Coronavirus: Protect domestic workers

23 March 2020 | Labour



As wealthier Namibians slam shut their doors to safeguard their families against the coronavirus pandemic, labour experts warn against shutting out vulnerable household employees without regard to their legal labour and safety rights. Since the announcement of the first three confirmed conronavirus cases in Namibia, many domestic workers were instructed to stay home in order to limit the risk of exposure for both employers and employees.

Although many employers took these steps without slashing pay or benefits, there are concerns that domestic workers are at particular risk of unfair labour practices at this time, in a sector that is already rife with labour rights abuses.


The Namibian Domestic and Allied Workers Union (NDAWU) received a complaint last week from a domestic worker who “was told to stay home, but was not informed how long she should stay home or whether she would be paid for staying home”.

Union secretary general Nellie Dina Kahua said even before the pandemic, domestic workers in Namibia have faced an uphill battle when it comes to fair and dignified labour practices.

She said while those who can afford to employ domestic staff are able to lean on private medical care and secure jobs, many domestic workers are now more vulnerable than ever. The union also asked that those who are able to afford it to should ensure they extend help where needed, whether to assist with medical costs or other needs.

Frieda Naris of the NDAWU last week said while the union supports giving domestic workers paid leave “until everything settles down”, in order to protect workers' health and safety, those measures must be taken in line with the law, with full pay and benefits provided.


Labour expert Herbert Jauch of Viva Workers stressed last week that the labour act does not allow employers to slash pay or benefits as a result of the pandemic.

“Limiting the working hours of staff in a home has to be treated in the same way as any other staff. In case staff members are asked not to come to work as a precaution to avoid infection, then the employer still has all the obligations to the staff member. In other words, full pay and benefits apply,” he said.

Jauch advised household employers to ensure that employees are treated with respect and dignity, and discussions on the subject of reducing working hours should ensure the employee is made away that it is not “on the basis of any shortcomings of the employee, but merely based on a generally precautionary principle.”

He added that staff should be assured that the changing working condition is temporary and that an employee’s pay will not be impacted as this would “safeguard the dignity and rights of people.”

Michael Akuupa of the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) this week said it is crucial for employers to understand that “the situation as unfolding cannot be dealt with in isolation of legal measures that deal with emergencies internationally.”
He added that it is also “immature to suggest that COVID 19 is only to be found in areas where domestic workers reside. COVID 19 can be anywhere and anytime irrespective of social-economic class.”

Moreover, Akuupa said employees themselves have a choice to stay at home if they worry about their health safety, and in turn should ensure they communicate their reasons for staying home clearly with employers.
The union asked that any employer or employees who are unsure of the steps to be taken as part of efforts country-wide to slow the spread of the virus are welcome to contact them.

Similar News


Lay-off fears mount after landmark ruling

2 weeks ago - 24 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKES WINDHOEKFears are mounting over widespread Covid-19 retrenchments after the High Court declared regulations by the labour ministry, aimed at banning dismissals, salary cuts...

Workers underpaid at Wu's housing project

2 weeks ago - 19 June 2020 | Labour

KENYA KAMBOWERUNDULabourers recruited by subcontractors building houses for prominent Chinese businesswoman Stina Wu are paid far below the minimum wage.At the site in Rundu's Kaisosi...

Pick n Pay to lay off 500

2 weeks ago - 19 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKESWindhoekPick n Pay Namibia yesterday announced that it will retrench 500 of its 1 931 employees in an effort to make the business sustainable.The...

Sardarov’s workers on a warpath

3 weeks ago - 16 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKA group of former farmworkers at Marula Game Lodge outside Windhoek, which belongs to Russian billionaire Rashid Sardarov, are claiming unfair labour practices and...

Govt probes claims of ‘racial’ retrenchments

3 weeks ago - 16 June 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKThe ministry of labour is investigating claims that some companies plan on retrenching workers on the basis of their skin colour, as Covid-19 continues...

Over 120 lose jobs at Stina Wu’s project

1 month - 03 June 2020 | Labour

KENYA KAMBOWERUNDUAbout 120 people lost their jobs yesterday after a fallout between Chinese-born business magnate Stina Wu and a subcontractor that labour inspectors found to...

Fired writer's case reaches labour court

1 month - 20 May 2020 | Labour

OGONE TLHAGE WINDHOEK Former Namibia Press Agency (Nampa) freelance writer and columnist Vitalio Angula's dismissal case is due to be heard in the...

Retrenchment ban: Bosses backtrack on court battle

2 months ago - 30 April 2020 | Labour

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKThe Namibia Employer's Federation (NEF) has parked its plan to drag government to court over regulations that include a ban on retrenchments until at...

Bosses hit back at Covid-19 retrenchment ban

2 months ago - 27 April 2020 | Labour

ESTER KAMATIWINDHOEKDirectives communicated by the ministry of labour have been disputed by the Namibia Employers' Association (NEA) and Namibia Employers' Federation (NEF).The directives include a...

Social security for informal traders proposed

2 months ago - 22 April 2020 | Labour

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEKThe Namibia Informal Traders and Shebeen Workers Union says there is now a clear need for its members to start benefiting from social safety...

Latest News

Namibia's airport gears for operations...

20 hours ago | Business

Namibia's flagship airport the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) is ready for its restart plan as borders are going to gradually open under the provisions...

'Swapo campaign benefitted from Fishrot'

20 hours ago | Crime

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKA State witness in the ongoing bail application of former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau and his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi dropped a bombshell yesterday when...

Itula not a competitor –...

20 hours ago | Politics

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEK The Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement does not see the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC), a mooted political party led by former presidential...

Air Namibia wants its wings...

20 hours ago | Transport

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEKAir Namibia has written to the Transport Commission of Namibia, demanding to know why the national carrier's air services licence has been temporarily suspended.The...

Namibia receives 2.35 million...

20 hours ago | Economics

China has donated Covid-19 related supplies worth 40 million Namibian dollars (2.35 million US dollars) to Namibia to assist the country in fighting the virus,...

Time for Swapo to answer

20 hours ago | Opinion

Now more than ever, the ruling party Swapo has no excuse to maintain the deafening silence on allegations it has benefitted from the multi-million-dollar Fishrot...

Farmers rue lack of post-resettlement...

20 hours ago | Business

By Edward Mumbuu JnrSome resettlement beneficiaries have expressed discontent in governments post-resettlement support programme, which they suggest, derails the productivity and profitability of such farms.The...

San's existence under threat

20 hours ago | Environment

STAFF REPORTER WINDHOEK The San's environment is constantly under threat, and while they were once able to sustain themselves and their way of...

Pick n Pay assault twist

20 hours ago | Crime

ELLANIE SMITWINDHOEK The wife of a suspect, who can clearly be seen beating a Pick n Pay employee in a video that went viral this...

Load More