Like many of our clients, I am an expat living and working in Dakar, Senegal.

And whilst our clients ask us legal questions affecting their businesses, I know that sometimes in daily life there are legal hurdles that we face on personal front when living in a different country and it would be nice to feel confident that we are complying with the law.

Take, for instance, home help. The affordability of hiring staff like housekeepers, cooks, nannies, guards, chauffeurs or gardeners is a luxury that is much appreciated by many expat families. But what are your rights and obligations as an employer? What does the law say about things such as pay rates and leave entitlements for staff employed in your home?

Terms and conditions of employment in Senegal are governed by the Labor Code and a number of sundry decrees, including the decree outlining the general conditions of employment for domestic staff. Here are just a few of the legal requirements that you should be aware of when hiring domestic staff in Senegal. Please note that this list is not exhaustive, but I have endeavoured to highlight some of the key issues here:

  • A normal working week in Senegal is 40 hours. However, the law regards domestic work of being of a start-and-stop nature, so a normal working week for domestic staff is considered to be 60 hours and 56 for guards. Days off can be negotiated, but staff are required to have one full day or two half days off per week. In the case of guards, they are required to have a forced consecutive 24 hour rest period each week to avoid continuous service without sleep.
  • Staff are entitled to 2 days of leave per month. This is increased by an extra day per year for each period of 5 years that the employee has worked for the same employer.
  • As long as they have a medical certificate, staff are entitled to up to 6 months’ sick leave in any year (at full or half pay depending on years of service) before an employer can terminate the employment contract.
  • In accordance with the National Inter-Profession Collective Convention, after 6 months of employment, staff are also entitled to take up to 15 days’ leave per year for the following special circumstances:
    • Marriage of the employee: 3 days
    • Wedding of one of the employee’s sons or daughters, brothers or sisters: 1 day
    • Death of the spouse, parent or child of the employee: 4 days
    • Death of the brother or sister of the employee: 2 days
    • Dead of the father-in-law or mother-in-law of the employee: 2 days
    • Birth of a child: 1 day (this applies to fathers. Maternity leave is dealt with separately)
    • Naming ceremony / baptism of any child (not necessarily the employee’s son or daughter): 1 day
    • First communion of any child (not necessarily the employee’s son or daughter): 1 day
    • Hospitalization of a spouse or child of the employee: 1 day
  • At the beginning of the arrangement, the law permits a probation period of 1 month for beginners and 15 days for experienced staff.
  • After the probation period, the contract can be terminated by either the employer or the employee by giving 8 days written notice. There is a calculation for severance pay based on the number of years worked and using a percentage of the employee’s monthly salary.
  • There is a scheme of bonuses payable for years of service as well as a penalty rate if the employee works for a household of more than 5 people.
  • Salaries are paid monthly and, unless otherwise agreed, are due on the last day of the month.
  • Types of work are categorized under Senegalese law and can be found in the government’s 2009 “New Salary Scales”. The current minimum wage for domestic jobs – depending on seniority and type of work – is in the range of 65,522 CFA to 100,515 CFA per month.
  • It is not compulsory to provide food and accommodation for domestic staff in Senegal (although you can of course choose to do this).
  • There is a social security system established in Senegal that is slightly roundabout to calculate, but straightforward to follow once you have established the payments:
    • employers withhold 5.6% of the staff’s salary each month and contribute a further 8.4% of the staff’s salary (totally 14% of the staff’s salary) to contribute to the IPRES retirement scheme; and
    • employers pay an additional 8% of the staff’s monthly salary to the Social Security Register. This fund provides a type of insurance for labor costs such as certain health entitlements and maternity leave payments.
  • If the Social Security Register payments are made, then the government will pay the equivalent of the employee’s full salary to the employee for maternity leave for a period of 14 weeks (6 weeks preceding the expected birth date and 8 weeks following the birth).

This summary deals with just some of the minimum legal requirements for employment. The labor law in Senegal is comprehensive and covers a great deal more issues. And there is, of course, no substitute for speaking with friends and colleagues about their experiences to hear some ideas about how to forge a good relationship with your household staff right from the beginning.