THE LEGAL PROTECTION OF DOMESTIC WORKERS IN SOUTH AFRICA: A SQUARE PEG IT IS (INTO A ROUND HOLE)
Keywords:domestic worker, ubuntu, exploit, impunity
In an ideal world working as domestic worker would arguably be nobody’s choice, but as things stand the socio-economic realities we find ourselves under dictates. There are fewer number of job opportunities than there are people looking for opportunities. According to statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate in South Africa is a shocking 25.4%. Out of desperation and the need to survive most unemployed people have sought solace in the domestic sector. Little do they know that, what seems to be a breakthrough may actually turn out to be quite worse than they reckoned. It is no secret that most domestic workers do not know their job scope, a problem which can be attributed to quite a number of factors, for example, an inherent illiteracy level, desperation after an unsuccessfully long search for competitive opportunities, or unscrupulous employers who exploit them, often with impunity. In line with this, Grossman concluded that pay and working conditions of domestic workers depend on the employer’s “goodwill”, as employers are not impeded by labour legislation in their actions. The purpose of this article is to show and stress the point that the general labour law framework and the interventions made in South Africa to date do not empower domestic workers as long as they fail to take cognizance of occupational uniqueness of this sector. The author will define “domestic worker” and then proceed with the comparison of the existing legislative framework in South Africa with the best international standards in as far as they provide for domestic workers, and the extent thereof, while also arguing that infusing value dosages into law, such as ubuntu, may restore the lost dignity of the domestic worker in South Africa.
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