Why your domestic worker needs life cover

Why your domestic worker needs life cover

Next time you have 10 minutes to spare, ask your domestic worker about her funeral cover. With some prompting you will likely receive a thorough response, with a real-world cost-benefit analysis of the various policies and insurance providers in the market. You will be educated on why funeral cover is so important to her and her family, the excessive costs involved in a funeral and the social pressure she is under to deliver a funeral worthy of esteem. Then, ask her about her life cover and you’ll probably receive a much shorter answer. The chances are good that she doesn’t have any, perhaps hasn’t ever even thought about it. Is this because she doesn’t care about what happens to her loved ones after she dies? Of course not. With funeral cover already representing a significant financial commitment every month, life insurance might sound like just another additional cost – one which does not carry the same cultural and social credit as funeral insurance. A funeral policy also covers a number of family members’ funerals, including your domestic worker’s, while a life policy is in respect of her life only. So, life cover is not seen as having the same value as funeral cover, but is that correct? Given the importance of your home employee’s life in her family structure, should it not be worth much more?

Around one million people in this country are domestic workers – 6% of working South Africans – with more people employed in private households than the mining and agricultural sectors combined. Including dependents, that means four to five million people rely on this industry for survival. In such circumstances, the financial consequences for a domestic worker’s family if she – often the primary breadwinner – loses her life can be disastrous. Yes, funeral cover will ensure that the family can afford a respectful burial, but what after that? The risk is compounded by the fact that many of South Africa’s domestic workers and nannies travel long distances to get to and from work every day, often in high-risk taxis. Weekend or holiday trips back to family villages or towns are especially dangerous, but common. Our housekeeper, Janet, makes the journey from Johannesburg to Polokwane every two to three months, and upon every return she shares horror stories of reckless driving by those she has paid to safely transport her.

Yet, despite near-death experiences Janet was dubious about life cover. The conversation had begun when we offered to take over her monthly funeral cover payments and were shocked to discover how obscenely she was being overcharged every month for mediocre value. In the process of finding an alternative we secured affordable and intelligent life cover that offered funeral insurance and also looked after Janet’s family in the event of her death or disability. Accustomed to paying the same amount for funeral cover alone, Janet wasn’t convinced. But as we discussed what it would mean to her three children if anything were to happen to her, she was converted. It was as major relief for us too. Janet has worked with us for 14 years. She has helped raise our children and forms an integral part of our household. We have also watched her children grow, and to know that we can contribute to their financial safety is a tremendous reward.