All domestic workers can return to work on Monday – subject to 'protocols'
- All domestic workers can go back to work in Alert Level 3, government announced on Thursday.
- They will have to adhere to protocols, which will presumably include physical distancing and wearing masks.
- There are more than one million domestic workers in SA - and many have been left without an income during the lockdown.
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All domestic workers will be allowed to go back to work during Alert Level 3, cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma confirmed on Thursday.
Level 3 of the national lockdown starts on Monday, June 1. The regulations governing it were published late on Thursday afternoon.
"Relevant health protocols and social distancing measures for persons employed in private residences must be adhered to," the regulations state.
This presumably include physical distancing (of at least one and half metres from another person), and wearing masks.
"There are particular challenges sometimes in a domestic environment and we will be looking to see whether the existing directions may need to be elaborated or expanded to provide for circumstances like that," said Ebrahim Patel, minister for trade, industry, and competition.
"But even as domestic workers return, it is absolutely vital that it be done in those circumstances where it can be done safely."
While draft regulations included the proviso that domestic workers had to use private transport, this is not included in the final regulations. There are no restrictions on transport.
Cleaning agency SweepSouth, which connects customers with domestic workers, says it will resume operations on Monday. Customers - as well as cleaners - must confirm that heir households are Covid-19 symptom-free before the cleaners will be allowed back.
Cleaners must be provided with hand sanitiser and bleach, as well as white vinegar and bicarbonate soda, SweepSouth said.
Where possible, private transport must be arranged for the cleaners.
SweepSouth domestic workers must pass an educational course on "sanitisation cleaning" before they will be allowed to work, and must wear face masks and maintain physical distancing.
Domestic workers are a support structure for those who must go back to work under Level 3, said Dlamini-Zuma.
Only live-in domestic staff and childminders in private households – as well as those caring for the sick, mentally ill, elderly and people with disabilities – had been allowed to return to work as part of Level 4 rules.
By some estimates there are more than one million domestic workers in South Africa, and many have been left without an income during the lockdown.
So far, only around 14,000 domestic workers received money from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) as part of the Covid-19 Temporary Relief scheme (TERS). The UIF is paying out money to workers who are put on unpaid leave, have been laid off temporarily, or whose employers can’t afford to pay their full salaries.
The minimum amount paid is R3,500 a month during the lockdown period.
Until recently, only domestic workers who were registered with the UIF could get the money – but that changed this week.
Government issued new regulations that now also include all employees who were not registered with UIF, as long as they worked for one employer for more than 24 hours per month.
As the function of TERS is to support lost income, domestic workers should be eligible for a payment in April – as they weren’t allowed to work during that stage of lockdown, says Amy Tekié of the Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance.
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