All employees in South Africa have certain rights that ensure that they are treated appropriately and are protected in the workplace. The laws that relate to workers’ rights include the South African Constitution which provides for basic rights, the Labour Relations Act (LRA) which expands on these rights, and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).
General employee rights in South Africa
Employees have the following rights:
- not to be unfairly dismissed or discriminated against
- to be provided with appropriate resources and equipment
- to have safe working conditions
- to receive the agreed remuneration on the agreed date and time
- to receive fair labour practices
- to be treated with dignity and respect
- to non-victimisation in claiming rights and using procedures
- to leave benefits and other basic conditions of employment as stipulated in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 deals mainly with, but is not limited to, leave days; the terms of your employment; working hours; remuneration; dismissals and resignations, and more. All these aspects are important for the operation of a compliant business.
1. Employment contracts
Employment contracts are not necessary to establish a valid employment relationship but they still serve an important purpose. Firstly, a contract establishes certainty in the employment relationship and binds employees to the company’s disciplinary codes. Contracts, also detail in writing, prescribed employment details, which is a requirement of the BCEA. Additionally, in the event of a disagreement a contract can protect either parties.
See also: Unpacking Labour Law For Employers
2. Hours of work
The BCEA sets out statutory hours of work. Ordinary hours of work (i.e. not overtime) may not be more than 45 hours in a week or 9 hours in a day. For employees who work a 6-day week, it is 8 hours per day.
Any additional hours will be considered overtime for which qualifies for additional remuneration. Overtime is limited to a total of 10 hours per week and then too, may not exceed 3 hours of overtime per day.
Overtime work must be paid at no less than 1.5 times the normal hourly rate, or time off (equivalent to 1.5 times), or partially paid and partially paid time off.
According to the BCEA workers are entitled to the following leaves:
- Paid leave – You can take no less than 21 consecutive days per completed year of employment (or 1 day for 17 days worked, or 1 hour for 17 hours worked), on full pay.
- Sick leave – Employees are entitled to 30 days paid sick leave for every 36 months worked (the leave cycle), on full pay.
- Family Responsibility leave – Three days paid leave during each twelve month leave cycle to discharge family responsibilities.
4. Minimum wage
The current national minimum in South Africa is R23,19 for each ordinary hour worked. The increase came into effect from 1 March 2022.
The minimum wage is only a benchmark for lowest-paid workers. Employers may pay more than this amount.
5. Health and safety
All workers are entitled to a workplace that does not place a risk to their health and safety. The Occupational Health and Safety Act, requires that employers ensure that the “workplace is free of hazardous substances, such as benzene, chlorine and micro organisms, articles, equipment, processes, etc. that may cause injury, damage or disease.”
The Act specifies the following if this is not possible: “the employer must inform workers of these dangers, how they may be prevented, and how to work safely, and provide other protective measures for a safe workplace”.