Leave Policy in South Africa

Leave Policy in South Africa
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South Africa has plenty of regulations, permits, fees, and registrations to track when hiring employees within its borders. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition highly values diversity and equity in hiring practices. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) regulates leave policy in South Africa, including annual leave. With all these avenues to navigate, it's easy to make costly mistakes.

Fortunately, Skuad can handle local compliance and calculate accrued leave through its employment platform. You don't have to worry about those details and can focus on moving forward with your business plans. You can easily have remote employees onboarded in minutes with Skuad as your employer of record (EOR).

Holiday leave in South Africa

The BCEA entitles employees to 21 days of paid leave for every annual leave cycle. Typically, this is set at 21 consecutive days at the full regular rate, but agreements can change annual leave accrued to one hour per 17 hours or 17 hours per 17 days worked. Employees must have at least four months of continuous service to be eligible for annual leave.

The statutory annual leave in South Africa rolls over days not used in a given leave cycle to the next one. Employees receive 100% of their regular salary or wage, calculated based on a 45-hour work week leading up to their leave.

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Public holidays

The Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994 set paid public holidays in South Africa. There are currently 12 such holidays. The Public Holidays Act 48 of 1995 amended this to give the President the authority to declare any day a public holiday. Whenever one of these holidays falls on a Sunday, it's observed on the following Monday for time off purposes. There are also pay considerations for employees who must work on public holidays*.

Date Holiday
January 1st New Year's Day
March 21st Human Rights Day
Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday
Monday after Easter Sunday Family Day
April 27th Freedom Day
May 1st Workers' Day
June 16th Youth Day
August 9th National Women's Day
September 24th Heritage Day
December 16th Day of Reconciliation
December 25th Christmas Day
December 26th Day of Goodwill

*An additional Election Day is occasionally made a public holiday by presidential declaration.  

Types of leave in South Africa

Leave policy in South Africa includes various options for employee time off. While there are exceptions, this guide provides an overview of the general policies. Employees may be ineligible for leave benefits if they have missed work for more than two days in a row or twice in eight weeks without a valid medical note submitted at their employer's request.

The Minister of Labour and Employment determines any benefits compensation for these leave policies, sometimes in conjunction with the Minister of Finance. Eligible employees who have paid into it receive unemployment benefits funded by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) for illness, pregnancy, and adoption cases.

Sick leave

The BCEA also regulates leave for sickness or illness. All employees in South Africa can use a 30-day paid sick leave in a given sick leave cycle of 36 months, though there are exceptions.

For example, an employee who has been in service for six months can only take one day per 26 days worked. Moreover, a 30-day sick leave in a 36-month leave cycle does not mean a 10-day leave is equally distributed over each year.  

Typically, sick leave pay is 100% of an employee's regular pay per day or week.

Family responsibility leave

Employees who have worked at least four months and at least four days a week for their employer can receive family responsibility leave in South Africa. Eligible employees receive three days of paid leave in every annual leave cycle.

Family responsibility leave includes the following:

  • Childbirth
  • Sick child
  • Loss of an immediate family member

Eligible employees get a child support grant of ZAR 480 (USD 28.28) per month per child in addition to family responsibility leave benefits, This is for an individual who:

  • Is a child's primary caregiver
  • Is a South African citizen or a permanent resident
  • Earns a maximum income of ZAR 52,800 (USD 3,109.49) per year if single or a combined income of ZAR 105,600 (USD 6,218.98) if married

Maternity leave

Maternity leave in South Africa gives all female employees at least four months of time off. Anyone who has given birth cannot work for six weeks after childbirth unless certified by a medical practitioner or a midwife. This includes situations of pregnancy loss and surrogacy.

If possible, female employees should notify their employers in writing four weeks before starting maternity leave. The BCEA protects pregnant or nursing women from working in hazardous environments or under hazardous conditions for up to six months after childbirth.

Paternity leave

While no policy specifically addresses paternity leave in South Africa, male employees can apply for parental leave for time off after a child is born. They're also eligible for adoption or commissioning parental leave, as outlined below.

Parental leave

Parental leave in South Africa grants a working parent up to 10 consecutive days of leave when a child is born, adopted, or placed with the parent leading up to adoption. An employee is required to provide written notification of parental leave beginning and end dates a month ahead of time if it is possible to do so. If it's not possible to give advance notice, an employee should give notice as soon as possible.

Commissioning parental leave

This type of parental leave specifically applies to surrogacy arrangements. Employees expecting a child through surrogacy can claim at least 10 weeks of commissioning parental leave. However, only one parent can claim this type of leave per delivery. Leave for the second commissioning parent falls under the parental leave outlined above.

Surrogate mothers would use the standard maternity leave above after delivering a child.

Adoption leave

Adoption leave in South Africa entitles employees to at least 10 weeks' leave for one parent if the adoptive child is under two years old. The second adoptive parent can apply for parental leave.

If they contribute to the UIF and receive weekly or monthly pay less than regular weekly or monthly pay while on leave, they can receive adoption leave benefits.

Voting leave

Voting leave in South Africa helps consolidate a sense of national unity and pride in an emerging democracy. All eligible South Africans are entitled to a paid public holiday on Election Day. A voting leave enables employees to exercise a fundamental constitutional right with a presidential order.

This particular public holiday does not happen every year. The most recent declarations were issued on May 8, 2019, and November 1, 2021.

Additional considerations

Employees who work for less than 24 hours per month for one employer are not entitled to any leave benefits under the BCEA.  

The South African government also provides social relief of distress assistance to support eligible South Africans and their families during an emergency. All of these benefits protect employees ineligible for statutory benefits.  

Twelve hours should separate the end of an employee's work day and the beginning of the next. Employees also get 36 hours of time off per week, including Sundays. Additional requirements ensure extra pay if an employee does work on a Sunday unless it's their normal work day.

The importance of compliance to leave policies

While you want to offer an attractive benefits package to work with remote employees, you also want to ensure that the arrangements comply with local laws. One global HR compliance mistake can cost your company a large sum of money. You might misclassify an employee, misinterpret local labor laws, or become a permanent establishment subject to taxation.

Skuad is a professional employer organization (PEO) that can help you work with remote employees and develop competitive benefits packages that comply with the laws and leave policy in South Africa. It can:

  • Manage your payroll end-to-end compliantly and cost-effectively
  • Develop custom benefits packages well suited to each worker's professional and personal needs
  • Pay employees and contractors in multiple currencies at competitive exchange rates
  • Generate compliant invoices in a matter of minutes
  • Provide legal advice and practical guidance on in-country labor laws and regulations
  • Onboard your employees and contractors quickly and compliantly

Seamlessly manage leave policy in South Africa

Don't underestimate the risks you might be exposed to while working to hire remote employees and provide a compliant leave policy in South Africa. Getting leave amounts and other benefits right is critical for your business's success, employee happiness, and regulatory compliance.

Skuad can help you navigate leave policies and benefits packages in South Africa and beyond. Fully knowledgeable of the South African labor market, Skuad is best positioned to be your EOR.

Talk to our experts for advice on leave policy in South Africa.

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