Affordable Access

The domestic worker : some considerations for law reform

Publication Date
  • K Law (General)
  • Economics
  • Law


This thesis examines ways in which domestic workers in South Africa could be included within the scope of existing industrial legislation. At present the legal position of a work force of 862 000 is regulated by the common law contract of service. Socio-economic factors form the background of this investigation,which first sets out to determine whether the common-law contract of employment is capable of equitably regulating the employment relationship. The fallacy of the assumption that individuals agree on the terms of exchange in the employment contract on the basis of juridical equality, and the tenuous nature of the common-law employment relationship in the case of domestic workers are revealed. In the absence of any current statutory minima the employment contract is used to deprive domestic workers of what little protection they enjoy at common law. The two ways in which the individual employee's conditions of service can be protected from terms favouring the stronger of the two contracting parties are discussed. These are collective bargaining and statutory regulation. Difficulties experienced by domestic workers in respect of collective bargaining, whether they be included under the Labour Relations Act or not, are indicated. Proposals for including domestic workers under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act are evaluated in the light of legislation in the United States of America, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Namibia. Ways of minimum-wage fixing are investigated, and it is concluded that the provisions of the Wage Act could be adapted for domestic workers. The 'unfair labour practice'concept is examined and the implications of its application for the domestic labour sector evaluated. It is recommended that the concept 'fairness' in the Labour Relations Act should apply to domestic workers, but that a code of practice be drafted to provide conceptions of 'fairness' as guidelines for employment behaviour. It is suggested that the parties refer disputes to mediation before being granted access to a Small Labour Court established for this purpose. In conclusion a draft code of practice is presented, as a basis for negotiation at a forum representative of the major actors in the domestic labour arena.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.


Seen <100 times