domestic worker
Extract from schedule 1 in the National Minimum Wage Act of 2018. (Department of Labour)
  • There is some confusion about domestic worker wages. 
  • South Africa's first national minimum wage of R20 per hour took effect from 1 January, but the new legislation states that domestic workers are entitled to only R15.
  • Meanwhile, the department of labour announced different minimum wages in December.
  • We've confirmed with legal experts and government that R15 an hour is the minimum.
  • But domestic workers in cities are entitled to more.

2019 kicked off to a baffling start as far as domestic workers' wages are concerned.

From 1 January, SA's first national minimum wage of R20 per hour took effect. In the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa: "no worker may be paid below the national minimum wage," which he deemed "a great achievement for the working people of South Africa, who have had to endure generations of exploitation."

But Schedule 1 of the National Minimum Wage Act (NMWA) says that "domestic workers are entitled to a minimum wage of R15 per hour from a date fixed by the President by proclamation in the Gazette," - which is yet to be set.

Extract from schedule 1 in the National Minimum Wage Act of 2018. (Department of Labour)

Meanwhile, less than a month earlier, the Department of Labour introduced adjustments to the minimum wage for domestic workers, which are applicable "to 30 November 2019". These minimum wages are mostly far below R20 a hour.

For example, domestic workers outside big cities who work for more than 27 hours a week, can be legally paid only R12.47 an hour. 

Sectoral determination of minimum wages for domestic workers (December 2018)
  • Domestic workers in Area A (bigger metropolitan areas) - working more than 27 hours per week must be paid a minimum of R13.69 per hour. Those that work less than 27 hours per week, must be paid a minimum of R16.03 per hour.
  • Domestic workers in Area B (non-metros) - working more than 27 hours per week must be paid a minimum of R12.47 per hour. Those who work 27 hours or less per week must be paid a minimum R14.72 per hour.
Source: Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, Employment Law practice and Department of Labour

The department's sectoral determination sets out new domestic wages that are clearly below R15 per hour (with the exception of R16.03 for those who work less than 27 hours per week) and creates the impression that these rates will continue beyond 1 January 2019, according to Jan Truter, the founder and director of local web-based labour relations advisory service Labourwise.

So - what is the new legal wage for domestic workers?

Truter recommends employers should pay at least R15 per hour rate, as this is contained in NMWA - even though the start date of the proclamation has not been gazetted. 

Thamsanqa Mila, an associate with Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr's employment law practice, shares this opinion. 

"From 1 January 2019, employers must pay domestic workers R15 per hour in terms of the National Minimum Wage Act (NMWA) because it takes precedence over the sectoral determination," says Mila.

This was confirmed by the department of labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane, who told Business Insider SA that employers are expected to pay the minimum wage (R15 per hour) as specified in the Act.

But what about domestic workers in cities (Area A) who work less than 27 hours a week? According to the sectoral determination, they are entitled to R16.03 an hour - more than the R15 minimum according to the Act. Jaques van Wyk, director at Werksmans, believes these workers are still entitled to the full R16.03, as per the sectoral determination.

This is in accordance with section 4(7) of the NMWA that states where a worker receives a wage (rate) more favourable than the minimum wage as a result of collective bargaining and/or sectoral determinations - the rate concerned, like R16.03 stays as is.

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