Minimum wage: Over 360 employers want out

Over 360 employers, employing over 42 000 workers, have applied to be exempt from the R20 an hour national minimum wage.

A presentation by the employment and labour department reveals that, out of 367 applications for exemptions to the national minimum wage, 231 were granted, 8 are still being processed, 41 have been deferred because of outstanding documentation and 86 have been refused.

The presentation outlines the number of exemption applications between January 1, when that National Minimum Wage Bill was signed into law, and June 12.

If all 367 exemptions were granted, 42 496 workers would have been affected. The presentation — presented to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office last week — does not indicate how many workers will be affected by the granting of the 231 exemptions.

The national minimum wage is R20 an hour for the average worker, R18 an hour for farmworkers, R15 an hour for domestic workers and R11 an hour for expanded public works programme workers.

In his State of the Nation address last Thursday, Ramaphosa said: “To address the problems of the working poor, the national minimum wage has been in place now for six months and there are early indications that there are many companies who are now complying.”

“A number of companies have applied for exemptions, but we have indications that a number of companies are indeed complying, which is a pleasing development.”

Ramaphosa also said that by the end of September the report from the National Minimum Wage Commission into the impact of the minimum wage on employment, poverty, inequality and wage differentials will be concluded.

An employer may apply to the delegated authority for an exemption, and a registered employers’ organisation may assist individual members to apply for an exemption from paying the national minimum wage in terms of section 15 of the National Minimum Wage Act.

The exemption may not be granted for longer than one year and must specify the wage that the employer is required to pay workers.


The presentation reveals that the highest number of exemption applications (110) came from non-profit organisations.

The second-highest number of applications (80) came from the manufacturing sector. If granted, these exemptions would affect 12 449 workers in the industry.

The department presentation further indicates that 9 865 cases related to the national minimum wage and the amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act have been referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration between January and June 12.

According to the presentation, 6 545 workers have been retrenched between January and April 2019, but the retrenchments “cannot be scientifically attributed to the introduction of the NMW [national minimum wage] and there could be many reasons for them”.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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