Domestic workers' minimum wages

Supporting those who support us
Domestic workers' minimum wages

So many of us enjoy the help of a domestic worker in our homes. They help us to keep our homes clean and our lives in order. We trust them to raise our children with us, and give them keys to our homes. In many cases we spend many of our waking hours together and become good friends.

Yet many of us don’t know how to place a value on the work a domestic worker does for us. We are not sure if we are paying a fair wage. We have a feeling that the role they play in our lives might be undervalued. We ask friends and neighbours for advice. We google ‘minimum wage for domestic workers’ (here is what you would find on legal minimums - http://www.labourguide.co.za/workshop/1245-domestic-worker-minimum-wage-increases-from-1-december-2016/file). We compare hours worked and salaries paid, and try to draw conclusions.

We want to look after our employees, but we are not always sure how.

Living Wage (http://living-wage.co.za) is a really great resource for those who employ domestic workers. It is a tool that helps to determine if we are paying enough to cover their basic expenses, based on their particular situation. It promotes the idea that every employee has a different set of circumstances, and expenses, and that we consider this when it comes to salary, rather than basing a figure on the minimum wage. It offers a wage calculator which uses certain statistical assumptions in combination with info added in by the user, to arrive at a fair wage. This is a starting point - http://living-wage.co.za.

Almost 7% of the employed South African population are domestic workers. Many are the sole breadwinners, so their salary needs to cover all food, transport, accommodation, electricity and childcare and/or education expenses of their family.

Life is becoming increasingly expensive for everyone in South Africa. The price of food has gone up. Fuel and electricity are on the rise, and all these impact all of us. Yet still the guideline for domestic worker salaries is based on the minimum wage.

In addition to a fair wage, how else can we support stability for domestic workers?

What happens if the breadwinner is unable to work? Do we pay the family a lump sum of cash, or do we rather plan in advance and take out a policy to cover them?

What happens when a funeral needs to be arranged? Do we pay out of our own savings or have we considered a funeral policy beforehand?

Domestic workers are often financially stressed, in debt and paying for insurance policies they can’t afford or don’t need. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to help. Just ask a few questions - you might be shocked by the answers.

We need to look after one another. After all as Ram Das says; “We’re all just walking each other home.