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What do I owe my helper if she is dismissed?

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QUESTION

My domestic helper of two years has been on maternity leave for the past two months. She is due to return to work in another month’s time. I however find that the young lady I hired to hold on while my helper is on leave is a much better worker than my permanent helper, and I want to keep her. What are my obligations to my permanent helper?{{more}}

RESPONSE

Whenever a worker has to be dismissed from his job consideration should be given to the following items to see if he is qualified for all or any of them: Wages for period work; notice pay; vacation pay; and or severance payment. Let us examine them one by one to see if your Domestic Helper is entitled to any of them. Wages for work done – it can be safely assumed that there are no outstanding wages since she was on leave for the last two months. Notice pay – Your domestic helper will be entitled to two, three or four weeks notice pay if she is normally paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly respectively. The period for termination notice or payment in lieu of notice is dependent on length of service as well as the periodicity of payment. A domestic worker, other than one

who is working on a day-to-day basis, who has worked for one to five years is eligible for 14 calendar days annual vacation with pay and 21

calendar days for those who have worked for more than five years with the same employer.

Domestic workers are not entitled to severance payment by law if they are employed by the household since the Act provides for severance payment to be made to persons employed in specified employment.

Specified employment is defined in the Act as “a well organized business with a yearly turnover of not less than $25 000 or any other employment as may be specified by the Minister by order.” The Minister has not made any such order in terms of Domestic Workers.

• Lanceford Weekes is former President of the Public Service Union and former Acting Labour Commissioner.

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