The National Minimum Wage Commission (NMW Commission) recently published for comment, recommendations that the national minimum wage for domestic workers should be increased to equalise the wages of domestic workers with that of the National Minimum Wage.
The National Minimum Wage Act 9 of 2018 tasks the National Minimum Wage Commission to continually assess and review the minimum wage, thus the published recommendations are in line with this Commission’s duties in terms of the Act.
Should the recommendations pass and be officially gazetted, this would increase the current wage of domestic workers from R19,09 per hour to R23,09 per hour, an increase of 21% from their current wages.
Reason For The Recommendation
While for an employer of domestic workers this increase may seem drastic and excessive, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the National Minimum Wage which is to; amongst others: improve the wages of the lowest-paid workers and protect workers from unreasonably low wages. These recommendations, while seemingly exorbitant especially considering the current economic climate due to COVID-19 will go a long way to ensuring that the livelihoods of these workers are protected and that the aims of the Act become more attainable.
But what about the ability of employers to pay the increased wages considering the economic climate caused by COVID-19? This is an important question that the Act considered in its inception. Employers who experience valid difficulty in meeting the proposed wage increase- should the recommendations be gazetted, may apply to the Department of Employment and Labour to be exempted from having to meet these minimum requirements. It is, however, crucial to note that domestic workers, like every other worker in South Africa are protected by the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995. Therefore, should an employer unilaterally cause the wages of the employee to be decreased by unfairly impacting on the conditions of the employee’s employment, such employers may find themselves facing an unfair labour practice complaint at the CCMA.
The recommendations have not yet become law thus at this stage we await further comment from the Commission regarding whether these comments will officially become gazetted and how they will affect you as the employer and your employees.
Written by Linda Shwana, SchoemanLaw