On 29 May 2018, the National Minimum Wage Bill was submitted to the National Assembly for debate and approval – a development long-awaited by South African workers and labelled by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant as “groundbreaking”. The Bill was passed and has been sent to the National Council of Provinces for ratification.
The purpose of the Bill, according to the legislator, is to improve social justice, protect workers from unreasonably low wages and promote the process of collective bargaining.
The proposed minimum wages are structured as follows:
- R 20-00 per hour for average workers;
- R 18-00 per hour for farmworkers;
- R 15-00 per hour for domestic workers;
- R 11-00 per hour for expanded public works programme workers.
The Bill also determines that it will be unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter work hours or other conditions of employment when implementing the relevant minimum wage.
Employers can take comfort that the Bill does provide for companies who cannot afford to pay their employees the minimum wage. These companies will be allowed to apply online to the Labour Department for an exemption, which can be granted for a maximum period of one year. Companies registered as small businesses will be granted a period of two years. However, the department will reserve the right to revoke these exemptions if employers violate any labour laws in force.
The enforcement of this Bill is partially dealt with in the (also recently introduced and passed) Basic Conditions of Employment Bill, which will uphold wages determined by each individual sector that are already higher than the proposed national minimum wage.
It is also envisaged that the enforcement of the national minimum wage will be shifted from the Labour Department to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). This means that, if a worker is not being paid at least the national minimum wage, he/she will need to refer their matter to the CCMA.
This Bill is a clear indicator of the change in the labour law landscape in South Africa which has long since been demanded and fought for by workers and unions alike, and employers should pay close attention to keep abreast of further developments regarding this Bill and other new labour legislation.