Are you paying your nanny a living wage?

As we have just celebrated Human Rights Day, we began thinking about the women close to our hearts at Nanny ‘n Me: our wonder-working nannies! With all the turmoil in our country it can be difficult not to become discouraged with the terrible situations many people are living in. With fires and the devastation they have brought, the lack of proper services, transport issues, lack of safety and a rising poverty rate, it’s hard to know if there is anything we can do to stop the downward spiral.

The good news is that the power to change lives lies in the hands of every person who employs any kind of domestic help! Did you know that in spite of having full time employment, many domestic workers are struggling to make ends meet?

South Africa has recently had a proposal to raise the minimum wage to R23.19 per hour (2022). With the minimum wage being the very least amount for someone to survive, should that really be our guideline? Even deciding our workers’ wages by what our friends are paying their employees is a dangerous path, as demand vs supply could mean that salaries keep sinking as potential employees are desperate for a job. Hopefully the kind of employment we offer is not with the goal to exploit and abuse but to be fair and uphold human rights.

A living wage is defined as an amount that can cover basic expenses so that a person can live a “frugal but dignified life” (Hopkins, 2016). This is calculated on an individual basis, taking into account their particular situation in life and the expenses that are necessary for survival. It is therefore dependent on the number of family members a person is supporting, how far he/she lives from his/her employer (transport costs), and a few other factors (see below).

Why it’s vital to pay a living wage:

  • A nanny who feels valued is a happy nanny and a happy nanny means a happy child. The quality of a child’s relationship with his/her caregiver in early years, impacts the child for the rest of his/her life (WCCF, 2007).
  • The most important learning phase of brain development happens under the age of five years old (WCCF, 2007). What would you pay for a good education for your child? Well, your nanny is the best educational tool your young child can get! Invest in education that will put her in good stead for the rest of her life.
  • 75% of domestic workers are known to be sole income providers for their households (NIDS, 2012). You can make a serious difference in the lives of a whole family by the way you pay their bread winner.
  • Domestic workers are among the most vulnerable of all employees (Blackett, 2011) because of the personal nature of the employment and the high demand for unskilled jobs.

If you are stressed about your own finances, here are a few tips to still be able to pay your nanny what she deserves:

  • Try 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 s/he looked in that little outfit, but your child will definitely be impacted by how s/he was treated every day.
  • Rather pay a proper hourly rate for less hours so that your nanny can look for additional employment if need be.
  • See if it is possible to rather share a nanny with a friend. By both contributing you will be able to pay her a decent salary.

How Much is ENOUGH?

How do you figure out what a living wage is for your nanny, since each nanny’s situation is different? Start out by talking to her. Find out exactly what her expenses are and from there you can see what a reasonable wage would be. The non-profit organisation Code4SA has done all the hard work and research for us by creating an online living wage calculator to figure out what your household worker’s salary should be! Just punch the info, you gathered from your nanny, into their calculator and it will give you a suggested amount: (NB, you need to click on “calculate expenses” and then “show assumptions”; don’t just use the sliding scale that comes up at first.) It will allow you to specify your nanny’s details so that it is specified to her situation: household size, food cost, transportation cost, housing cost, healthcare cost, education cost, communication cost, recreation cost and other costs.

We hope you will take up the challenge and make any changes necessary to provide a happy, healthy home for your child and nanny.

Written by Cara Smuts