Should Domestic Workers Get Paid More?

Domestic workers have long been part of the South African workforce, and, thus, have various rights according to the Constitution.

And while domestics workers’ wages are protected by a legal minimum wage, of which the proposed increase will come into effect in May 2018, there is the question of whether or not the increase is sufficient.

In 2017, the Department of Labour announced that it would be increasing the national minimum wage to R20 an hour, or R3500 a month.  However, that won’t be the case for domestic workers, farm workers and workers on an Expanded Public Works Programme.  This is because of so-called “sectoral determination for the various sectors”.

As of May 2018, workers in the following sectors will be paid the following:

  • R18 an hour for farm workers, which is 90% of the R20 an hour increase
  • R15 an hour for domestic workers, which is 75% of the R20 an hour increase.

For domestic workers, this translates to roughly R2,625 a month, which is R875 less than R3500.

Furthermore, once the new minimum wage kicks in, any previous sectoral determination (as seen below) will fall away.

Current wages:

Domestic workers who work 27 ordinary hours a week or more

Domestic workers who work less than 27 ordinary hours a week or more

New wages that will be implemented in May 2018:

(Sidenote: The new national minimum wage excludes transport, equipment, food, accommodation, allowances and any additional gifts.)

Unsurprisingly, this has been met with criticism from The South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union.

A spokesperson for the organisation commended the department of labour for considering domestic workers, but condemned them for not doing enough.

“Why must we earn less than other sectors? Domestic workers always get a small increase. We want the National Minimum Wage of R3 500. We work hard,” said Gloria Kente to IOL News.

She went on to say that the fight for equality is an ongoing process. “My dream is for domestic workers to be recognised by their employers for the hard work they do. They leave their kids at 4.30 in the morning to look after their employer’s kids, but the employer does not always appreciate it.”

The National Treasury has justified the lower wage for domestic workers, saying that if the wage is too high it could increase the risk of unemployment.

Meanwhile, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) has agreed that the wage for these workers will be raised to 100% of the minimum wage in about 2 years, but it depends on findings by the National Minimum Wage Commission.


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