Should a domestic worker get a Christmas bonus?

Doris, a domestic worker, demands a Christmas bonus from her employer in the amount of R1 000. She has not yet been employed for longer than a year and as a result no prior agreements or expectations have been created in this regard. When Christi, her employer, informs Doris that she will not pay her a Christmas bonus, Doris says that she will report Christi to the CCMA for unfair labour practices …

The situation

Doris is a domestic worker who has been working at a private residence in Durbanville for just under a year now. Christi, Doris’s employer, is not in a financial position to offer Doris a Christmas bonus, let alone a bonus to the amount requested by Doris. Christi explains to Doris that she cannot pay her a bonus due to economic constraints, but next year they could revisit the conversation and see if things have improved. It would also be based on Doris’s performance during the year.

Doris got very upset by this response threatens to take Christi to the CCMA for unfair labour practices. Christi feels apprehensive and is uncertain as to her stance in law on this point, so she consults an attorney to advise her.

The law

Upon obtaining legal advice Christi learns that labour law legislation provides no guidance on the question of bonuses. In the absence of a contractual term regulating bonuses, Christi learns that it is up to her to decide whether she wants to pay Doris a bonus or not.

Due to a Christmas bonus being considered as gratuitous payment by an employer to an employee, it is a natural corollary that the employee is granted same in exchange for a job well done, or for exceptional service which reaches beyond the call of duty in the year that has passed. This warrants a reward or tip over and above the normal agreed upon wage for services rendered.

Things Christi was advised to consider when making such a decision was inter alia Doris’s performance in the past year and Christi’s own financial position. She should also keep in mind that, should she decide to pay what Doris has demanded, a reasonable expectation may be created in the years to come for Christi to continue to pay such a bonus.

Conclusion

Doris does not have an all-encompassing right to receive a Christmas bonus. Further, due to the fact that no reasonable expectation has yet been created, Christi’s reasons for and decision not to pay Doris a bonus cannot be seen as an unfair labour practice. Thus providing Doris, in this particular case, no grounds on which to approach the CCMA to claim performance from Christi.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

http://www.labourguide.co.za/conditions-of-employment/149-the-payment-of-bonuses-re-visited (Accessed: 10/12/2015)

www.labour.gov.za/DOL/downloads/…of…/domesticworker2012.pdf (Accessed: 10/12/2015)

http://www.mywage.co.za/main/news/mywage-south_african-news/christmas-bonus-time-december-2010 (Accessed: 10/12/2015)

 Basic Conditions of Employment Act and Amendments Labour Relations Act