On Friday, 17 November 2017 the Department of Labour published the National Minimum Wage Bill, 2017 (“the NMW Bill”) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill (“the BCEA Bill”) for public comment, pertinent aspects of both are discussed below.
The National Minimum Wage Bill, 2017
The purpose of the NMW Bill is to advance social economic development and social justice by improving the wages of the lowest paid employees, by protecting employees from unreasonably low wages, by preserving the value of the national minimum wage and by promoting collective bargaining and supporting economic policy.
In order to achieve the aforementioned goals, the NMW Bill seeks to provide for a national minimum wage and establish a National Minimum Wage Commission (“the Commission”) which is intended to implement the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2017 (“the Act”).
The NMW Bill, in its current form, specifies a national minimum wage of R20,00 for each ordinary hour worked. The NMW Bill further specifies that farm workers, domestic workers and workers employed on an expanded public works programme should be paid a minimum wage of R18,00, R15,00 and R11,00 per hour, respectively. Workers who have concluded learnership agreements will also be entitled to allowances, depending on their qualifications, ranging from R301,01 to R1 755,84 per week.
The NMW Bill further prescribes that the payment of a national minimum wage takes precedence over any contrary provision in any contract, collective agreement or law, except a law amending the Act. The national minimum wage must also constitute a term of the employee’s contract except to the extent that the contract, collective agreement or law provides for a wage that is more favourable to the employee.
Furthermore, the national minimum wage is calculated as being the amounts above excluding any payment made to enable an employee to work including transport, equipment, food or accommodation allowance, any payment in kind, which includes board or accommodation, gratuities including bonuses, tips or gifts and any other prescribed category of payment.
If an employee is paid on a basis other than the number of hours worked, the employee may not be paid less than the minimum wage for the ordinary hours of work. Furthermore, it would constitute an unfair labour practice where employers unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment when the national minimum wage is implemented.
However, the NMW Bill empowers the Minister, on application by an employer, to grant exemptions for payment of the national minimum wage in certain circumstances. The exemption granted must specify the period for which it is granted, which may not be longer than a year, it must specify the wage that the employer is required to pay its employees and any other relevant condition. This may offer some relief to small employers that are genuinely unable to pay employees wages in line with the prescribed minimum.
The NMW Bill also makes provision for the establishment of the Commission to review the national minimum wage and to make recommendations annually for the adjustment of the national minimum wage. The Commission may also investigate the impact of the national minimum wage on the economy, collective bargaining and income differentials.
The Act is to commence on 1 May 2018.