Law clear on new domestic worker wage
SA’s first national minimum wage of R20 per hour took effect from January 1, with domestic workers entitled to at least than R15 an hour
Where you live in will no longer determine how much you pay the woman who cleans your house, irons your clothes, cooks your meals or looks after your children.
Whether you live in a bustling metro, a township or the rural areas, all domestic workers must now be paid at the very least R15 an hour – as determined by the national minimum wage which came into effect on January 1.
According to South Africa's first ever national minimum wage – approved by cabinet in 2017 after being signed off by stakeholders within government, labour and business – general workers must be paid a national minimum rate of R20 per hour, or R3,500 a month, depending on the number of hours worked.
This R20 an hour minimum rate will be phased slowly into the agriculture and domestic workers sectors, however, with workers currently earning a minimum of R18 and R15 per hour in those sectors respectively.
To work out the monthly rate, multiply the number of hours worked per week by the hourly wage, then multiply this number by 52 (the number of weeks in a year) and then divide by 12.
If it is R15 an hour for 40 hours a week, the monthly wage would be R15 x 40 x 52 divided by 12 or R2,600.
This is the minimum monthly wage for a monthly worker working 40 hours a week.
Department of labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane said the national minimum wage trumped the sectoral determination publicised on the labour department’s website in December 2018.
Based on this determination, Area A domestics working more than 27 ordinary hours per week would have earned R13,69 per hour, with those within the same area working 27 ordinary hours a week or less would earn R16,03.
Domestic workers from Area B who worked more than 27 ordinary hours a week would have earned R12,47; with those working 27 ordinary hours or less earning a minimum hourly rate of R14,72.
Thejane stressed that the only exception to the guidelines provided by the national minimum wage would be granted to those employers who already paid a salary that exceeded the minimum amount.
“Those employers who pay a higher amount, whether its R20, R25 or R30, should know they cannot bring that amount down to R15,” he explained.
“In other words, employers cannot decrease the amount they currently pay their domestic workers in order to get it down to R15.
“Instead, any amount which is below that R15 should progress to get to that amount, meaning they should start to pay more as of this month.”
East London-based labour lawyer Jonathan Goldberg said the law on the issue was clear.
“If the amount paid is below that then the R15 supersedes that amount,” he said.
While the intention behind the minimum wage is good, can employers afford it? If not, how are they working around it in a way which benefits both employer and employee?
Daily Dispatch readers shared their opinions on our Facebook page.
Michelle Marshall said she could not afford the new wage and had to cut her domestic’s hours.
“I feel terrible because she also has a family to support.”
Unathi Boisiki said people who could not afford to pay a domestic worker should get an unemployed relative to help out and reimburse them with what they could afford.
“Another alternative is getting someone to help for a day or two in a week. If you earn R3,600 [a month] you unfortunately cannot have the luxury of a sleep-in nanny.”
Sivuyisiwe Hela said while the minimum wage was good, there was the issue of compliance.
She said: “As it stands, government has no real way of ensuring that employers pay their domestic workers as they should, so they’ll most likely continue to underpay them.
“Also, many domestic workers, particularly those in rural areas, are unaware that they are being exploited.
“There it’s common for a sleep-in domestic worker who has chores ranging from looking after a kid, washing clothes and cooking to be paid a mere R1,500 monthly.”
Another reader, Zukiswa Mbuku, asked: “If the domestic worker stays at the employer's place, which means accommodation and food are at the employer's cost, how much do you then pay her?”
Thejane said one of the issues the national minimum wage dealt with was the question of employers who made deductions from their domestic workers’ pay for accommodation, food, electricity and water.
Thejane said it was unlawful to deduct those benefits from the employees’ wages.
“None of those things can be deducted from the R15 the domestic earns. It’s unlawful to do so. The employer can give the domestic benefits over and above the R15 per hour pay, but cannot make it less by making deductions from it,” he said.
Goldberg said employers could make deductions if they paid a wage that was in excess of R15 per hour.
“Based on the conditions of employment act, there is an amount which can be deducted for food and accommodation but the person cannot be paid less because of it,” he said.
“So you can pay me R17 per hour and deduct the R2, but you cannot pay me less than the R15, otherwise you are not complying with the minimum wage.”
Thejane also touched on issues regarding general working hours and lunch breaks.
He said according to the basic conditions of employment act, no worker was expected to work more than five hours without a break.
He said domestic workers should also have specific working hours both during the day and night, much like a day shift and a night shift.
For example, he said, if an employer hosted a party at their home and wanted their domestic to wash the dishes during or after the party, they would have to pay her extra if she had already worked her full day.
“It’s the same with domestic workers who look after babies all day but are then expected to look after the babies at night too.
“That’s extra work, which they should be paid for above their normal hourly rate.”
Thejane said working on weekends and public holidays should be paid for at a rate of time-and-a-half...