This is a complex one. We don’t presently have a maid/domestic worker but have spoken about the possibility of employing someone in that role. And this is not a witch hunt to try and make anyone feel bad [unless you need to be feeling bad and then don’t feel bad but just change how you’re living!].

A number of months ago i was chatting to a domestic worker at a friend’s house and just hearing some of her story – how early she had to get up in the morning, how far she had to travel to get to work [to clean someone else’s house and look after their children] and how there was no-one to look after her children and so they had to look after themselves and often be alone. i just think there is a lot for us to think and talk about and wrestle with when it comes to this conversation to make sure.

i began a little experiment by inquiring on Facebook as to what people were paying the people who cleaned their houses just to try and get an idea of what the going ratea are and this was some of the response i got:

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David: I pay R200 for a full day, R130 for a half day. I include lunch, often leftovers or enough bread and basic items (cheese, peanut butter, jam). I also continue to pay during holidays and allow a reasonable amount of sick days / family responsibility days. Twice a week for a half day.

Caroline: We pay our domestic R235/day plus transport (either we give taxi fare to and from the station or we drop her off) and of course food and extras and a bonus. She also gets extra for loads of little things she does for us even though it’s in work time. That day is 7 till 3 or 3.30 as she chooses to come early says that it works better for her to catch an early train. We often let her go early especially on a Friday (she works 4 days a week for us). Our domestic works four days a week. She comes to the house three days and then one day she works at our workshop in town. We don’t really need her four days a week at this stage as two of our children live away at university but it’s becoming really difficult to find replacement days for a domestic, even a good one, where she will be treated as we treat her, so we have made a conscious decision to bite the bullet. We also only absorbed the 4th day because she couldn’t find another job.

Ian: R220 (8:30 – 3) so not quite a full day, includes a basic lunch. 3 days, she works at another home on 2 other days.

Nicole and Ashleigh: R250, and we provide meals. Ashleigh: The lady who works for us comes one day every second week. She goes to someone else on the alternate day. So two days a month…

Chris: Our situation has changed now, but when we had our cleaner one full day per week, we started at R150 per day and increased to R250 per day. I think it’s important also to give paid leave for public holidays and perhaps other such as family responsibility leave.

Heather: R210 I only employ her one day a month and she’s usually here from about 7:30am until about 1pm

Claire: Our maid comes to us twice a week. Tuesday she leaves at lunchtime and Thursdays she’s there till I get home from work, usually no later than 5. We pay her R2050 a month.

Megan: I pay Clementine R220 per day once a week, and I pay Buyiswa a ‘retirement’ fee of R700 a month to supplement her pension. She is no longer able to work.

Susan: R300 for 9:30-3:30pm and Jen comes once a week.

Stephen: Domestic gets R175 a day 8 till 2pm … Gardener 250 a day 9 till 4. Gardener gets more as he travels further.  Domestic lives 3 km away.

Alexa: We pay Pat a set amount per month ( R 1200/ month so some months she gets R 300/ day & other months she gets R 275/ day). along with meals (we eat breakfast together and the same lunch as what we eat, along with transport money).

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When we pay someone a wage for the work they do, we might consider it as a number and that may seem fair or we might compare it to what our neighbour’s or friends are paying and think we’re doing okay. One easyish way to figure out if it’s okay is to do the simple maths of how much money they will end up with at the end of the month and try to imagine living on that, or whether in the circumstances they find themselves that might still seem fair…

A few people sent me this link on News24 that helps you figure out if you are paying your person enough – you input what amount you pay them per day and then scroll down and add in how many people in their household, what the costs are of them getting to work and some other stuff and it does the maths for you: Living Wage


My friend Nigel Branken lets us into the personal journey he has traveled as he has wrestled with what it means to be responsible towards, and non-exploitative of, those who work for him. In his article “How we came to pay a living wage“, Nigel describes what he has believes to be a biblical foundation for paying workers what they are due. Minimum wage levels which do not keep pace with increased costs of living have significant implications for “health care, education, safety and security, and opportunities for breaking free from generational poverty.” Paying those who work for us is not just a matter of legality (minimum wage) but justice (a living wage). Nigel draws on Isaiah 58:3 onwards and journeys with his domestic worker in figuring out what a living wage means for her in 5 key areas:

1) Food (“feed the hungry”);
2) Shelter (“provide the poor wanderer with shelter”);
3) Clothing (“clothe the naked”);
4) Basic needs (“satisfy the needs of the oppressed”); and
5) Things that will break the cycle of poverty (“untie the cords of the yoke”).

Although embedded in a South African context, the principles and foundations Nigel expresses have deep significance across geographic contexts. What does it mean to pay a living wage in our context? What will paying a living wage “cost” you and what are the potential effects doing so will have on the individuals and societies you find yourself engaged in? Is it worth “finding a bargain” on wages that impact people’s ability to live?

Seriously, click on the link and read the rest of Nigel’s story.

i don’t suppose this is going to be an easy conversation, but it is worth wrestling with and trying to figure out together so i hope you’ll stay with me on this.

What was the thing that jumped out the most at you from this post? Please let us know in the comments below.