South Africa officially introduced a national minimum wage to protect all workers from “unreasonably low wages” and promote a principle of fair wage increase. The National Minimum Wage Act empowers the National Minimum Wage Commission to assess and review the wage each year. As from 1 March 2020, farmworkers are entitled to a minimum wage of R18.68 per hour. This is different to the R20.76 p/h for other sectors. The importance lies not only in the amount, but the allocation of time as well. No farmworker can earn below the set R18.68 per hour, regardless of the type of work being conducted.
Recent audit findings across all provinces have established that certain businesses continue to underpay employees per hour, specifically when using a ‘piece-rate system’. What generally happens is that each bag picked, for example, a certain payment is made. In cases where employees do not pick enough bags, their wage for that day and number of hours worked, does not meet the minimum wage requirements. This has been seen several times during the course of the 2020 audit cycle. Facilities should adapt their ‘system’ in terms of wages and payment structures, to ensure no employee (regardless of how many bags picked) is paid below the minimum wage for each hour worked. Rather utilise the system as a bonus structure, allowing a minimum payment for hours worked, and paying a bonus per bag picked over a certain amount. Businesses cannot pay an employee without regard to what must be paid per hour.
Despite these sites receiving critical findings during audits, it is important to understand that no industry, stakeholder, or buyer will tolerate underpayment of wages in any manner. The responsibility lies with site management to ensure that each employee receives the payment as agreed to and that it meets (or exceeds) the National Minimum Wage for the sector.
Table representing the minimum wage payable to agri-workers (merely a guideline):
|Minimum Wage for Agri-workers|
|Daily Wage (8 Hours)||R149.44|
|Daily Wage (9 Hours)||R168.12|
|Overtime||Remunerated at 1.5 times the hourly wage rate for every hour worked above the agreed-to hours|