National minimum wage increased to r21,69 per hour – is it a relief to many?

Amalta Seevnarayan Dhanee | Attorney: Legal Services Division
With economic challenges currently being faced by most South Africans the new minimum wage announced by the Minister, has brought about some relief even though it is still below the upper bound poverty line. The new national minimum wage, effective from 01 March 2021 has been increased by 4.25%, making it R21.69 for every ordinary hour worked.

This development is in line with the National Minimum Wage (NMW) legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2019. According to the National Minimum Wage Act 2018, it is illegal and an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment in implementing the NMW. 

The NMW is the amount payable for the ordinary hours of work and does not include payment of allowances (such as transport, food or accommodation) and payments in kind (board or lodging, gifts, and bonuses). 

The Act requires that the NMW Commission review the rates annually and make recommendations on any adjustment of the national minimum wage.  

In spite of this general increase, and whilst farm workers are entitled to a minimum of R21.69 per ordinary hour worked, domestic workers are only entitled to a minimum wage of R19.09. Workers employed on an expanded public works programme are entitled to a minimum wage of R11.93 per hour and workers who have concluded learnership agreements contemplated in section 17 of the Skills Development Act, 1998 (Act No. 97 of 1998), are entitled to the allowances contained in Schedule 2 of the National Minimum Wage Act 9 of 2018.

The National Minimum Wage Commission recognizes that the minimum wage for domestic workers is still below the national wage, and is endeavouring to bring about changes when the next review is considered in 2022.

Whilst there is a positive increase in the minimum wage, the question many may ask, Is it sufficient for minimum wage earners amidst inflation, high cost of living, and increasing food and transport costs?