Answer to a question from a reader

My mother's employer was not paying her UIF and is now kicking us out of our home on her property.

The short answer

It is illegal not to pay your domestic worker's UIF. Your mother should apply for social grants and housing.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My mom is a domestic worker and has been living in her employer's garden for most of my life. My mother was fired and the owner said that she has until December to move out. My mother has been trying to build a house for herself – the first one burnt down and now she is trying to build a mud house. 

I know that as a domestic worker my mother should get a UIF but I understand why her ex-employer hadn't been paying it since she helped pay for my school fees and get a NSFAS scholarship to go to college. So there is no UIF money to draw and, although I earn the R350 grant, we won't have enough money once my mother stops working.

The long answer

There are two separate issues here:

  1. What you and your mother will do in December when you leave your employer’s house

  2. The non-payment of UIF by your mother’s employer.

Let’s start with the second question: 

You say you understand that the employer did not pay UIF for your mother because she paid your school fees until you went to college paid by NSFAS. Although it was a good and praiseworthy thing to pay your school fees, that has nothing to do with paying – or not paying – UIF.

It is illegal not to pay UIF for your domestic worker. An employer must pay UIF for any worker who works more than 27 hours a month, including a domestic worker. The employer must register as a contributor to UIF and must register her domestic worker as a beneficiary. The UIF will send the employer a contributor number when she registers and she has to use that number when making payments. The total amount for UIF is 2% of the worker’s salary each month: 1% is paid by the employer and the other 1% can be deducted from the worker’s wages to be paid over to UIF.

It is the responsibility of the employer to pay the UIF contribution for her domestic worker. If she doesn’t pay it, she can be held personally liable for payment of the amount owing to the UIF. Non-payment of UIF is an offence and the UIF will levy a 10% penalty on all the unpaid back contributions, and the finance committee at UIF will also calculate interest owing.

An employer who has not deducted and paid UIF can calculate the amount owing and back pay the contributions.

The process of back paying the UIF contributions, according to a company called Payroll4SA, is:

  • Register yourself and your employee for UIF;

  • Get a UIF reference number;

  • Submit the information to the UIF for the periods you did not submit or pay UIF (only one form per year is needed for backlog periods; thereafter, you need to submit a form every month).

Only after you have submitted the salary information for the backlog periods can the finance department of the UIF calculate what the amount for interest will be.

There are a number of companies that assist employers with UIF registration and it can also be done free through the UIF online at uFiling. This is what UIF says about uFiling:

“To register your Domestic uFiling account you need to have the following documents and information available:

  • The Domestic employer's valid 13 Digit South African ID;

  • Your e-mail address where all correspondence will be emailed;

  • If a practitioner is registering a domestic employer, the domestic employer's details are required;

  • Your banking details and valid branch code that you will nominate to be used to securely pay your UIF contributions;

  • The employee's valid 13 Digit South African ID number;

  • The employee's employment details.

All of the outstanding returns can be submitted via uFiling for the past five years. The Act requires an employer to submit monthly returns, so an employer may have to do multiple return submissions and payments.

uFiling does not allow for the payment of penalties and interest. Please contact the UIF directly to obtain the correct amounts for penalties and Interest. The UIF will then provide you with the correct reference numbers and account number to use when paying penalties and interest.”

A worker who works more than 24 hours a month can claim UIF benefits when she becomes unemployed if she was dismissed or retrenched or the employer dies. She cannot claim UIF if she resigns. If she agrees to the termination of her work – that is, if she was not dismissed or retrenched, she also doesn’t qualify. In your mother’s case, it sounds as if she may have agreed to leave. If that is so, she would not qualify for UIF benefits.

You can contact the UIF Call Centre: 0800 UIF (0800 843 843) to find out more.

Returning to the first question of what you and your mother can do when you leave her employer’s house:

  • Your mother would also qualify for the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant (SRD) that you get and she should apply for it immediately;

  • Even though you don’t think your family would help, it may be worth trying to organise a family meeting to see if any of them can lend a hand to complete the mud house. Perhaps she could also try to get some assistance to finish the mud house from her church if she is a church member, or from a stokvel group if she is a member;

  • She could also ask an organisation like Gift of the Givers for help to complete the house. Gift of the Givers is an organisation that has helped thousands of people in South Africa through actions like drilling boreholes, delivering food parcels, starting up clinics and so on. It may be that they could put your mother in contact with organisations or groups that could help her to finish the house.

These are their contact details: 

Toll Free Number: 0800 786 911 


  • While finishing the mud house, she could also apply for an RDP house which may take many years to be handed over but is certainly worth applying for. To qualify for an RDP house, she would need to meet the National Housing Subsidy Scheme criteria. This means she must be:

  • A South African citizen;

  • Over 21 and mentally competent to sign a contract;

  • Married or living with a partner, or single and have dependants (single military veterans or aged people without dependents also qualify);

  • Earn less than R3,500 per month per household (so if two people in your family earn and these earnings amount to more than R3,500 per month you will not qualify);

  • A first-time government subsidy recipient;

  • A first-time homeowner.

To apply for a government Subsidy house, she should take the following documents to a provincial office of the DHS, or her municipal offices:

  • Her identity document (green book or ID card);

  • Certified copies of birth certificates of children;

  • Proof of income if working, e.g. salary slip.

She will be asked to fill in a housing subsidy application form. Depending on her province or municipality, she will then be registered on the National Housing Needs Register or her Municipal Housing Demands Database. This is a “waiting list”. Once the project is finalised and the houses built, she will be given keys and a title deed to her home, but it can take many years.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Dec. 10, 2021, 10:26 a.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.