We recently updated the minimum wage tables for domestic workers and nannies for 2018 and published an article on a few extra things to consider beyond the financial.
What both articles specified was that the minimum wage was just that – the bare minimum of what we should be giving our workers. If you can afford to pay more, by all means, and if you can’t there are a few other things you can consider – some legal and some just out of the goodness of your heart.
Our readers seemed to agree, for the most part at least, saying it’s much too low. Others felt they simply couldn’t afford to pay anything else.
Here are some of the responses we received.
*All responses are posted anonymously.
It’s "way too low"
Many readers felt the minimum wage was “way to low”, suggesting nannies should be contracted and have a tax reference number too.
Another reader felt it was “just wrong at every level” explaining, “we perpetuate the cycle of poverty; how will a child attend university with a parent earning this salary? Unless we expect them to follow in their parents’ footsteps and breed generations of domestics. This is a moral issue and we cannot in good conscience accept this.”
Another said, “The minimum is NOT the goal! Let's make generosity normal!”
While a reader divulged, “I pay my domestic almost R5 000 a month and she lives on my property with free boarding and lodging and all meals included. I still think it's not enough. Wish I could pay her more.”
This is what we pay
Quite a few people wrote in, explaining what they pay and why:
“We are paying our nanny (who is also our domestic worker) R4 500 per month. Travel expenses are included in her salary. Lunch and UIF contribution we pay separately. She does not live in. She works Monday-Friday, 8-4. We live in Fish Hoek, Cape Town. From what I can gather this is a lot less than the going rate in the area, which goes up to R7 000pm!”
“My domestic worker has been with me for 5 years. Her current salary for a 4-day week (7 hours per day) is R4 000. She gets at least 20 paid normal leave days per year. Obviously paid on all Public Holidays. I would pay her more if it was at all possible.”
“We decided to pay our child's carer slightly above the 'going rate' several years ago since she is a single mom. Since there is a legal requirement to raise your domestic employee's wages by 8% per annum, this amount has steadily increased so that we are now paying just over R1 600/week. With an 8% increase, next year this will amount to around R7 000 to R8 000 per month. It may seem like a lot, but we feel her value as a carer is far above this amount. I do wish we could also contribute to a pension to help her break the cycle and not have to depend on her child to support her when she retires.”
“We pay our domestic worker R3 100 plus monthly groceries up to R500. She lives on our property and receives 2 Fridays off per month to visit her family in Limpopo. We also provide her with a cellphone on contract to contact her family. Her working times are 7am to 3pm. She is the sole provider for her family and has young children. She is a dedicated mother, hard and diligent worker. An absolute asset to our family!”
“I used to have a domestic helper for 3 days a week and paid her R2 800pm; she lived nearby so transport costs weren't an issue. I also contributed to a retirement annuity for her and helped her get a diploma. I moved areas 2 and a half years ago and she couldn't come with me, but I still pay over R800 into her RA a month and will do so until she reaches 60 years of age in 2 years' time. I don't think all employers are bad, but there are some employers who pay the bare minimum and nothing more.”
“My housekeeper receives R6 000 pm for 8 hours daily Monday to Friday. I pay her son's private school fees, most of their medical bills and she gets an annual bonus. She runs our household of 2 with a smile every day, walks our dogs for an hour daily and I couldn't ask for a better soul. We therefore look after her with pleasure too.”
But I can’t afford to pay more
Readers, however, made a point to say some people who can afford to can pay more, while others shouldn’t be expected to:
“Depends who employed you. If you are employed by a stinking rich employer, salary should be more. But if you are employed by a domestic employer to be a nanny, where will she get the money? Those salaries should be calculated according to how much the employer makes.”
Another concerned reader wrote in about the implications of a “compulsory minimum wage”:
“A nanny or domestic worker may be willing to get whatever I have but since law rules that I should pay a minimum wage, it's highly likely that the essence of ubuntu will deteriorate. I earn R5 000 and I gotta pay my worker 40% of my gross income. Then no one will be willing to help those who truly need a job, because some people hire domestic workers because they wanna help not because they need one. Law makers should consider that this law might result in a high unemployment rate.”
But readers seemed to answer that question for her:
“If you're paying your domestic less than R200 a day, maybe you should consider cleaning your own home and looking after your own kid.”
We need to treat our workers with respect
A few domestic workers responded, one even divulging that her employers wouldn’t always pay her on time or cover her UIF, all the while treating her badly. She detailed an occasion in which she got into an argument with them:
“His wife was screaming at me, the neighbours were looking and shook their heads. In front of their 3 kids. They did not even want the kids to give me hugs. Thinking I worked my ass off, brought up their kids and they treated me like that makes me feel sick. We might come from the Karoo but we’re also people with feelings. I had a contract. I worked for them for 10 years.”
While others sympathised, “Raising kids, cleaning the house and cooking – it’s not an easy job. These mamas deserve more money. It’s a special job to take care of someone’s child. You’re more like god mother or second mother to the kids”.
But there are employers who do treat their domestic workers and nannies really well, as evidenced by this lovely comment:
“My hubby and I are looking to increase our nanny's pay to R6 000 next year. She works 8 to 4, eats whatever she wants, swims with the kids in summer, jumps on the trampoline, loves watching the Great British Bakeoff (which I tape for her) and since we cannot stomach instant coffee, she drinks a latte with us every morning! We can and should treat people like people... It's not hard to do!”
"It’s a two-way road"
One reader highlighted a very important point, suggesting there should be mutual respect:
“In a relationship there is always a give and take and if the one is always giving, he/she will feel abused or not taken care of or appreciated. The same I would say should count for a domestic worker/nanny/gardener and his/her employer. Both should feel happy at the end of the day. Both should feel I am happy to work here or... I am happy to have him/her working for me.
“From our side we try our best but it’s a two-way road." Read the full response here: "It's a two-way road": a reader responds to the way we treat our nannies
- Coping without your domestic during the holidays
- Why you can't just fire your domestic worker
- The Nanny Series
- Domestic workers are mothers too
- Domestic workers and nannies: contracts
- The ABCs of finding a good nanny
What are you paying your nanny or domestic worker? Does she live in or out? Does it include transport? Do you have a contract and are you paying UIF on her behalf? Send us your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish them anonymously. Please note that we unfortunately cannot offer legal advice.
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