– by Luke Kannemeyer
I have seen plenty of questions about the regulations around domestic employees and other cleaning professionals during Alert Level 4. As a senior manager at SweepSouth, Africa’s largest domestic cleaning platform, I have studied the AL4 Gazette thoroughly and can offer you my insight.
The rules, clear and simple:
- ALL live-in domestic workers may return (but once they return, they may not commute home until the alert level is lowered)
- Any domestic worker who is responsible for the care of children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, physical or mental illness may return to work.
- No ‘live-out’ domestic worker whose duties do not include caregiving as stated above may return to work. Not even for AL4 permitted workers. This was part of the provisional regulations but was removed on publication of the Government Gazette.
Source: Part N1 of Government Gazette 432548.
When can my domestic worker return?
Currently, all domestic workers are expected to be allowed to return to work at Alert Level 3 for all permitted level 3 personnel.
At Alert Level 2, all domestic workers are expected to be permitted to return irrespective of whether you are required to work or not.
Source: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/covid-19-risk-adjusted-strategy and Minister Patel’s media briefing on 29 April.
But can I use a cleaning or garden service?
Part P2 of the Government Gazette states that cleaning and sanitation services are permitted under Alert Level 4. It seems clear that you can book any cleaning service for your home. So why not your private domestic employees? I suspect this is due to the fact that services can be more tightly controlled and regulated than individual household employers.
Garden services are definitely not allowed to currently operate under Alert Level 4. They are expected to return at Alert Level 3 together with pool cleaning services. Do not be fooled if a service claims to have a permit to operate. Permits were automatically issued on application with the threat of fines or criminal prosecution if the information reported was incorrect.
Source: Part P2 of Government Gazette 432548.
What about my business?
If your business uses a cleaning service, one can presume that under Part P2 of the Government Gazette, you are allowed to continue utilising this service.
If your cleaner is a direct employee of your company, they will fall under the standard regulations regarding the operations of your business under Alert Level 4. If your business is permitted and operating under AL4, you are expected to “develop measures to ensure that the workplace meets the standards of health protocols”. If any employed cleaners are part of ensuring these standards are met, it would follow that they are allowed to return to work provided all other regulations regarding returning employees are followed.
If you are working from home, it does not seem that any cleaner employed by your business will be able to return to work unless your home is the normal premises for your business operations.
See Chapter 3, Section 16, Point 6 of Government Gazette 432548 for further detail.
What is required if my domestic employee is eligible to return to work?
All employees returning to work need to be issued with a ‘permit to perform an essential or permitted service’ accessible here. This should be completed by yourself with all the relevant details. Given current restrictions on printing services, providing a digital copy to your domestic worker should suffice. Please encourage them to download the file so it is available offline and make sure their device is fully charged before commuting.
Your domestic employee will also have to wear a mask at all times while travelling on public transport and observe the necessary social distancing regulations.
Source: Chapter 3, Section 16, Point 2b of Government Gazette 432548.
What if my domestic employee isn’t eligible to return to work?
I would strongly urge you to continue supporting your domestic employees during this difficult time. If you are facing financial pressure which doesn’t allow you to do so, I would encourage you to help support your employee in accessing the relevant government resources available to domestic workers such as the special UIF grant.
SweepSouth is aiming to raise R12m to ensure all of the domestic workers dependent on our platform are provided with food aid. To date, we have raised close to R8.5m through the generous contributions of corporate and philanthropic donors as well as our clients and employees. To find out more or to make a contribution, visit: https://campaign.sweepsouth.com/ss-covid19-fund-2020/
Additionally, we have enabled those SweepStars with child-minding or caregiving experience to return to work under the current regulations by expanding the range of services offered by our platform.
For any further information, you can read the Government Gazette in its entirety at https://www.gov.za/documents/disaster-management-act-regulations-29-apr-2020-0000
The above is my understanding of the AL4 regulations after thorough review of the Government Gazette and based on my professional experience. I believe all of this to be true and correct at the time of writing but I cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies. These regulations are subject to change at any time. Any queries should be directed to the relevant government authorities.
Luke Kannemeyer – Head of Growth and Strategy at SweepSouth
5 May 2020