Recently I got a call from Bertha* who had recently released her DM (domestic manager) Faith*. In actual facts Faith had resigned since she left employment without notice, and when Bertha called her Faith pretended that her mother was sick. Now Faith had reported Bertha to KUDHEIHA, accusing her of underpaying her and overworking her for 3 years. True to form Bertha had been paying her a salary of Ksh.7000 per month, which is below the legal minimum in Nairobi. However she was paying school fees for Faith’s child, giving her leave every school holidays, which in total amounted to more than the statutory 21 days per year. And each time Faith travelled home, Bertha would pay for her travel expenses and make sure that she carried some gifts for her family.
Another employer got reported to the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) by a former DM who was claiming that she never contributed to her NSSF account and never used to give her a paid leave. The matter was settled easily as the employer had records of contributions to the pension fund and copies of the pay slips. Yet another DM tried to literary wrestle 3-month pay for summary dismissal while she was paid the statutory one month.
Quite a number of employers, after dismissing their househelps, are summoned by the Labour Office, KHCR, Haki House or the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA) to respond to accusations from their former DMs. The problem most have is that they don’t know what to expect. Should they report to any of those offices when summoned? What should they expect?
According to an officer at the Labour Office who declined to be interviewed on phone and Sammy Mulei Mulyungi, Industrial Relations Officer of KUDHEIHA, Nairobi branch; employers are simply required to adhere to the law.
Employers are encouraged to read the following documents: Employment Act 2007, Labour Relations Act 2007, Work Injury Benefit Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act 2007, and NSSF Act; to acquaint themselves with the laws and obligations pertaining to them. Most of those documents are available on the http://www.labour.go.ke; others can be googled.
Adherence to the law basically means;
- Paying a salary that’s not below the minimum wage of your county.
Inquire from the Labour Office or KUDHEIHA branch as the rates differ from county to county.
What about employers who are not in a position to meet the minimal wage obligation, may you ask? When complaints are directed to the union, KUDHEIHA considers that as long as the DM had conceded to work for a certain amount, her complaint is not receivable.
If you offer benefits such as paying school fees for your DM, more than 21 days of leave, transport and shopping for her family during holidays, keep good records of those payments as they are considered as soft loans and will help offset any dues you may have accumulated unknowingly.
- Giving your DM at least one day off per week.
How would you feel if your own employer requested that you report to work not only the whole week but also on Saturday and Sunday straight from church? Your home may be home to you, but to your employee it’s a place of work. Whether she has a family or not, she should get out of your house regularly in order to remain effective and deliver her duties efficiently.
- Giving her 21-day annual leave
And please don’t recall her before her leave is over when you get overwhelmed by housework. Organise yourself ahead of time for replacement. For many years my househelp would bring a replacement before going for leave. None of them was as good as her; some were pretty bad by I opted for patience knowing that it was for a short period of time.
- Having her registered for NSSF
You have yourself to first register as an employer in order to have your employee registered. To avoid the hassle of queuing every month (NSSF should review their payment systems as they are outdated and time consuming), pay for long periods of time such as quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly.
If you haven’t done any remittances to your DM NSSF account, you will be required to pay her the equivalent of 15 days of employment for every year she was at your service.
- Making sure that her health needs are taken care of
Have her registered to NHIF. It’s more convenient that she register as self-employed so that she can pay by Mpesa monthly, an option available to individual members only. Request that she forward you the confirmation sms every time and keep it.
Some insurance companies offer tailored packages for women that include a medical cover for the domestic manager. This is an even better option for those who can afford it.
If your DM is a member of KUDHEIHA – which she’ll never disclose to you for fear of losing her job, she’s aware of her rights. According to Mr Mulyungi, domestic workers who are members of KUDHEIHA attend trainings every second Sunday of the month; during which they are equipped with knowledge on their rights and obligations.
Should your DM report you to or any Labour of the organisations mentioned earlier, don’t panic.
- Understand that your former DM is bitter and scared. Losing a job is not a pleasant experience and contrary to what you may believe, getting a job as a DM is as hard as getting any other job!
- Report to the office that summoned you and give your side of the story. DMs often give distorted facts to elicit sympathy and with the hope of getting a lump sum should the employer be found guilty of some misdeed. The officers in charge of sorting out those issues are aware of this, and they are employers too.
- Don’t deal with anyone she could bring along at your residence. Insist on meeting them officially in their office, and find out where the office is by yourself.
- Should you be slapped with huge fine, there’s an option of making payments in instalments. Suggest a plan that can work for both parties.
- Adhere to the law with the next DM you hire.
Your DM is undeniably one of your most valuable employees, even though she’s the less visible. I’m not aware of any study that could have demonstrated her contribution to the bottom line in monetary terms, but there’s so much her presence and dedication allow you to achieve. Treat her as the valuable employee she is.
Your Friend in Biashara