Answer to a question from a reader

Our bosses drive the best cars but pay us less than R20 per hour and don't contribute to UIF. What can we do?

The short answer

You can join a union and insist on your rights under the law.

The whole question

We work for a retail company. Our bosses drive the best cars and have three houses. But they don't pay us the R20 an hour minimum wage that became law on 1 January 2019. They haven't been giving us payslips for more than a year. Now you only get a brown payslip with your name on.

Also for the past year no UIF has been paid to the Department of Labour, so anybody who loses their job can't get unemployment benefits. They don't pay us for public holidays nor do they pay time and-a-half for weekends.

Cashiers are forced to stand at their tills the whole day. They are not allowed to sit. We are forced to work 9 and-ahalf hours a day but we don't get the money for it. The rats and dust in this place are making people sick. The roofs are made of asbestos.

Yet this company has more than 20 branches across South Africa.

We are trying to join a union but now we are being intimidated and fired for trumped up charges.

Please help us by bringing these issues to the attention of the relevant people.

The long answer

Thank you for your email about the many illegal practices going on at your work.

As you work for a retail company, you would fall under the Wholesale and Retail Sectoral Determination, which lays down the minimum wages that can be paid, but in many cases these wages are lower than what the bosses are actually paying. But in any case, you are covered by the national minimum wage of R20 an hour, unless your boss has applied for an exemption with the National Minimum Wage Exemption System on the basis of making a loss, or of not earning more than 6% annually on his assets. If the exemption is granted, the minimum wage is reduced to R18.00 an hour. If he gets the exemption, he has to give you a copy of the exemption, and also display it in the factory.

You are also covered by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which lays down the hours of work, rest, overtime etc and a summary of that Act should be displayed in your workplace.

You have a right to join a union and you cannot be dismissed for being a union member and insisting on your rights under the law. You are protected under the Labour Relations Act (LRA) from being dismissed for exercising your rights. If you are fired for complaining about your rights being denied, that is an “automatically unfair dismissal” under the LRA (Section 187(1)(d), and your boss will be forced to reinstate you or pay up to 24 months compensation. The same applies if he dismisses you for joining a trade union, which is a basic worker’s right.

You should report illegal practices to your union in the first place. You can also report them to the Department of Labour, and they can send inspectors to your workplace to check on conditions there. Finally if necessary you can lay a complaint at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Here are the contact details:

Department of Labour (Head Office):

Telephone: (012) 309 4000




Telephone: 0861 16 16 16.


Answered on Feb. 27, 2019, 4:23 p.m.

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