How safe is your domestic worker in your home?

Domestic staff falling victim to criminals while at work in private homes is common. There have been many cases of gardeners robbed while working outside or domestic workers conned into opening the gate for “metre readers” and then being tied up and assaulted before the home is ransacked.

Charnel Hattingh, Head of Marketing and Communications for Fidelity ADT, confirms the security provider deals with these types of incidents across their national footprint on a daily basis.

“Domestic staff are often the only people on a property during the day, sometimes even over extended holiday periods. They shoulder a lot of responsibility to protect the property and potentially children or the elderly who may be in their care,” she says.

“Criminals quickly pick up on routines and know how to con their way onto properties where domestic workers are busy with their tasks. It is imperative that homeowners equip their staff with the knowledge and tools they need to protect themselves and those in their care.”

Hattingh highlights that domestic staff are now eligible for workers’ compensation if they are injured on your property. This after the Constitutional Court ruled parts of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) are unconstitutional.

According to the National Employers’ Labour Association (NELA), the amendment to the Act, yet to be promulgated, is retrospective, which means cases dating back to 2004 will be eligible for compensation. NELA assistant general secretary Albert van der Merwe reiterates that the definition of “domestic worker” includes gardeners, nannies, caregivers and chauffeurs employed in private homes.

Hattingh believes the amendment to the Act calls for a new perspective on home security.

“We trust homeowners will step up to do whatever possible to keep their domestic staff safe on their properties and in their homes,” she says.

“What homeowners need to realise is that any ‘employee’ who comes to your home for a period during the day could fall victim to crime. Apart from domestic helpers, think about au pairs and tutors, for example. If they’re spending time on your property, they should be part of your security protocols.

“After all, having mom, dad and the kids on the same page with security and all diligently locking doors and arming the garden beams is pointless if these things don’t happen when your domestic worker or au pair are home alone with the children.”

Hattingh offers 10 common-sense security tips to keep people in your household safe:

  1. Never open the gate to strangers, no matter what their story is.
  2. Activate garden beams during the day.
  3. Proper perimeter protection is imperative – palisade fencing or walling and an automated gate are the best options. Electric fencing is a valuable addition to these.
  4. Domestic staff/others must carry remote panic buttons on them at all times and know where the mounted panic buttons are in the house.
  5. Keep security gates locked and the keys removed.
  6. Never make it obvious you are away on holiday. It must look like “business as usual” at home, with lights being switched on regularly, blinds closed and security systems armed.
  7. Discourage domestic staff/anyone else regularly around your family from talking about your routines and plans to other people.
  8. Everyone must know who to contact in an emergency and what procedures to follow when activating a panic to your private security company.
  9. Be vigilant at all times, inside and outside the home – listen for the dogs barking, for example, and check it out.
  10. Report any suspicious activity or persons in your neighbourhood to your private security company or the police to investigate.

“Help keep your domestic staff and other people in your family’s life safe by regularly talking about security and security protocols.  Remember, all these people have families too and want to get home safely at the end of the day,” Hattingh concludes.