3 Situations Exempting Employers from Paying the Just Wage


     First, if the business is new or just beginning to operate, especially smaller ones like sole proprietorship. Under this situation an employer maybe exempted to give beyond the legal limit or from the obligation to provide a family wage. However, whatever is due to the worker by the Labor Code must be given. In the Philippines, for instance, at least, the minimum wage and the social benefits must be given. In the long run, if the business has acquired stability and profitability, the employer is now morally obliged to give a basic pay that is higher than the minimum wage or a living wage sufficient to support a family in a given locality.


      Second, if the worker is hired by the employer out of charity. This happens if the employer accepts an applicant for a job even if his or her work is not needed to the business firm. It is only out of compassion and love for the poor that compels him/her to avail of worker’s services. In this case the work agreement is not strictly based on social justice but on charity. The remuneration can be considered alms. A construction worker who applies for a job even if there is no vacancy but nevertheless was admitted by the employer out of pity and concern for the poor is an example of this exempting circumstance. However, if the employee who is accepted out of charity begins to perform the work of a regular worker, that is, his or her work becomes essential to the nature of the business of the employer  or replaces a regular worker because the latter is retired or retrenched, then the direct employer now has the Christian duty to pay the worker with a just wage.


        Third, if the business experiences financial loss or if  it is not earning enough money either due to internal problems or due to societal factors such economic recession. In this case, the employer is exempted to give the just wage to the employer, though he or she may not be dispensed with what legally owed to the worker. There are indeed situations where it is for the greater good of the workers to continue to be employed with lower wages than to be terminated without employment at all.

          However, this exemption must be temporary, especially if the employer is forced to choose either to retrench or reduce the number of workers to keep the business solvent or to reduce the worker’s wages to keep all the workers employed. If the business regains its profitability and stability, the employer is morally obliged to restore the original level of wages of the employees before the financial crisis or, even increase it, if doable, keeping always in mind the welfare of the workers as created in the image and likeness of God.

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