There is no legal requirement to provide medical aid to domestic workers. Despite the fact that conversation during lunch at Tasha’s invariably turns to the difficulty of acquiring decent help, the country’s high unemployment rate means that it is hardly necessary to lure domestic employees with competitive packages.
So are there any rational, self-interested reasons to offer domestic workers medical aid?
Possibly. Domestic workers are entitled to paid sick leave, and efficient private health care may reduce the length of time a domestic employee needs to take off from work.
Practically speaking, however, it is not obvious that a hypothetical saving in sick days would offset medical aid premiums.
Rather, medical cover would be an investment in your domestic worker’s health and well-being.
What do I look like, the Dalai Lama?
There’s no law compelling you, and you are probably not going to save any money. Plus, running a house isn’t cheap.
There are a couple of options worth considering.
You might discuss allocating a portion of your domestic worker’s current salary to cover medical aid premiums. Bear in mind that domestic employees are not obliged to accept this arrangement and, realistically, South African domestic workers are not usually in a position to take even a modest reduction in wages.
If you’d like to extend medical aid cover to your domestic worker but are concerned about costs, there are budget options. Examine these policies carefully, and be clear about which conditions are covered, what the limits are for advanced tests and specialist rates, where co-payments apply, and whether the policy only covers designated hospitals. The cost of the monthly premium is only one factor to consider: it is no less important to be clear about exactly what benefits are included in the medical aid policy.
Budget medical aid plans will generally only cover hospitalisation. They do not include a day-to-day benefit.
What else can I do to improve domestic employees’ well-being?
It is good practice to pay for routine medical check-ups with a private GP (and routine gynaecological exam for female employees). Public hospitals can provide good emergency medical care, but basic care often involved long waiting periods in uncomfortable facilities, leading many who rely on public healthcare to neglect routine medical attention. Regular check-ups can help detect some illnesses before they become difficult to treat. Routine medical care may also reduce the number of sick days a worker will require.
Respecting employees’ rights
Offering to pay for healthcare or medical insurance does not give you the right to choose treatment on your employee’s behalf. Medical decisions are a personal matter. The results of any medical consultation are confidential. You do not have a right to know your domestic worker’s medical history, even if you are funding his or her medical care.
Remember that no employer can force an employee to take an AIDS test, and employees are not obliged to disclose their HIV status. It is not permitted to dismiss an employee because he or she is HIV positive.
Contact us for competitive quotes for medical aid.