The heart of an employment contract is the exchange of labour for cash. The question therefore that gets raised most frequently is: “How much do I pay my domestic worker?” This is pretty much like asking, “How long is a piece of string?”
The Department of Labour has set a minimum wage of R2065.47 per month within urban areas. Hardly enough to live on, let alone inspire loyalty, honesty, reliability and a good work ethic. So how much should one pay? At one end of the market one hears of wealthy foreigners paying housekeepers R 10 000.00 per month and at the other, people paying R1500 and deducting accommodation and food. But clearly this is not the norm. There are no easy answers but our minimum recommendations are:
R 2 500 - R 2 900 pm for a basic domestic worker (cleaning and laundry). Where there is the added responsibility of children, we recommend that employers pay nothing less than R 3 500pm and the demand for excellent child minders with experience and references to prove it can expect to earn in the region of R 4 500pm and up. As the skills of the worker improves, so do the salary expectations. An excellent cook can command wages of R4 250 to R5 500 and a competent driver can command R1000 above the basic norm.
We further recommend that for live-out positions, transport costs are paid on top of the wage (approximately R235 for a monthly train ticket and R330 for the monthly taxi fares). Live-in positions should receive their accommodation and food as part of the package.
Naturally these are only guidelines with the final package depending on the individual needs of the employer and the skills of the employee; this to be negotiated between the parties. The employer needs to weigh up the scope of duties required and the affordability of domestic help. Employees should be guided as to other advantages: such as long-term growth, training and a good working relationship.
Conspicuously wealthy households and extravagant spending will invariably lead to raised expectations, as will households that require long hours and have difficult working conditions. Remember we are all individual and have different needs; someone looking for a substitute “mother” for their children who cooks; does the shopping; baby-sits and requires little supervision will pay a lot more than the bachelor who only requires that his flat is kept clean and his shirts ironed. Having said that, should the bachelor have a designer flat and Versace shirts, he should probably pay more for a better calibre of worker.
When employing a domestic worker on a part-time basis, we recommend that one calculates and pays a monthly salary,which is more likely to encourage a worker to take the job more seriously, and enables them to look at the bigger picture. The recommended rate per day varies between R180 and R250. To calculate this as a monthly rate, one would multiply the number of days worked per week by the daily rate and then by 4.333 (the average month length as used bythe Department of Labour). So for example, someone employing a lady twice a week at R190 per day would pay a monthly salary of R1650.
It is important to stress that when talking about part-time workers that there is no benefit to the worker, in working half days. The worker has to pay the same amount in transport and invariably people want the mornings so there is very little chance in them being able to fill the balance of the day. We advise against half days unless the rate is the same as a full day in which case you might as well take the full day. When looking at part-time workers, generally the skill level is basic domestic. The other skills of cooking, childcare, planning, etc generally come through full time employment and development.
Ultimately, although money is a large motivator, treating employees with respect, recognizing their personal space, time and life all go a long way in paving the route to a successful long term working relationship.