Cash for care! How much should you pay your nanny?
Our children’s nannies and childcarers work long hours and shoulder huge responsibility. So how do you find the balance between how much you can afford to pay, and what is a fair wage? Lori Cohen finds out
ONE MILLION. That’s the amazing number of women working as domestic workers and nannies in South Africa, according to the International Labour Organisation. They provide an essential service – caring for our children so we are able to work outside the home to support our families – and knowing the right wage to pay as a first-time mom can be confusing. There are the (very low) minimum wage figures released by the Department of Labour, and then the more “realistic” figure you hear your friends and family are paying.
The discrepancy between the minimum wage and a living wage is something that requires thought, says founder of nannynme.co.za, Lara Schoenfeld. “The minimum wage is ridiculous for someone spending a lot of time and money getting to work every day and often paying other people to care for her children. I consider a living wage to be something that allows one to live frugally but with dignity. Seventy-five percent of caregivers are the only breadwinners in their household – we have an ethical responsibility to look after the people working for us,” says Lara.
“If you invest in her she will reward you with loyalty and stability.”
MAKING THE NUMBERS WORK There are other solutions to explore such as paying a proper hourly rate for fewer hours, so that your nanny can look for additional employment, or consider sharing a nanny with a friend.
“By both contributing you will be able to pay her a decent salary.” Lara says she is also often contacted by parents looking to hire a nanny as an alternative to crèche because they are finding the doctors’ bills are adding up because their child is attending a crèche and therefore often ill.
“If you consider this as a factor the nanny is often not more expensive than a crèche, plus you don’t have to take leave if your child is ill.”
Having a nurturing person to care for your child and stimulate them with play, socialising and song beats any gimmicky plastic toy you can buy from the store, continues Lara. If you are unable to pay what is considered a “living wage”, rather cut down on expensive educational toys, clothes and other accessories for your child.
“In ten years’ time, your child probably won’t remember how cute he looked in that little outfit, but he will definitely be impacted by how he was treated every day,” says Lara.
Mom-of-two Michelle Morgan says that when she employed a nanny three years ago, she paid R6 000. Although the amount required some sacrifices on her part she says not only do you “get what you pay for” in terms of a happy and valued employee, but the amount you pay should be considered an investment in your child rather than a grudge payment.
“You are entrusting your most precious bundle to someone else, so make sure that this someone else is well looked after. It’s only for a few years (probably) and then the little ones have to head off to school and the need for a full-time nanny diminishes,” she says.
THE LAW VS. BEING ETHICAL Research conducted on Facebook parenting network pages reveals that some nannies are prepared to work for as little as R700 a month. Opinions range from “at least it is something” to others who feel that it is a “foot in the door” and that with the experience they will later be able to explore work that is better paid.
But paying anyone below the
SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT OF CAREGIVERS ARE THE ONLY BREADWINNERS IN THEIR HOUSEHOLD – WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO LOOK AFTER THE PEOPLE WORKING FOR US
minimum wage is illegal. Lara says she is often surprised when someone says they cannot pay a fair wage, but “they are often the same people who eat out at restaurants, get take-out and enjoy other luxuries. How can that be an excuse?”
Celeste Barlow, founder of Happy Helpers Nanny Recruitment Agency, says she only works with people who can offer a fair wage, which she feels ranges between R4 500 and R6 500 a month based on the worker’s experience and qualifications, which could include cooking, first aid and CPR and childcare certification and newborn experience.
She warns against benchmarking a salary based on what your friends or family members are paying their nanny because there are so many people out there paying “shocking” salaries – rather do the research yourself. “Potential employees naturally ask what salary they should pay, but it is a very emotive question. It’s like asking how much you are willing to pay for your child’s education,” she says.
For nannies who are “living in”, Celeste says that the wage should be the same as if they were to live out. “You wouldn’t charge a receptionist to pay towards the cost of her desk and phone you are providing her with, so why would your nanny pay for accommodation on your premises?
She has her own overheads of her home to cover. The reason she is there is to be able to provide you with a service at a time that is convenient for you, not because she needs a place to stay,” says Celeste, who adds that a basic stipend of food, overtime and babysitting pay should also be provided as part of her package.
Ultimately, a fair wage is all about choice, says Lara. “It’s not only an investment in your child, it’s an investment in the women of South Africa.”
WHAT IS THE CURRENT MINIMUM WAGE? Namhla Duma, director at Premium Domestic Services, explains the current minimum wage. “based on labour law as of 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017, domestic wages are R2 422.54 per month, R559.09 weekly and R12.42 per hour in Area A which are metropolitan areas (urban areas). In non-metropolitan areas that decreases a little to R2 205.06 monthly, R508.93 weekly and R11.31 per hour,” explains Namhla.
These figures are for workers who work more than 27 ordinary hours per week. If the worker works fewer hours than those the rates are R1 701.06 monthly, R392.59 weekly and R14.54 hourly for Area A (urban areas) and R1 562.21 monthly, R360.54 weekly and R13.35 hours for Area B (non-urban areas). A list of the areas and updated figures for 2018 can be found on the www.labour.gov.za website.
WHAT ARE THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO COME INTO EFFECT IN MAY 2018? “Based on a Cabinet meeting proposal, there has been an introduction to national minimum wages as of 1 May 2018 to R3 200 per month or R20 per hour. However this excludes domestic workers. The proposal for domestic workers has been set at R15 per hour with the promise of an increase within two years pending research by the national minimum wage commission,” says Namhla.
WHAT ABOUT WORKING HOURS AND OVERTIME? “Working hours are 45 hours per week, nine hours a day if the worker works for five days or less in a week or eight hours a day if the worker works more than five days a week,” explains Namhla. “Anything above this is considered overtime. However the overtime should not be more than 15 hours a week or more than three hours on any given day. Double pay is also applicable on a Sunday or public holiday.” YB