The long awaited national minimum wage (NMW) has been signed into law. The effective date is 1 January 2019. What exactly does this mean for employers and employees?
The new minimum wage of R20 per hour applies across all sectors, with a few exceptions. The exceptions include domestic workers, farm/forestry workers and workers employed in Expanded Public Works Programmes. Exceptions temporary
The exceptions will only be temporary. It is envisaged that there will be a gradual adjustment of domestic and farm/forestry workers’ wages to come in line with the NMW. As a first step domestic workers’ minimum wages will be increased to a minimum rate of R15 per hour, and farm/forestry workers’ wages to a minimum rate of R18 per hour. The implementation dates of these increases have not yet been announced. Immediate adjustments within certain sectors
Some sectors will have to adjust their minima upwards with effect from 1 January 2019 – these include the Hospitality Sector (where the current minimum for employers with less than 10 employees is R17.34 per hour) and the Wholesale and Retail Sector (where the minimum wage for several categories workers is below R20 per hour, the lowest currently being R16.20). Minimum monthly wage
For employees who work a 45 hour per week, the minimum monthly wage will be just short of R3900. If the contract of employment makes provision for less than 45 hours per week, the monthly rate can be less than this amount. Employers are not permitted to unilaterally reduce hours of work or change other conditions of employment in response to the implementation of the NMW. Are benefits included?
Employers are restricted in the way that they structure the remuneration package. The NMW excludes allowances that are paid to enable employees to work (such as transport and equipment), or payment in kind (such as board or accommodation), as well as bonuses, tips or food. So, for example, one cannot argue that you pay an employee less than R20 per hour because you contribute to their uniform or provide them with meals. Reducing hours of work
Employers are not permitted to unilaterally change working hours due to the implementation of the NMW. Any reduction of hours of work will have to be negotiated. Exemption
There is provision for employers to apply for exemption of up to a 10% reduction by means of an electronic system. At the time of the announcement of the implementation date there was no information available on how to go about this in practice. Other changes
The other important changes to labour legislation, i.e. those relating to parental, adoption and surrogacy leave, as well as improvements to unemployment benefits, have been signed into law, but the implementation dates are not known. We shall deal with these as soon as the implementation dates are announced.