Wed. Jul 17th, 2019

One-third of domestic workers are still not registered for UIF

Domestic worker South AfricaWorkers can only be registered with Unemployment Insurance Fund by their employer.

one third of domestic workers are still not registered for uif 1024x576 - One-third of domestic workers are still not registered for UIF

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By Kristine Liao for GroundUp

By law, all employees who work 24 hours or more per month are entitled to unemployment insurance. But more than 300 000 domestic workers are not registered, meaning they will not be paid out if they lose their jobs.

Duty of employer

Employers are required to register domestic workers with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). The employer and employee must each contribute an amount equal to 1% of the employee’s monthly wage.

According to Statistics South Africa, just over one million domestic workers are employed for 24 hours or more per month. About 680,000 were registered with UIF as of 31 March. This means one-third of domestic workers who are entitled to unemployment insurance, and who may be entitled to maternity benefits, are not registered.

Workers can only be registered with UIF by their employer, who must fill out the UI-8 and UI-19 forms, and then submit them through the online uFiling system, fax, email, mail, or bring them to a Labour Centre.

Failing systems

Employers often “just give up” once the online system fails, says Myrtle Witbooi, general secretary of the South African Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU). She says many employers have cited problems with the system as the reason they have not registered their domestic workers. Some find they cannot log into the system, and others do not receive the required registration number after filling everything in.

But UIF communications director Makhosonke Buthelezi says since the launch of the system in 2013, “clients have had no problems registering on it.” He says 696 new employers were registered in April, and 972 in May.

“Employers are reluctant to register domestic workers due to general aversion to compliance with the law”, says Buthelezi.

By law, employers who fail to register with the UIF or pay toward the fund can be fined or imprisoned.

Increasing oversight

Witbooi says the Department of Labour needs to increase oversight over employers of domestic workers to ensure that they are complying with the requirements.

“If employers in South Africa can still get away with not registering domestic workers, they will do it,” Witbooi said.

The union has been trying to convince the Minister of Labour to organise an imbizo with domestic workers to inform them of their rights. Witbooi also said the labour department should produce pamphlets and use media to keep domestic workers informed.

“Much more must be spent on education for domestic workers,” Witbooi says, so that domestic workers can fight more effectively for their rights.

Domestic workers are still not entitled to compensation for work-related injuries or death.

On 23 May, a judge ruled in the Pretoria High Court that the exclusion of domestic workers in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act of 1993 is unconstitutional. But the law has yet to be changed.

Domestic workers also have a lower national minimum wage. When the minimum wage was set at R20 per hour or R3,500 per month in May 2018, the minimum for domestic workers was only R15 per hour. This is because they are seen as more likely to lose their jobs if wages go up rapidly, according to a National Treasury document.

“It’s important for employers to recognise what domestic workers really are,” Witbooi said. “We are a part of the economy.”

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