South Africans who employ domestic workers are often unaware that if they die and their staff members aren’t registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), it will be up to the executor of their deceased estate to ensure registration takes place – often resulting in potentially costly delays in winding up the estate.
According to Statistics South Africa, more than 300 000 (around a third of) domestic workers aren’t registered with the UIF and will therefore not be entitled to any benefits in the case of retrenchment, illness, maternity leave or death.
Employers often don’t grasp that they’re obliged to ensure not only that minimum wage criteria are adhered to, but also that their domestic staff are registered for UIF purposes. A domestic worker must be registered:
as soon as an employer employs a domestic worker; and
if they are employed for more than 24 hours per month.
The consequences of not registering employees can be illustrated by the following example:
Peter employed Christina as a domestic worker. She worked for him for three days a week, which equated to a minimum of 24 hours per month for the past nine years. Peter didn’t register Christina for UIF benefits. He then passed away, and as a result, Christina’s employment was terminated.
Christina was under the impression that she would receive some form of compensation from Peter’s estate. However, Peter made no provision in his will for her. In terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, an employer is not obliged to provide a domestic worker with a retirement benefit, so there was no pension or provident fund Christina could fall back on.
If Peter had registered Christina for UIF purposes before he died, she would have been able to claim benefits soon after his death. It was now up to the executor of Peter’s estate to register her and get all the paperwork done – a costly and time-consuming exercise, which not only led to delays in winding up the estate, but resulted in Christina being out of pocket for a considerable length of time.
When an executor has to register a domestic worker for UIF purposes after the death of the employer, all arrear contributions will first need to be paid from the deceased estate before it can be finalised. To prevent unnecessary delays at this stage, it’s crucial that registration takes place as soon as the worker is employed, and is not left until after the death of the employer.
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