IS YOUR CHILD SAFE WITH A NANNY, CRECHE OR SCHOOL?

By Ruth Kloppers

 

With the recent viral videos that have been doing the rounds on Facebook and Youtube - where two nannies, namely in Uganda and here in SA, have been caught abusing the children in their care – one cannot begin to wonder if having a nanny is the right thing. Also within recent months, there have been at least two recent incidences at crèche’s – the first being  a day-mother who was giving children Panado and Cough Syrup to sedate them and make them easier to manage; and the second being a child who was physically beaten and abused at a day-care centre. We cannot help but ask ourselves questions like: Should I employ a nanny? Should I rather send my child to crèche? How can I keep my child safe?

It is of paramount importance to acknowledge that these are isolated incidences. The reality is that there are millions of well-cared-for children in Childcare, be it with a nanny, a crèche, a school or similar. Though there are always horror stories, the majority of children still receive good, loving, healthy childcare from their caregivers. At the same time, we need to regularly check on the well-being of our childcare situation, evaluate how our children are doing, and act on any concerns that we have.  

While researching this article, one of the psychologists I spoke to told me that it is vitally important to know that often-times, a sign of abuse (like a bruise or a child being ‘clingier’ than usual) doesn’t mean that there IS abuse. The warning signs need to be investigated fully without conclusions being jumped to.

This raises the BIG questions: what are the big signs that something is wrong? And, what can we do?

In order to understand the signs that we are looking for, we need to understand that abuse can take different forms; a child can be physically abused and beaten (as seen in the recent videos), sexually abused, or they can be emotionally and verbally abused. Neglect is also abuse, as a child needs adequate interaction and care.

Signs of physical abuse will be that your child has bruises, cuts or welts frequently – and these cannot be explained.  The child will also seem nervous, and “on-guard” as if waiting for something to happen. Often, injuries will have a pattern, like a hand, strap etc…

Emotional abuse is a little harder to identify, as there are no physical signs. One needs to look at things like: Has my child become withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong ; Is my child showing excessive behaviour (like being extremely compliant, extremely passive, extremely aggressive?) ; Is the child battling to form a bond with their caregiver (naturally, there is an adjustment period for small children to get used to a caregiver, but if 3-4weeks have passed and the child is withdrawn and not attaching to a caregiver).

When a child is being neglected, we can see signs such as clothes being ill-fitting or filthy. The child is not being cleaned and bathed regularly. Babies might be developing frequent nappy rash (it is important to investigate that there is not a medical reason for this); the child is left unsupervised, alone, or put in a situation that is unsafe for them.

So what can we, as parents, do to make sure that our children are being well cared for?

My recommendations would be that if hiring a nanny to care for your children, make sure that she is properly trained in Childcare. References or a verifiable track record are an absolute must. If you have any doubts over the validity of a reference, the candidate should immediately be discounted. If someone is prepared to provide fictional references, chances are high that there are other aspects of their lives or experience that are made up as well. I also believe in performing fingerprint-based criminal checks, just to make sure that there is no criminal history as well.

If you are looking at day-care centres and crèche for your child, go and visit the crèche during their workday. I know that some crèche’s prefer an appointment; however, it is wise to drop in unannounced and see how the crèche is being run in the middle of the day. If you get there as the last of the parents are collecting or dropping off their children, speak to the parents and ask them questions like: how long have their kids have been in the school; has the child bonded with the caregivers at the school; has the child adapted well; is the child keen to go to school each day.

Once you have hired your nanny or found the right crèche, close monitoring is still essential. Though the person/school has passed your original checks and balances, you want to make sure that your child happy going forward, and receiving the best care. The candidate or school may have passed your initial checks, but it is a good idea to monitor for a month or so, to make sure that the candidate is the calibre of person you intended to have care for your child.

I firmly believe that nanny-camera’s are an excellent investment. I also believe that reputable crèche’s will also consider installing cameras that the parents can log into during the day.

Legally, you need to let your staff know that there are camera’s in the house (and there should be a sign outside indicating that that the property is monitored. Any nanny that is genuinely good at her vocation will not mind having nanny-camera’s in the house. She knows that she is performing her job well, and will be happy to be seen doing so. A nanny that shows reluctance to this should be questioned as to why she is not keen.

If you are concerned, or believe that your child is being neglected or abused, the best way to handle the situation is to remain calm (easier said than done, I know), and investigate fully before making accusations. Make notes on what you are seeing (with dates and times – if you have a nanny-cam, keep the footage), be it a change in your child’s behaviour, injuries etc… Investigate these fully by asking the child questions about what happened. It is VITALLY important that the questions are not ‘leading’, so ask “how did you get that sore?” and NOT “did so-and-so give you that sore?” If you ask leading questions, the child may often embellish stories. 

If you find that there is a possibility of abuse, seek help! Do not act alone  - have the child evaluated by a psychologist and if there are findings that the child’s being abused, seek legal action and lay a charge against the abuser. Simply removing your child from the school, or firing the nanny does not help. These individuals need to be brought to book and have a public record of what they do.

Lastly, and the most important point I would like to make is that it is crucial to remember that for every horror story out there, there are thousands of stories of happy, loving caregivers. We should not always expect the worst, but, at the same time, we should make sure that we are keeping an eye on our child’s behaviour, well-being and development.

 

Nanny, Creché, Au Pair – what’s best for you?

By: Ruth Kloppers – Help at Home (www.helpathome.co.za)

There are few things in life that are more daunting for any parent than handing over your precious little child to someone else to care for. Whether it is a Mom returning to work after maternity leave, or a stay at home Mom needing some help at home, finding the right child care, and the right person to care for your child is a decision that requires a lot of thought and planning – and ultimately, following your instinct.

In an ideal world, or one the pictures in magazines would have us believe, we could all blissfully stay at home with our kids, frolicking in parks, doing crafts or baking, and not having a care in the world. However, in reality, most Moms today need to work, whether from home, or traveling to an office each day. Most stay-at-home Moms are also finding that they need some assistance with the kiddies, to get other tasks done, or simply for sanity sake.

Moms feel tremendous guilt about “outsourcing” their childcare. But we need to acknowledge and understand that there is nothing to feel guilty about. In past times, wealthy families would also have “governesses” or nannies, and even in the poorer families, older children and family members would help to care for smaller siblings and children.  The only difference now is that we have considerably more choice about who can look after our children, and where they can be cared for. But there are always factors to consider in selecting the right childcare option.

A few questions parents can ask, when selecting the best child care are:

1)      Do we have a family member that can assist caring for our child?

2)      What budget do we have for child care?

3)      Would we prefer our child to be in a group of children, or receive one-on-one care from a caregiver?

4)      What are the most important characteristics we need in the caregiver/school/nanny?

5)      Is my child in good health, or prone to getting ill (kids with lower immune systems should be kept home)?

6)      If my child attends crèche/school, who will be able to tend to child on sick days/during school holidays – so I have a granny, friend, maid I can leave child with?

These questions will help to guide you with regards to whether having someone care for baby at home, or taking baby to crèche are more suitable.

With home-based childcare, you normally have the option of an Au Pair, or a Nanny. The main difference between Au Pairs and nannies are that Au Pairs tend to be young ladies who are studying, or have just completed studies, and are working to either gain experience, or tide themselves over. An Au Pair will have a car and driver’s license, and are well suited to position where children can be taken to and from activities and extra-murals, and can help with home-work. In my personal experience as someone who trains and places child-minders, I have found that you do get some Au Pairs that are suited to caring for infants and small children, but I have found that the most value in Au Pairs is found when they are assisting older, more active toddlers and school going children. Au Pairs are costly though. The current cost of an Au Pair can range from R7 000 – 12 000pm for a full day Au Pair.

Nannies are generally ladies that have a more basic education, and are very well suited to infant and child care. Because the majority of nannies range from 28-58years of age, these ladies are maternal, and often have had children of their own. A well trained nanny will be able to do all day to day care of the baby, such as nappies, bottles, sleep routines, bathing, feeding etc... as well as have a good knowledge of what to do in the event of an emergency. A nanny should also understand the importance of play, and will mentally stimulate a child as well as taking care of the physical needs of the child. A good nanny will make sure that the child develops not only by growing, but through play and social stimulation as well. Most nannies are also prepared to have an element of domestic work as part of their day-to-day duties; however, it is crucial that the nanny and parent both acknowledge that the care and well-being of the baby or child will come first. Many parent’s also employ a nanny-domestic to perform domestic chores in the morning (when kids are at school/crèche) and tend to kids in the afternoons or if the kids are off school ill, or on school holidays. Nannies can either reside at the premises of the employer (generally Monday to Friday), or can travel to work daily. A good Nanny or Nanny-domestic will cost from R2 500 – R4 500pm, depending on hours, duties, experience etc…

Crèche’s are available all over, and today, we are seeing more and more companies opening day care facilities and crèche’s for the children of their staff – making it easier for working parents to drop and collect children from crèche. All crèche’s do need to be registered with provincial government, and need to adhere to certain regulations regarding safety, caregiver-to-child ratio’s etc… Children attending crèche are also exposed to other children, and thus have loads of social interaction. Unfortunately, due to this social interaction, children attending crèche are often prone to picking up bugs from one another, for this reason, most Paediatricians’ recommend keeping kiddies home until 3yrs. But that can be quite long for many kids, who do need the interaction sooner. Most crèche’s open early in the morning, and cater to parents who can collect their kids a little later (around 6pm). Some crèche’s cater to parent’s who also want to send children half-day, or a couple of days a week. Crèche’s can range from around R2 000pm-R5 000pm.

At the end of the day, there are no right or wrong answers, and the choice of child care is a very personal choice. Parent’s need to select the option that best suits them, and their requirements. Investigate all the options, and choose the one that suits you. When you meet Nannies, Au Pairs, or visit crèche’s, follow your gut-instinct, and choose the right option for you.

 

Holiday Season – Planning Leave, Bonuses and Expectations With Your Domestic Worker

By Ruth Kloppers

With only 12 weeks left until Christmas, and even less left until everyone begins their annual December holiday “migrations”, it is now the perfect time to begin communicating with your staff and plan leave dates, Christmas bonuses and expectations for 2015.

Most employers tend to plan leave dates with staff just before the leave takes place, and this often leads to us receiving urgent emails and calls asking advice, or needing help because the dates are clashing. Most of these issues are easy to resolve, with communication and proper planning a few weeks in advance.

With regards to leave, the normal amount of leave that is allocated to domestic workers is 15 work days leave per annum (for those that work a standard Monday to Friday). If your domestic worker works 6 days a week, she will be entitled to more leave (1 days leave for every 17 days worked).

It is crucial that both employer and employee understand that leave must be by mutual agreement. Neither, the employer or employee, can stipulate dates that have to be adhered to. These dates need to be discussed by both parties, and agreed to by both parties. If, in the beginning of employment, leave days were stipulated in writing by the employer, and agreed upon at the signing of this contract, then those days can be enforced. However, if there was no contract in place with specified dates, then both parties have an equal say in negotiating leave times.

This said, I recommend that you chat to your staff now – find out what dates they were planning to take off. Consider the dates you were planning to take off, and try to marry the two dates. If there will be a period where your staff are away, and you are needing temporary assistance (especially if you are still at work, and kids are already at home for the holidays), it is a good idea to plan this now as well - you can ask your staff if they have a friend/relative that can stand in for them , or alternately contact an agency like mine, and we can arrange temp staff for you – but if you are going the agency route, there are normally limited ladies available, so the sooner you ‘book’ someone, the better.

Also crucial to note is that leave applies to ALL workers. We have often heard of employers who maintain that because their staff are foreigners, they must work through South African public holidays – this is completely false, and is in direct conflict with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. According to our labour law – ALL workers are entitled to have public holidays off. Should an employer require that staff work a public holiday, they are entitled to receive DOUBLE pay for that day’s work. Also, public holidays and weekends are not calculated into leave. Leave days are strictly the days that an employee would normally be required to work.

Because we still have queries regarding this, I am going to state the obvious: when a staff member takes annual leave, they MUST still receive pay for this time. The leave that they take may NOT be deducted from the employee’s salary.

Another issue that seems to crop up a lot around Nov/Dec is “How much Is the Bonus That I must Pay My Domestic Worker?” Legally, an employer is NOT required to pay any bonus to a domestic worker at all, and the bonus amount is completely at the discretion of the employer.

That said, I must point out that in January, many of the new ladies that approach us for work, or advice on resigning from positions, do so because they did not receive a Christmas bonus, or did not receive what they deem as a good Christmas Bonus.

We do our best to educate employees that a bonus is not a legal requirement – and a 13th cheque is NOT a requirement from employers. But this continues to be the expectation among staff.

Hence, it is CRUCIAL that proper communication around bonuses takes place at the time of signing your employment contract, and when leave periods are addressed. Make sure that your employees know that you are not obliged to provide a bonus, but, rather, that you will provide what you can afford to.

In my home, this is a very sticky issue – with both my husband and I owning our own businesses, we do not receive bonuses, yet our staff expect one. We have thus made it very clear to our staff that we pay bonuses based on two factors: performance, and our affordability. If staff performance has been high throughout the year, a good bonus is paid. Mediocre performance equals a mediocre bonus. If we have a good financial turnover, 13th cheques are paid, if not, we pay as much as we can. But, my staff also understand that I might not pay a good bonus in December, however, there are other times during the year when I will pay bonuses. And they budget accordingly.

I find that because we have good lines of communication regarding this, my employees understand, and we have a good relationship in this regard. They understand what I will do, and I understand their expectation.

Lastly, when it comes to leave, make sure that your staff commit to a date that they will return. Remind them that public transport, delays on provincial highways, delays at border posts, and other factors are going to affect their return to work, and that they need to ensure that they give themselves enough time for any issues that might arise. And, most important, if there are any issues that do arrive, they need to notify you timeously. For example, if your staff are going to Zimbabwe for December, they need to ensure that: Their travel documents are in order (for easy entry and exit at the border), they allow themselves ample travel time to go and return, they allocate an extra day for delays at the border, and very importantly, should they experience any issues, it is IMPERITIVE that they communicate with you BEFORE they are due to return – not just “not arriving” on their first day of work.

I hope that this article has helped you to plan a little better. If there is any advice or assistance that you need, please do not hesitate to contact me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will gladly assist where I can.

Domestic Worker Act – All You Need To Know

By: Ruth Kloppers, www.helpathome.co.za

 

Domestic workers, nanny, gardeners, cooks, cleaners and any staff that work in your home, are to be considered by the Domestic worker act. Prior to 2002, when the Domestic Worker Act (Sectoral Determination 7 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act) was finalised, there was almost no law pertaining to a very large segment of our workforce – domestic staff.  It was almost laughable that such a large and valuable resource had almost no legal compass, and was almost negligibly recognised in terms of the labour law. Up until this point, there was very little governance in terms of what domestic workers would earn, how many hours they would work, and how to legally manage the work relationship.

The law is now very specific in terms of the rights of both the employer of domestic staff, and the rights of the domestic staff as well. This article aims to simplify the Act for you, so that you know what to do, and how to stay on the right side of the Act.

Firstly, the most important point to consider is that the Act encompasses anyone that works in your home, and forms part of your domestic staff, that includes: the domestic worker, gardener, houseman, cleaning lady, laundry lady, nanny, care-givers, drives, au-pair, cook, or anyone else working in a ‘domestic’ environment, whether as permanent staff or contractors. No person under the age of 15 may be employed in this sector.

WHAT MUST I PAY MY DOMESTIC STAFF?

In November of every year, the legal minimum wage is reviewed and legislated. In most large towns and cities, the minimum wage will be higher than in remote or agricultural areas. At present (to be reviewed in November 2014, and will likely increase by +-7%), the legal minimum wage for anyone in a large city or town, who works more than 27hours per week is R4,10per hour (a minimum of R1877.70pm). Anyone working less than 27hours per week is R4,51per hour. Important to note, though, is that this is the LEGAL MINIMUM that someone may earn, but this is often not MARKET RELATED salary. The legal minimum wage is suitable mainly for staff that have no experience or training. Most staff that have good experience, with added training and solid references will expect salaries much higher than this. At present, we are seeing that experienced domestic workers that reside with employers are looking at earning R2500pm or more. Candidates with experience, that travel daily, and have the added cost of transport are easily commanding salaries ofR3500pm upwards.

Anyone that works in excess of the negotiated work hours, must be paid overtime pay. Important to note at this point is that the act categorically states that a domestic worker may not work more than 45 hours per week . Anything over and above 45 hours, must be paid as overtime. According to the Act, a domestic worker cannot be forced to work public holidays (even if the domestic worker is not local, public holidays still apply for your domestic worker).

There are two kinds of overtime:

1)      Normal Overtime– this is any extra hours worked Monday to Saturday. Normal overtime is calculated at 1,5 times the normal hourly pay that your domestic receives. For example, if your domestic received R10ph, normal overtime pay will be R10 X 1,5 = R15per hour.

2)      Double Pay Overtime– this is any extra hours that your domestic worker may work on Sundays or Public Holidays, and the domestic must be paid double pay for this. For example, if your normal hourly pay is R10ph, then this overtime is calculated as: R10 x 2 = R20 per hour.

WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT DEDUCT FROM EMPLOYEES PAY?

The new Act is very strict in telling us what we can, and cannot deduct from an employees wages.

Important to note is that according to the new law ALL Domestic staff must be registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). This is applicable for locals and foreigners alike. Any domestic worker that works more than 27 hours per MONTH must be registered. In order to contribute towards UIF, an employer will register himself/herself as an employer, with the department of labour. You will then be given a “contributor number”, which you will use when declaring payments. Your domestic worker is then registered as your employee (as a beneficiary under this contributor number).

Permissable Deductions– that you may deduct from your staff:

·         UIF– a total of 2% of the domestic workers salary is paid to UIF each month. The employer will contribute 1% from his/her pocket, and 1% may be deducted from the employee

·         Medical Insurance– this is not a “must”, but if agreed upon by employer and employee then the amount (or part thereof) can be deducted from the salary. The employee cannot be forced to have medical insurance, this is by mutual agreement.

·         Savings, Pension Fund, Loans– If the employee/employer have mutually agreed to put aside savings, this may be deducted.

·         Ordered Account Payment  - if an employer has been ordered to deduct money from an employee to pay an outstanding account.

 

Impermissable Deductions– that you maynot deduct:

·         Any amount greater than earnings– you cannot deduct more money than the domestic worker is due to earn

·         Breakages –in terms of the law, it is ILLEGAL to deduct any amount from an employees wage for breakages of any items, including crockery, appliances etc

·         Damages– you may not deduct money for damage to property (for example, clothes burnt during ironing). For this, a warning must be issued and disciplinary action taken

·         Meals Provided During Work Timecannot be deducted or paid for by employer. If the employer offers to provide meals, they cannot charge the employee for them

·         Clothingused for the commission of work (i.e uniforms), where the employer has instructed they are worn.

·         Work Equipment– work equipment required is to be paid for and provided by the employer, and may not be deducted from the employees pay.

Every employee MUST receive a payslip in detail. Below is an example:

THE EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT – WHAT MUST I PUT IN THIS?

 

The law prescribes that every domestic worker MUST have a signed employment contract. This means that any employer who does not give their staff a contract is immediately in breach of the law, as is any employee that refuses to sign a contract (this can count against you if ever the relationship sours and goes to the CCMA for arbitration). In the absence of a contract, this law still stands as is. The contract should be reviewed each year.

The employment contract is to be created in writing, and must be signed by both employer and employee.

 

The following information MUST be included:

ü  The full name and address of the employer

ü  The name and occupation of the domestic worker, or a brief description of the work for which he/she is employed

ü  The place of work, and where he/she is required or permitted to work

ü  Date of employment

ü  The domestic worker’s ordinary hours of work and days of work

ü  The domestic worker’s wage or rate and method of payment

ü  The rate of pay for overtime work

ü  Any other cash payments he/she is entitled to

ü  Any payment in kind he/she is entitled to and the value of payment in kind

ü  How frequently wages will be paid

ü  Any deductions to be made from wages

ü  The leave he/she is entitled to

ü  The period of notice required to terminate employment, or if employment is for a specified period, the date when employment is to terminate

 

We can provide you with a basic contract, free of charge, please email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and I will gladly send you one.

 

WHAT YOU SHOULD REMEMBER ABOUT WORK TIMES?

 

The most important item to remember is that, regardless of whether an employee resides with you, or is considered a member of the family, the work hours he/she works are prescribed by law.

 

The employee may not work more than 45 ordinary hours per week.

Anything over these ordinary 45 hours is considered overtime and must be paid as such.

No more than 3 hours overtime may be worked on a normal 9 hour work day (in other words, your employee, with overtime, cannot work more than 12 hours per day).

An employee may not work more than 15 hours overtime per week.

If the employee is on “standby” after hours, anytime from 8pm to 6am (being there if needed, but not actually on duty), a stand-by allowance must be paid, of at least R20per hour.

A 1 hour lunch break is required, by law, after 5 hours work. The lunch break forms part of the 45 hour work week.

An employee may NOT work 7 days consecutively.

HOW MUCH LEAVE MUST MY EMPLOYEE GET?

 

There are four types of leave that every employee is entitled to:

 

Annual leave – full time employees (who work Monday to Friday) are entitled 15 days leave per year (annual leave is earned at 1,25 days leave, for every month worked). To calculate leave for workers that work other hours, the calculation is that for every 17 days your employee works, he/she is entitled to one day’s leave. Annual leave means that the employee takes time off, but IS still paid for this off-time. If the employee does not take their leave after 12 months, by agreement with the employer, they can choose to have this leave “paid” to them (the leave days are then paid out in monetary value).

 

Sick Leave– Sick leave is worked on a 3yr cycle. An employee receives 30 days sick leave over 3 years. If, for example, your employee uses all this leave up in the first year, then any sick leave taken (over 30 days, for the following two years) will be UNPAID leave, and can be deducted from the employees pay. Important to note: if an employee is ill on either a Monday or a Friday, or any day before or after a public holiday, they are legally required to provide a valid sick note (not a stamp in a clinic card, but an actual note from a medical professional).

 

Maternity Leave– There is no law stating that an employer must pay an employee any salary amount during maternity leave. Most employers do not pay a salary in this time, as they usually need to employ a ‘temp’ worker, and pay this ‘temp’. Legally, an employee is not allowed to work for a minimum of 6 weeks after giving birth. Four months UNPAID maternity leave may be taken.

 

Family Responsibility Leave – This is a total of 5 days per year that an employee may take in the event of serious illness or death of an IMMEDIATE relative, such as spouse, child, parent or sibling. Any leave over these 5 days will be UNPAID and may be deducted from the employees wages.

 

HOW DO I TERMINATE EMPLOYMENT?

 

A probation period can be given at the start of employment. The probation period cannot be longer than 3 months, and during this time, either the employer or employee can terminate employment with immediate effect, for any reasonable reason.

A contract of employment may be terminated with notice of not less than one week if the domestic worker has been employed for six months or less.

Notice offour weeks is required if the domestic worker has been employed for six months or more.

Live-in domestic workers are allowed to stay on the premises for a month (notice period) or may agree to pay for the accommodation.

An employer who has to dismiss an employee due to a change in his/her economic, technological or structural set-up, called operational requirement in the determination is responsible for severance pay to the employee.

Severance pay is payable only, if there was no alternative employment. At least one weeks pay for every completed twelve months of continuous service.

On termination of employment an employee is entitled to a certificate of service.

 

PLEASE NOTE:

 

If you require any advice or assistance with regards to any of the above, please feel free to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. we are happy to advise you, free of charge.

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