Employee Leave in Africa: What You Must Know

Women at the beach - Paid Leave in Africa - Africa HR Solutions

Beyond a legal requirement, employee leave can be a great incentive for staff and can help make job offers more attractive. They encourage family life and personal time in general, leaving room for self-care, which, in turn, has a direct impact on an employee’s performance. During your expansion plans, it is therefore very important to know about both the legal requirements and customary practices in each target country  to ensure that annual leave policies remain appropriate.

Vacation leave

Vacation leave, and sick leave are often considered two separate kinds of leave in Africa. Terminology may also vary. For example, vacation leave is referred to as “annual leave” in Mauritius, and provides up to 20 working days’ paid leave to employees. Vacation leave across Africa can last anywhere from 10 to 30 days depending on the country, with the most vacation leave recorded in  Bahrain, Kuwait and Algeria (30), followed closely by Tanzania (28).

Sick leave

Sick leave varies greatly across African countries. While some countries calculate it based on a formulation per X-cycle of work days, others, like Mauritius, have a set number of days per worker, applicable from the completion of a year of work, with full costs covered by the employer. Accumulation of those sick days, or other remedies such as obtaining monetary compensation for unclaimed sick days also vary according to statutory provisions. The  most generous sick leave on the continent, however, is in Egypt, where workers are entitled to a year of sick leave for every three years of work.

Menstrual leave

Zambia was the first African country to introduce menstrual leave as part of its legislation, as early as 2015. The law, now often referred to as “Mother’s Day”, entitles working women to one day of leave per cycle without the need for a doctor’s note, likely acting as an incentive to encourage women to join or remain in employment. It has also contributed to placing the country among the highest-scoring countries in the world for female working populations in a survey by the World Bank. The 2021 survey registered an active female population of 68% (after spiking up to 70% in 2019), which places Zambia, among other African countries, far beyond European countries such as France (52%) and Spain (53%).

Maternity leave

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Tanzanian mothers receive fully paid maternity leave for a 12-week period postpartum, and Zimbabwean mothers are entitled to 60-75% of their salary for up to 90 days postpartum. Whilst the average paid maternity leave in Africa lasts from two to three months, the shortest leave has been recorded in Tunisia, for a period of 30 days.

Who pays for the leave? Laws vary greatly from country to country, often attributing the full remuneration either to the employer or to social security, with  the likes of Guinea offering a 14-week maternity leave on 100% pay split equally between the employer and social security.

Paternity leave

Paternity leave in Africa can vary from 0 to 14 days’ either paid or (mostly) unpaid leave (according to the ILO), with the ultimate choice often being left to the employer on whether or not to remunerate for this.

Parental leave

This broad term includes different types of leave, some of them unpaid. In South Africa, for example, there are 3 types of leave. The first concerns all parenting duties, entitling all parents to at least 10 days’ parental leave. The second includes adoptive parents of children below the age of two, entitling them to 10 weeks’ adoption leave; and the third protects parents opting for surrogacy, with a 10-week commissioning parental leave.

African countries with the most public holidays in the world

Egypt ranks 3rd in the world, with a staggering 21 public holidays, whilst Turkey ranks 6th, with 16 public holidays, and South Africa ranks 10th with 12 public holidays. It is also important to note that some multicultural African countries such as Mauritius also have numerous public holidays that are attributed to the religious diversity present in the country.

The subject of employee leave is clearly a layered topic and, for companies looking to expand into Africa, this requires  the assistance of experienced and knowledgeable advisors who live and breathe this, and are therefore able to appropriately react to legislative changes and customary practices. An experienced African payroll service provider will  be best placed to advise on the intricacies  and specifics in each country, and will be able to answer standard questions such as:

  1. What kinds of employee leave are applicable in each country?
  2. How many public holidays are there?
  3. Who pays for the different types of leave, i.e. the employer or social security?
  4. Is the leave cumulative and, if so, for how long?
  5. Is unclaimed leave subject to reimbursement?

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