We should be giving our nannies and domestic workers more than just the minimum wage


We recently updated and republished the minimum wage tables for domestic workers and nannies for 2018. We specified that it really is very low and simply the bare minimum to cover you legally, and morally it’s rather questionable.

Our readers were particularly enraged by the minimum wage and understandably so. One reader made a very good point we felt we had to share:

“How can she look after my kids if I don’t look after her?” asked one mom. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Legal requirements

Whether you pay your nanny the bare minimum or more is none of our business, but there are certain things you need to remember and these need to be documented in a written agreement according to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Also specified in the Act is that domestic workers and nannies should be registered for UIF with contributions paid by you and her, given written payslips, a meal and at least a 30-minute break after 5 continuous hours of work, paid leavedouble pay if they agree to work on public holidays, and should be remunerated for overtime (she's not allowed to work more than 15 hours overtime per week). Read more about these prescriptions here: Domestic workers and nannies: contracts and wages

But again, those are the bare minimum of legal requirements.

Being decent

What about her transport? Travelling costs may very well be more than half of her monthly salary.

What about her accommodation if she's boarding with you? What state is her room and bathroom in – is it a comfortable, pleasant space you wouldn't mind staying in yourself? Bear in mind you cannot deduct more than 10% of her salary for boarding in.

If she is staying with you, if she on call all hours, or do you respect her working hours? And if you need her to babysit occasionally at night, do you pay her extra? If she's not living with you, do you respect that she needs to go home at a certain point or she may miss her transport, or have to pay fines at her kid's aftercare at school? 

What kind of meals are you giving your domestic worker? Is that fair and would you be happy to eat that yourself?

And what about the fact that she too has a family – a family she needs to take care of and would also like to be with this Christmas? She might want to go home every once in a while for a birthday or funeral. Don’t say no – talk about it. I’m sure you can work something out.

Extras to consider

  • You may feel you can pay her contribution to the UIF fund. That R100 per month is a lot more to her than to you. 
  • On that note, what about a pension fund or some savings pocket for one day when she's no longer with your family?
  • What about her kids? You know how expensive it is to put your little ones through school. Imagine how tough it is doing that on minimum wage. Maybe you could assist with school fees or stationery, or send meals and treats home for her kids. There are many things you can do that won’t result in your breaking the bank.
  • If you can afford it, she'll really appreciate a bonus at the end of the year.
  • Can you assist with her medical fees from time to time?

Also read: Domestic workers are mothers too

And again, all of the above should be stipulated within a contract.

Read more about some of these official laws of the Department of Labour website.

My nanny has been with the family for over 20 years that she has actually become part of the family. She takes care of the little ones and I remember her taking care of me. So again, it’s important to be mindful of someone who has become a part of the family.

How can she look after us if we don’t look after her?

Read more:

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 and we will publish them anonymously. Please note that we unfortunately cannot offer legal advice.

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