mon-Fri from 8-5. What you pay might depend on the tasks (e.g., cleaning, cooking, babysitting, driving). The only reason to not pay your maid at the upper salary range is to leave room for raises or the occasional help she herself needs. For a live-in maid, you typically also provide the food, plus furnishings for her room, and perhaps the occasional doctor’s visit, since there is no insurance to speak of.

South Africa’s unemployment fund

There is, however, the UIF, South Africa’s unemployment fund. As an employer of a domestic, you pay 1% of their salary into it on a monthly basis. The employee makes a contribution (also 1%) as well; in most cases, this is also paid by the employer (since you can be almost certain it will never be paid if you don’t do it). When you first employ a domestic worker, you must register them with South Africa’s Department of Labor. You will find two forms there: UI-8D and UI-19. Complete and return both of these. Within a week, you’ll receive a uFiling number, which you then use to set up your account. After that, you will be notified every month when a new payment is due; pay this fee directly via the uFiling website, or via bank transfer.

There are services that handle all domestic payroll affairs for a small fee (around 20 ZAR per month). But in my mind setting up a uFiling account and making your monthly payments is very easy. I have a pre-printed payslip on file that I have her sign upon receipt of the money, just so that there is a record.

Contracts for domestic workers

I’m often asked whether a contract is needed for your domestic. Yes, as per the Department of Labour, a contract is required, and you will find the details on their website. But I’ve also heard of cases where a contract made it difficult to terminate a maid, even in the case of theft. On the other hand, you must make your UIF payments (there is a stiff penalty for failure to do so) so your employee is registered with the Department of Labor. It also makes sense to write down your basic expectations in contract form. If you use an agency for your UIF payments, they also provide contracts.

What you should also make sure of before you hire a domestic worker is that she is South African. If not, check that they can work legally in the country.

Make sure you spend some time interviewing her and checking her ID, and have her come work for you on a temporary basis at first. An experienced maid has a routine; if you want things done a certain way, talk about all those things upfront or perhaps meet regularly to address any changes.

So while you’re busy packing up and filing visa applications and saying your good-byes at home, take some time to think about your future South African life with domestic help. And count the times you’re scrubbing toothpaste out of your child’s sink – they might be your last for a while!

Joburgexpat / Expatica