News24, 06 November 2002, Employers can't turn HIV+ domestics away

Pretoria - The labour department will take the strongest possible action against employers who tested domestic workers for HIV/Aids and drove them away if they tested positive, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said.

In a media statement, Mdladlana described such actions as "inhumane and unfair".

The minister said that as from November 1 employers had to adhere to the minimum wage for domestic workers.

"The minimum wage is the absolute minimum that an employer can legally pay a domestic worker. However, if an employer is currently paying more than the minimum there is no way that he or she can use the minimum wage as an excuse to reduce wages," Mdladlana said.

A reduction of wages would be an unfair labour practice for which the domestic worker could take the employer to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration.

"The domestic worker sectoral determination also prescribes that employers must increase domestic workers wages by at least eight percent on an annual basis. This applies to both those employers who are paying a minimum wage and those who are paying more."

The minimum wage is calculated on an hourly basis to offer as much flexibility as possible. The wage for Area A, which consists mainly of urban areas, is R4.51 per hour for workers who work 27 hours per week or less, or R4.10 for those who work more.

In rural areas the minimum is R3.33 for those who work more than 27 hours, while workers who work 27 or less are entitled to R3.66.

"The department is fully committed to enforcing the domestic worker sectoral determination, emphasising that the determination applies to everyone and there are no exemptions," the minister said.

"The enforcement of the sectoral determination present unique challenges and calls on domestic workers to help with the vigorous enforcement of this law and report any transgressions to the Department of Labour."

Mdladlana also discussed the importance of skills development, emphasising that the department's priority was the alignment of skills to the needs of labour market.