Domestic workers returning to work during COVID-19

I have had a lot of questions about domestic workers and gardeners returning to work.

Each person needs to assess their risk when allowing someone into their house to come and work. As an employer, you also need to assess the risk of your employee. If you decide that your domestic worker is going to come and work, I would advise the following:

  • Supply face masks
  • Supply a face shield for travel on taxis. We have also advised employees both at home and in the practice to wear a face shield when going to the shops. However, the most vital place to have a face shield is on a taxi
  • Supply 70% alcohol-based hand sanitiser to be used where handwashing is not possible e.g. after handling money on a taxi, after shopping etc.
  • Provide hand soap and a separate towel for each employee
  • Provide a house coat to wear over clothes or a uniform that employees who have travelled using public transport can change into once reaching work. Provide a pair of shoes to be worn inside your house.
  • Only 40% of people with COVID-19 may run a temperature. Temperature testing prior to entering a private household is therefore not mandatory. But you must screen for symptoms: cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of smell or taste, diarrhoea, fatigue/weakness, body ache, chills, headache
  • Advise employees not to come into work if they have any of the above symptoms. Employees must stop working immediately if they become aware of any of the above symptoms. Purchase a small quantity of surgical masks from your pharmacy – Dischem sells surgical masks individually or in packs of 3. If an employee reports symptoms while working, give them a surgical mask to wear and seat them in a separate room. You should also put on a surgical mask. Phone the  National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) (0800 029 999) or your GP for further guidance.
  • If you are in self-isolation or quarantine, do not allow employees into your property.
  • Gardeners and domestic workers emptying bins and cleaning out wheelie bins need to be provided with elbow length household gloves.
  • Open windows where possible and keep rooms well ventilated
  • If your lounge area is being vacuumed, move to another area. Don’t occupy the same space as an employee
  • If an employee is performing manual labour, remember that they are breathing harder. As for runners, increase your distance to 6 meters.
  • Within the same household, face masks are not necessary. Therefore if you have a domestic worker who lives on your property, you and the employee do not need to wear a mask in the house. However if you have an employee who works part-time, household occupants and the employee need to be wearing masks.
  • Make sure you create a safe space in which employees can be honest about their symptoms.
  • If a domestic worker does get COVID-19 try stay in contact with them and provide information and support.

In our house, Francis and I present a huge risk to Maggie who works for us. She is 68 and has high blood pressure and diabetes. We discussed with her whether she wanted to return to work or not, she was adamant that she was coming back after Lockdown level 5. She lives-in. She wears a mask and household gloves when dealing with our laundry and making our beds.  I have taken over doing her shopping as I am concerned about her traveling on taxis and going to the shops. Should she need to go to the bank or elsewhere, I either take her or she arranges for her son to come and fetch her. If I am giving her a lift, we travel Uber style. We both wear masks, she sits on the back seat and windows are open.

SA cornona virus website is zero data rated, and has alot of useful info. The whastapp line is also accessible (0600123456). Share information with your domestic worker. Being diagnosed with COVID-19 can be scary because of the range of experiences from mild to severe.

We all have a duty to protect each other. Stay informed and stay safe.

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