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You can't afford to be casual about your part-time helper
DOMESTIC workers are now protected by the Labour Relations Act, which became law last month.
The Act protects all employees in two main areas: the principles of fairness govern dismissals, and discrimination of any sort is outlawed.
Last week, we looked at full-time, live-in domestic workers; this week we'll examine the legal position concerning regular day workers.
A regular day worker is an employee who works for an employer for three days or less each week.
South African law afford such employees the same protection as full-time domestic workers.
The daily working conditions of a regular day worker are prescribed in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. This law took effect in January 1994 and details the rights and obligations of both the employer and employee.
The Act is due to be amended next year.
The working conditions of a regular day worker, as prescribed by the Act, are set out in the accompanying recommended employment contract, which has been drawn up by Gauteng labour lawyer Brian Bleazard.
The contract outlines the minimum conditions only - more favourable conditions can be negotiated between both parties.
The two main areas of difference for regular day workers and full-time domestic workers relate to leave and sick leave.
The regular day worker is allowed one day's paid leave for every 26 completed days of working for that employer. The same rule applies to sick leave.
An employment contract is not required by law, but Bleazard says it is advisable because it obviates the need for the employer to comply with procedures prescribed by the Act - that is, keeping a record of hours worked and leave taken.
Neither the Basic Conditions of Employment Act nor the new Labour Relations Act stipulate a minimum wage for domestic workers.
Bleazard says employers should also bear in mind that even job applicants are protected by the new Labour Relations Act, and that it constitutes an unfair labour practice to discriminate against an applicant or employee on any ground, including race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual preference, conscience, health, belief, political opinion, language, marital status and family responsibilities (which just about covers all there is).
The only permissible discrimination is a practical one: "based on an inherent requirement of the particular job" (like the necessary skills and physical requirements of the job).
"Madams will now have to be fair in their selection of employees. If contested, they'll have to prove that the selected employee was the best candidate for the job and that they did not unfairly discriminate against the unsuccessful applicants."
It's advisable to have a probationary period to assess the new employee's continued suitability for the job (Bleazard recommends three months for regular day workers and six months for other employees). If the employee is found to be unsuitable (after having being given the necessary instruction), employment can be terminated provided the employee is given the reason and has a chance to respond verbally.
In contrast, the permanent employee must be given a reasonable time in which to improve performance.