When the maid decides to leave

Some women are privileged to have good domestic help while others will change them on a constant basis. The reasons vary but domestic help often catch employers unawares when fired, often demanding ridiculous payments. What should you do to safeguard your rights in such instances, Cheu Mita finds out.

You get back home from work and before you even settle down, Anaphiri comes and tells you she wants to leave. Being the middle of the month, there is no way you can pay her off, so you ask that she either works till the end of the month or you try to find the money from friends. Upon paying her the money for the days worked, she says “madam nanga severance?” Because you are unaware, you tell her you do not have the money but can give her the money once you are paid.

The next day you have a house to tend it, children to take to school and you need to get to work on time because you have a make or break presentation.

Many women have faced such scenarios and find themselves in a fix as to what to do in finding domestic help or finding someone who will do the job without dropping everything on you when you least expect them to. Unfortunately, the men could be least bothered.

Now starts another tedious visit to an employment agency or the labour office to start another process of finding a suitable employee and training them to do what you want.

Employers Consultative Association of Malawi deputy executive director Beyani Munthali, however, advises that domestic employees, just like any other employee, can only demand severance pay where they can prove that they have been unfairly dismissed.

“Severance is only given on unfair dismissal by an employer, operational reasons of the employer, retrenchments and redundancies. So unless these conditions are satisfied, that’s when severance will be paid.

“Take note that only a court of law can declare a dismissal ‘unfair’ so the onus rests on the employee to show that he was unfairly dismissed before a court of law. On termination of employment, all that is due to the employee should be paid under the contract of employment and laws of the country,” he says.

Munthali noted that under Labour Laws, the employer has the duty to remunerate for work done, provide work in conducive environment, ensure there is a valid reason before termination of services and also to hear the employee.

He said domestic workers must be paid in line with the tasks they perform as per agreement with the employer.

“Contractual agreements will vary [whether verbal or written] so long as the minimum wage is adhered to,” said Munthali.

Currently the minimum wage is at K178.25 per day.

“The law requires an all employers to pay above this minimum,” he said.

While some people will provide food and shelter to their workers, Munthali warns that this cannot be used to offset payment of wages.

“Providing food and shelter is by choice and out of humanity in most cases. It has no bearing on the wages a domestic worker receives. However, contractually, an employer may agree that instead of paying housing, he will provide that housing and thus deduct from the employee’s remuneration. As for food, that too could be a term under the employment agreement. Food should, however, never be substituted for pay,” he says.

He says that minimum leave requirements are 18 working days if he works six days a week; and 15 working days if he works five days a week.

At the Blantyre labour office, Janet Mangazi  said she has been working for four years and was being paid K12 000 a month and her services were terminated because her employer got a job outside Malawi. She has hopes she will find employment soon.

But Blantyre District Labour Officer George Chilonga said sometimes people spend months waiting for a prospective employer to come by. He said his office links the two parties and does not get involved in negotiations.

 “It does not matter whether it is domestic or company employment, our office does not enter into negotiations between the two. The agreement between the employer and the employee is made outside the labour office,” said Chilonga.

Chilonga adds, “As government, we do not dictate on how much should be given but we only advise that they should meet requirements like allowing the employee to go to mandatory leave and off-duties.”

Malawi is signatory of the International Labour Standard on Domestic workers known as the Domestic Workers Convention 2011.

Share This Post