The cost of getting your house cleaned, laundry washed or your children looked after has increased from this month as the Department of Labour revealed the 2018 minimum wages for domestic workers, which sees a 5% increase over last year’s rates.
Minimum wages for domestic workers who work more than 27 ordinary hours per week in Area A (metropolitan areas) is R13.05 per hour, R587.40 per week or R2 545.22 per month.
For Area B (all other areas), the wages are R11.89 per hour, R534.91 per week or R2 317.75 per month.
For Area A domestic workers who work 27 ordinary hours per week or less, the wages have been adjusted to R15.28 per hour, R412.60 per week or R1 787.80 per month.
For Area B, domestics in the same category are to earn R14.03 per hour, R378.83 per week or R1 641.48 per month.
Gloria Kente, from the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union, slammed the increase, saying it would do little to improve the lives of domestic workers.
Kente said the increase should be at least R30 an hour for live-in domestics and more for those working part-time as they had to also factor in daily transport costs.
“Sometimes employers ask domestics to only work for three hours, but what are they supposed to do with such a small amount of money?” Kente said.
“Taxis are very expensive and in many cases they have to use one to get to work, especially if they live in a big city. Then they have to use that money to buy food and clothes for themselves and their children.”
Kente said many people forgot that domestic workers bought their food and clothes from the same stores as everyone else, at exactly the same prices.
“It is just not fair to have people earning such a small amount of money per month. We are not fighting with employers, but a minimum of R30 an hour would be a decent start. There is not really much difference here from last year’s wages.
“The worst part of this are those employers who deliberately underpay their domestic workers and threaten to reduce their working hours if they demand to be paid according to the minimum wage,” Kente said.
While the increases may be forcing many employers to rethink domestic working arrangements, East London-based labour lawyer Jonathan Goldberg said employers could not determine terms of employment and conditions unilaterally as this would not be fair.
He said based on recommendations made towards the National Minimum Wage – legislation which sets a R20 per hour minimum rate which no employer may pay below, expected to be passed in May in South Africa – if you are looking to reduce an employee’s working hours, the employee would first have to be retrenched, and a retrenchment package would have to be paid out before the domestic worker was re-employed.
The new terms of employment, including the new working hours and pay, should always be clearly stipulated.
Failure to follow these steps could result in a trip to the CCMA.
“There will be penalties implemented for non-compliant employers,” Goldberg said about the national minimum wage.
Kente said they welcomed the penalties and hoped there would be a body in place to enforce them.