Work and Wages

This page was last updated on: 2021-01-15

Minimum Wage

In accordance with the Basic Condition of Employment Act (BCEA), the Minister of Labour may set minimum terms and conditions of employment including minimum wages. There is no single national minimum wage in South Africa. Minimum wages are set at the sectoral level and area level. Minimum wages are set for vulnerable sectors; the sectors, which have low union density or where market wages are quite low. Sectoral determination for setting minimum wages is done in consultation with the Employment Conditions Commission.

Minimum wage is set for the following sectors: domestic work, contract cleaning, private security, wholesale & retail, farm work, forestry, taxi, learnership, hospitality, civil engineering and the work of children in the performance of advertising, artistic and cultural activities. The Employment Conditions Commission advises the Minister of Labour on various issues including sectoral determinations regarding minimum wages. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act requires that while advising the Minister on publication of a sectoral determination, the Commission must consider in respect of the sector and area concerned the ability of the employer to carry on their business successfully; the operation of small, medium or micro enterprises and new enterprises; the cost of living; the alleviation of poverty; conditions of employment; wage differentials and inequality; the likely impact of any proposed condition of employment on current employment or the creation of employment; the possible impact of any proposed conditions of employment on the health, safety or welfare of workers; and any other relevant factor.

After considering the report and recommendations of the Commission, the Minister may make a sectoral determination for one or more sector/s and area/s and provide for the adjustment of remuneration by way of minimum remuneration or minimum increases.

The Department of Labour monitors minimum wages that fall under the departmental regulations. Inspectors from the Department of Labour make investigations about the implementation of labour laws, rules and regulations. Simultaneously, Trade Unions monitor minimum wages that are regulated through Bargaining Councils. Employers (and employees) and trade unions monitor Minimum Wages that are included in centralized and decentralized bargaining at company (single employer) and plant level.

Individuals can complain to the Department of Labour if they think they are earning less than the Minimum Wage. Trade Union members can also complain to their union representatives. If a complaint is lodged with the Department of Labour and an employer is found to be guilty of paying below the stated minimum wage, the employer can be fined or the employer can come to an arrangement with the employee to pay arrears. A worker has the right to make a complaint to a trade union representative, a trade union official or a labour inspector concerning any alleged failure or refusal by an employer to comply with BCEA or the National Minimum Wage Act, 2018.

In the event of contravention (paying a worker less than the minimum wage), a fine that may be imposed on an employer is an amount which is greater of twice the value of the underpayment or twice the employee’s monthly wage.

For second or further non-compliances, a fine that may be imposed on the employer is an amount that is greater of thrice the value of the underpayment or thrice the employee’s monthly wage.

The Parliament of South Africa has passed the Minimum Wage Act 2018 (Presidential assent still in progress). The new law aims to improve the wages of lowest paid workers; protect workers from unreasonably low wages; preserve the value of the national minimum wage; promote collective bargaining; and support the economic policy. The new law sets the national level minimum wage to which every worker is entitled to. Employers are required to pay no less than the minimum wage. The minimum wage is adjusted on the recommendation of National Minimum Wage Commission which conducts an annual review of national minimum wage and recommend adjustments. The Commission is tripartite-plus in nature and is composed of three members each from organized community, organized business, organized labour and three independent experts. While recommending adjustments in the minimum wage, the Commission has to consider the following factors: inflation, the cost of living and the need to retain the value of the minimum wage; wage levels and collective bargaining outcomes; gross domestic product; productivity; ability of employers to carry on their businesses successfully; the operation of small, medium or micro-enterprises and new enterprises; the likely impact of the recommended adjustment on employment or the creation of employment; and any other relevant factor

Source: § 54-55, 76-A, and 78 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (last amended in 2018); Minimum Wage Act, 2018

Current minimum wage rates can be found in the Minimum Wage section.


Non-Standard Workers' Rights on Minimum Wage - Platform Workers

There is no explicit reference to platform economy workers in minimum wage legislation. Contracts and agreements differ across platforms, with some platforms paying out more than the minimum wage, and some less. The National Minimum Wage came into effect in January 2019, setting rates at R15 per hour for domestic workers, R18 for farmworkers and R20 for other sectors. From 1 March 2020, this was increased to R15.57, R18.68 and R20.76 respectively.

The Department of Labour is responsible for checking compliance with payment of minimum wages, usually through Labour Inspectors. However, the situation of platform workers and whether they fall into the National Minimum Wage category is still to be tested by the courts. The CCMA (Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) is also involved, and may impose fines for non-compliance.

The CCMA may impose a fine that is the greater amount of twice the value of the underpayment and twice the employee’s monthly wage on companies that do not comply with the Minimum Wage. Non-compliant employers may also be named and shamed in a quarterly publication of all employers that were instructed to comply with the National Minimum Wage—this will be posted on the Department of Labour website.

Regular Pay

In accordance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, wage means the amount of money paid or payable to a worker in respect of ordinary hours of work or, if they are shorter, the hours a worker ordinarily works in a day or week.

The BCEA regulates the payment of wages to all classes of workers. According to this Act, wages can be calculated on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis. An employer is under obligation to pay the worker wages in South African currency (Rand) within seven (7) days after the completion of the wage period for which wages are payable.

Employers are obliged to pay the worker his/her wages during the working hours or within 15 minutes of the commencement or conclusion of those hours at the place of work on an agreed pay day in a sealed envelope, if payment is made in cash (legal tender) or through cheque. Wages may be deposited directly into an account designated by the worker in writing. An employer must not compel a worker to purchase any goods, products or services from the employer or from any business or person nominated by the employer.

A worker's wage is calculated by reference to the number of hours the employee ordinarily works. In order to calculate the wage rate by time, it must be known that (in order to be entitled to full wage) a worker is required to work 45 hours a week and nine hours a day (seven and a half hours for those working 6 days a week). An employee's monthly remuneration is four and one-third times the employee's weekly wage.

Generally, an employer is not allowed to deduct wages unless required or permitted under a written law, collective agreement, court order or arbitration award. Deductions may also be made if a worker agrees in writing to the deduction in respect of a debt or to reimburse the employer for loss or damage caused by the worker.

An employer should provide pay slips to all workers at the workplace during working hours or within 15 minutes of the commencement or conclusion of those hours. It must include the following information:
* The employer’s name and address
* The worker’s name and occupation
* The period for which the payment is made
* The worker’s remuneration in money
* The amount and purpose of any deduction made from the remuneration
* The actual amount paid to the worker.

Relevant to the calculation of that worker’s remuneration, the slip must also contain:
* Information about the worker’s rate of remuneration and overtime rate
* The number of ordinary and overtime hours worked by the worker during the period for which the payment is made
* The number of hours worked by the worker on a Sunday or public holiday during that period
* An agreement to average working time has been concluded, the total number of ordinary and overtime hours worked by the worker in the period of averaging.

In line with section 9-A of the BCEA, a worker who works for less than 4 hours a day must be paid for 4 hours work on that day.

Source: § 1 & 32-35 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (last amended in 2018)


Non-Standard Workers' Rights on Regular Pay - Platform Workers

Payment differs per platform. Some platform workers are paid per hour, others per journey (if a driver), or per job. Some companies, such as Uber and Nomad Now, charge a service fee. Others such as Sweep South charge a booking fee. Others do not charge, but expect a certain degree of layout from platform workers such as providing their own transport to and from jobs, or their own equipment. Some companies offer an incentive bonus once a certain amount of jobs have been completed. Others offer no bonuses at all. In some cases, Pay-as-you-earn deductions are made from payments.


Reforms Related to COVID-19

The President announced the national lockdown on 23rd March 2020 in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and contain it. During the lockdown, Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme was established in order to pay for the salary(s) of the employees of the business operations that encountered temporary closure, in cases where employers were not capable of paying the employees.

Source: Disaster Management Act: Directive: Coronavirus Covid19 Temporary Employee / Employer Relief Scheme; Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 130 of 1993

Regulations on Work and Wages

  • Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (amended in 2002 & 2013)

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