South African Labour Law: What You Need to Know About Annual, Holiday, and Sick Leave

In our economic downturn, employers need to safeguard their assets if they want to survive – and a good place to start is stop the misuse and abuse of workplace leave.

Although the cost of an absent employee is a major revenue concern, the cost of a tired and stressed-out employee is an even greater concern, as this can have a huge impact on productivity.

South Africa’s labour law legislation is very clear on employees providing workers with adequate time to rest and re-energise. Not only are their financial penalties at stake, but the misuse or abuse of leave can cause severe damage to a company’s bottom line. Here’s what you need to know about annual leave, holiday leave, and sick leave in South Africa.

No Pay-Outs and Leave Can Be Carried Over

Based on Legislation in Section 20 of the Basic Employment of Employment Act (BCEA), every employee is entitled to 21 consecutive days leave on full pay in a cycle of 12 months or one day for every 17 days worked or one hour for every 17 hours worked. Many employers have a shutdown period over December; If this is the case, then leave must be taken over this period unless stipulated otherwise in an agreement. Should an employee want to take leave over another period, it must be treated as unpaid leave. It is also important to point out that in terms of Section 21 of the BCEA, employers may not pay employees out for their unused leave, except on termination of employment. Unused leave can be carried forward to the following 12-month cycle but must be taken within the first six months.

Public Holidays Are Excluded

There are 12 public holidays in South Africa determined by the Public Holidays Act (Act No. 36 of 1994). If the public holiday happens to fall on a Sunday, the Monday thereafter shall be a public holiday. If the employee is using their annual leave during this period, the public holiday may not be deducted from their annual leave.

Watch Out for Sick Leave

The BCEA stipulates that employees who work five days a week are entitled to 30 days of leave for every three years of work. Or otherwise put, one-day sick leave for every 26 days of work. If the employee’s sick leave is used in full before the end of the three-year cycle, the employer is not required to pay the employee for the days taken over and above the prescribed period. The BCEA also stipulates that any sick leave not taken may not be paid out or carried over.

Visit our blog for more information pertaining to the South African Labour Law, the BCEA or the Labour Relations Act (LRA).