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Employment Legislation and Rights

Understand the legislation relating to working hours, benefits, public holidays and the minimum working age. Also information for employers and employees on terminating a contract...

Basic standards of employment exist for all workers in South Africa under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act in South Africa. However, there is no minimum wage.

Terminating a contract

There are strict rules for terminating contracts. Contracts may be terminated on the following grounds:

  • The contract period has come to and end, or the task is completed
  • Notice is given by either party
  • Breach of contract by either party
  • Mutual agreement

There must be a just reason for terminating a contract. Justified reasons include misconduct or poor performance. If an employee is dismissed unfairly they have the right to contest. It is illegal to dismiss an employee due to pregnancy.

  • For more information about terminating employment contracts: Click here

Working hours

Strict regulations apply to the working hours for employees earning less than R 89,455,000 per year. Normal working hours are no more than 45 hours a week or nine hours a day (eight hours a day for those working a six day week). Additional hours should be considered as overtime. Overtime is limited to a total of ten hours a week and may not exceed three hours a day. Exceptions to these rules apply for sales staff needing to travel to customers, and to employees who work less than 24 hours per week. Overtime work should involve an agreement between the employer and employee and be paid at no less than 1.5 times the normal hourly rate.

Breaks are also a requirement for employees working more than five hours continuously. This meal break should be at least one hour, unless both parties agree to reduce this to 30 minutes.

Holidays: annual leave

Annual leave is an entitlement for all workers in South Africa. The amount of annual leave is stipulated as no less than 21 consecutive days per completed year of employment (or 15 working days based on a five day week).

Annual leave is taken on full pay. It is possible to accumulate annual leave from one year to the next but any accumulated leave should be taken within six months of the new annual leave cycle.

Sick leave

There is also a legal entitlement for sick leave, which is calculated at entitlement to one day's paid sick leave for every 26 days worked during the first six months of employment. After this the entitlement is to 30 days of paid sick leave for every 36 months worked (based on a five day working week). This is termed the leave cycle.

Maternity leave

Entitlements for maternity leave are for no less than four months which should start from four weeks prior to the birth of the baby and end no sooner than six weeks after the birth of the child. Maternity leave is unpaid unless it is included as a benefit in an employment contract.

Paternity leave is not recognised in South African labour legislation but individual employers may decide whether to allocate time off.

Family responsibility leave

Employees who have worked for an employer for longer than four months and who regularly work four or more days a week are entitled to three days paid family responsibility leave per each 12 month cycle. This can be taken for any family reason such as the death or a funeral of a close relative, an ill child, or for the birth of a child.

Public holidays

Work on Sunday or a public holiday can only take place by agreement with the employee. There are 12 public holidays in South Africa which employees are automatically entitled to. If an employee agrees to work on a public holiday the time worked can be exchanged for another day. Double pay or ordinary pay plus time off must be given if an employee works on a public holiday.

Minimum working age

It is illegal to employ a child in South Africa under the age of 15 years or under the minimum school-leaving age, if this is older. Children over 15 years may not be employed in work that is deemed inappropriate for the child, in terms of their well-being, physical or mental health or moral, spiritual or social development.

Further Information
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