Domestic help in Johannesburg

Hiring domestic help in Johannesburg may not be at the top of an expat's to-do list, especially if they’re from a country where full-time maids and gardeners are not affordable.

However, since most expats living in Johannesburg employ at least part-time domestic help, it's a good idea to prepare for this aspect of expat life in order to avoid a few common mistakes.

Domestic help is available in many different areas in Johannesburg. Some expats employ a live-in nanny for their small children, a few might need a driver to take them to and from work, or they may want somebody else to do the cooking for them.

Hiring a housekeeper in Johannesburg

Most commonly, domestic workers are employed in South Africa to do all of the household cleaning, washing and ironing. Many of the larger houses in Joburg have built-in domestic quarters to accommodate live-in help, leaving residents free to decide whether they want live-in staff or someone who commutes to work every day.

It is important for expats to think about what exactly they would expect from a domestic worker to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment later on. Many expats who move to Johannesburg have never had domestic help before but, even so, they need to think about how their worker's day should look. After all, they will be spending a lot of time in the same space.

One of the biggest mistakes expats make is to hire someone without prior work experience or references. Simply hiring the neighbour's maid's sister when she comes knocking is not ideal, just as it wouldn't be in any other profession. The best way to find a housekeeper is through word of mouth in the neighbourhood or within the expat community, where there is typically a high turnover whenever people relocate. Some estates also have a newsletter with a classifieds section, while online classifieds can also be checked for advertisements. 

Either way, expats should make sure they ask for references and speak to their potential worker's previous employer to get as much information as possible. A period of probation is also a good idea, where the worker comes in for several days, paid in cash and with no strings attached so that the employer can get a feel for how they work and fit in with the family.

Another, often more expensive but perhaps more reliable option is to work through an agency which screens all of its employees. These agencies also handle the necessary paperwork.

Employment contracts for domestic workers

It is absolutely recommended that domestic workers sign an employment contract, making sure that their specific tasks and the reasons for termination are stated clearly, as well as that all labour laws regarding leave and overtime pay are honoured. It is also advisable for expats to issue monthly payslips. Paperwork samples, including a sample employment contract, can be found on the South African Department of Labour website.

Sine Our Expat Expert

When it became clear that our family of six would have to relocate to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010, I immediately knew that I would start a blog about our trials and tribulations. I’m hoping it will be useful for other expats, but I won’t claim to be an exhaustive source of information. I’m still figuring things out and I mainly write to entertain. What I love about writing is that whatever happens to you at the moment – particularly when things aren’t working out – always has potential for a great story. Update: We have since relocated to the U.S., but I consider myself still very much the Johannesburg expert.

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