10 Questions About Employment Law In South Africa Answered In Under 10 Minutes

Employment law in South Africa

If your organization is looking to expand to South Africa, learning about Employment Law should be on top of your priorities list. Otherwise, you will miss out on important information that could play a key role in your expansion strategy – like the 45-hour working week that is standard practice in South Africa, compared to the 40-hour workweek one may be accustomed to in Western societies. Read on to find out all about the minimum wage, contract types, applicable leaves and more in South Africa.

1. Are employment contracts mandatory in South Africa?

In strictly legal terms, employment contracts are not required to start a professional relationship with an employee.

 

That being said, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) – the piece of legislation which regulates employment-related contractual agreements – does require employees to communicate a number of employment particulars/conditions when employment begins. So technically, no contract is required upon commencement of a work relationship. 

 

But in practical terms, it makes more sense to have an in-depth, legally-binding contract and avoid any issues that may stem from the lack of clarity of more informal documents.

2. Fixed term and indefinite contracts: which apply in South Africa?

In South Africa, both fixed-term and indefinite contracts are legal and commonly used by employers.

Fixed-term contracts are usually used for temporary or project-based work. These contracts have a specific start and end date, and the employment relationship automatically terminates on the expiry of the contract. In South Africa, fixed-term contracts are regulated by the Labour Relations Act, which requires that such contracts must be in writing, and the duration of the contract must be reasonable.

Indefinite contracts, on the other hand, do not have a specific end date and continue until either the employee or the employer terminates the contract. These contracts are the default type of employment contract in South Africa and are regulated by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

3. What are the working hours in South Africa?

The standard maximum working hours is 45 hours per week or 9 hours per day. Alternatively, if employees’ working hours are spread over 6 days, the maximum number of hours worked in a standard day is 8 hours.

4. How many overtime hours can employees work in South Africa?

South African workers can work a maximum of 10 hours overtime per week, and not more than 3 hours overtime per day. Additionally, employees can refuse to do overtime work.

 

According to the law, overtime work should be paid at 1.5x the usual hourly rate – even on Sundays, and even when the employee in question typically works on Sundays. Those employees who do not usually work on Sundays, on the other hand, are entitled to compensation equal to 2x their usual hourly rate. 

 

Employees may choose to get paid time off instead of payment, prorated accordingly. That being said, employers are not allowed to make the decision to give employees time off instead of paying them. This choice is the employee’s to make. 

 

Furthermore, a collective bargaining agreement may raise overtime to 15 hours per week for a maximum of two months within any 12-month period. An agreement could mandate that an employer provide an employee at least 30 minutes of paid time off for each hour of overtime worked and pay them at least their regular rate of pay for overtime worked. 

For each hour of overtime worked, an employee should receive at least 90 minutes of paid time off.

5. How many breaks are employees entitled to in South Africa?

Workers in South Africa are legally entitled to a break or meal interval lasting 1 hour for every 5 consecutive hours worked. Employers and employees can come to a mutual agreement to shorten the meal interval to 30 minutes. However, exceptions can be made for employees working less than 6 hours a day, thereby removing their entitlement to an hour-long break.

6. What is the minimum wage in South Africa?

As of March 2022, the minimum wage in South Africa is of R23,19, which would be approximately $1.27 according to current conversion rates. The minimum wage may be lower in some industries, typically those that require manual labor such as farming.

7. How many sick leaves are employees entitled to in South Africa?

Employees in South Africa have the right to a set amount of paid sick days. In the initial four months of employment, an employee receives one day of paid sick leave for every 26 days worked. Afterwards, this number grows to 30 days of paid sick leave with every 36 months worked. Upon presentation of a valid medical certificate and when more than two absences happen in a span of eight weeks, an employer is only required to grant paid sick leave lasting over two days or at least longer than one day.

8. How many days of maternity and paternity leaves do South Africans get?

In South Africa, expecting mothers must receive at least 4 months’ leave, beginning at least 4 weeks before the expected birth date and ending at least 6 weeks after the baby is born. Unless the parties specifically agree differently, maternity leave is regarded as unpaid time off.

 

Fathers in South Africa are entitled to 10 consecutive days off. Like maternity leave, paternity leave is unpaid for by the employer.

9. How does a company terminate an employee in South Africa?

A probationary employee may be fired by their employer for any cause that is not prohibited by anti-discrimination laws during this time. Employers have the right to fire workers for misconduct, unsatisfactory work, or should the company not require their services after the probation period is over. 

 

Otherwise, an employee can be terminated according to the terms of their contract.

10. Is severance pay mandatory in South Africa?

Yes, companies are required by law to give severance pay to employees, once the latter have been in employment for at least 6 months. Such employees must either receive a severance pay equivalent to one week’s wages or a week’s notice. 

 

Employees having worked for over 6 months in the company – but having not yet reached the 12-month employment mark – must either be paid for 2 weeks’ wages or be given 2 weeks’ notice. After 1 year of continuous employment with a company, employees must receive compensation equivalent to 4 weeks’ wages. Employers are allowed to review the rule in this particular case, reducing it to 2 weeks’ wages or 2 weeks’ notice in the initial employment contract, but not any less.

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How Africa HR Solutions can assist you in a compliant expansion to South Africa

These are only some of the labor laws that apply in South Africa. There are yet more regulations and legal gray areas for companies like your own to go through to achieve 100% compliance with South African law as you expand in the country. Spare yourself the time and effort incurred by this laborious task – delegate it to Africa HR Solutions' trusted team and failproof local expertise.
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