South Africa Labour Laws

April 12th 2024

This article covers:

What are South Africa Time Management Laws?

South Africa has national laws in effect to regulate the allocation of working time for employees, protecting their rights and ensuring equitable compensation for their work. These laws serve as guidelines for employers, ensuring compliance and preventing any instances of mistreatment or unfair practices.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), established in 1997, sets out a minimum standard for employment conditions that must be adhered to. Although employers have the freedom to provide improved conditions, they are prohibited from offering or including in any contract conditions that are less favorable than those outlined in the BCEA.

The arrangement of working time is governed by Chapter 2 of the BCEA, covering regular hours and overtime, with specific applicability to employees below a certain earnings threshold. The maximum permissible normal working time is 45 hours per week. Any hours worked beyond an employee’s regular working hours will be considered as overtime. Overtime pay is set at 1.5 times the normal wage rate, except for Sundays and public holidays, which require double the normal wage rate.

In addition, the act has expanded to include a Code of Good Practice on the Arrangement of Working Time to offer employers and employees information and guidelines regarding the organisation of working time and its effects on employee health, safety, and family responsibilities.

The Labour Relations Act of 1995 is also an act that establishes procedures that employers can employ to ensure discipline in the workplace, adhere to prescribed procedures, and ultimately impose fair sanctions based on valid reasons. It is crucial for employees to be informed about the expected standards of behavior within the workplace.

Generally, South Africa has robust legislation to regulate working time and protect employee rights. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act offer vital guidelines for fair treatment, maximum working hours, overtime compensation, and workplace discipline, creating a conducive and balanced work environment that respects employee rights and fosters productive employment relationships.

South Africa Minimum Wage R27,58 per hour
South Africa Overtime 1.5x regular rate for any time worked over 45 hours/week (2x normal rate for Sundays and public holidays)
South Africa Breaks 60 minutes meal break after 5 hours’ work (reducable through written agreement)

What are the Hiring, Working and Termination Laws in South Africa?

When hiring in South Africa, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees as per the Employment Equity Act 1998, which prohibits the engagement in unfair discrimination, whether directly or indirectly, against an employee in any employment policy or practice based on various grounds such as:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Marital status
  • Family responsibility
  • Ethnic or social origin
  • Color
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • HIV status
  • Conscience 
  • Belief
  • Political opinion
  • Culture 
  • Language
  • Birth

Further, employers are required to provide employees with written particulars of employment when they begin their employment.  If there are any changes to the terms of employment, the particulars must be revised accordingly. These written particulars must include the employer’s full name and address, the employee’s name and occupation or a brief job description, various work locations, the date of employment, ordinary working hours and days, wage or rate of pay along with the calculation method, overtime rate, any additional cash payments or payment in kind and its value, frequency of remuneration, deductions, leave entitlement, notice period or contract duration, information on any applicable council or sectoral determination, period of previous employment that counts towards the current period, and a list of other contract documents with instructions on where to obtain copies.

Employers are also obligated to display a statement of employees’ rights in the official languages used at the workplace.

When it comes to terminating employees in South Africa, the termination of an employment contract requires a notice period, which varies based on the duration of the employee’s service. If the employee has been employed for six months or less, the notice period should be at least one week. If the employee has been employed for more than six months but less than one year, the notice period should be at least two weeks. If the employee has been employed for one year or more, or if the employee is a farm worker or domestic worker with more than six months of employment, the notice period should be at least four weeks. However, a collective agreement may reduce the four-week notice period to a minimum of two weeks. Notice of termination should be provided in writing, except in cases where the employee is illiterate. It’s important to note that an employer’s notice of termination in accordance with the Act does not prevent the employee from challenging the fairness or legality of the dismissal under the provisions of the Labour Relations Act, or any other applicable law. Additionally, such provisions related to termination do not apply to employees who work less than 24 hours in a month for an employer.

Upon the conclusion of employment, an employee has the right to receive a certificate of service. An employee who is terminated due to operational requirements or whose employment contract is ended under the Insolvency Act of 1936 is eligible to receive one week’s severance pay for each year of service.

Both employers and employees in South Africa must note that according to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), when it comes to employment law, a collective agreement reached through a bargaining council has the authority to replace or exclude certain basic employment conditions. Both collective agreements and individual agreements are only allowed to replace or exclude basic employment conditions within the limits set by the Act or a sectoral determination through Variation by agreement. The Minister of Labour also has the authority to issue a determination to vary or exclude a basic employment condition, either upon request from an employer or employer organisation through Variation by Minister. However, a determination cannot be granted unless a trade union representing the employees has given consent to the variation or has been given the opportunity to make representations to the Minister. Employers are required to display a copy of any determination in the workplace and make it available to employees. Additionally, sectoral determinations can be established to define basic employment conditions for employees within a specific sector and area.

It must be minded that collective agreements, while capable of replacing or excluding various employment conditions, have limitations imposed on them. Specific provisions that cannot be altered through collective agreements include the duty to arrange working time while considering employee health, safety, and family responsibilities (Sections 7, 9, and 13). Additionally, the protections afforded to employees performing night work cannot be reduced (Section 17(3) and (4)). Annual leave entitlement must not be reduced to less than two weeks (Section 20), and entitlement to maternity leave cannot be decreased (Section 25). Furthermore, the entitlement to sick leave must be reduced beyond the limits set by the Act (Sections 22-24), and any form of child labour and forced labour is strictly prohibited (Section 48).

What are the Key Labour Laws in South Africa?

Now, we will discuss some key labour laws in South Africa that may not be related to the categories we have previously explored. Some of these regulations include:

  • Basic Conditions of Employment Act – The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) of 1997 applies to all employees and employers, with the exception of members of the State Security Agency and unpaid volunteers in charitable organisations. The Act includes basic employment conditions that are legally binding and considered part of the employment contract for employees covered by the Act. While some of these basic conditions may be modified through individual or collective agreements, not all conditions can be changed and any modifications must comply with the provisions outlined in the Act. Learn more about BCEA through our comprehensive South Africa Basic Conditions of Employment Act guide.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act – The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 aims to ensure the health and safety of individuals in the workplace. It requires employers to maintain a reasonably safe environment, protect employees using machinery, and address hazards for both employees and non-employees. The act further establishes an advisory council for occupational health and safety and covers various related matters.
  • Labour Relations Act – The Labour Relations Act of 1995 in South Africa is legislation that governs labour relations and practices in the country. It provides a framework for collective bargaining, dispute resolution, and the protection of workers’ rights. The act promotes fair labour practices, freedom of association, and the right to strike. It also establishes mechanisms for the establishment of trade unions, recognition of bargaining councils, and the resolution of labour disputes. The Labour Relations Act aims to foster productive employment relationships, protect workers’ rights, and maintain industrial peace in South Africa.
  • Employment Equity Act – The Employment Equity Act of 1998 in South Africa promotes workplace equality and addresses unfair discrimination on various basis. It protects particularly designated groups and aims to create a diverse and inclusive working environment, requiring employers to implement employment equity plans to ensure fair representation of the designated groups and eliminate inequalities. The Act applies to all employers, both in the public and private sectors, who have a certain threshold of employees.
  • Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act – The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act of 1993 in South Africa is a legislation that provides compensation and support to workers who sustain injuries or contract diseases as a result of their employment. The act establishes the framework for employers to register for the compensation fund and contribute to it. It covers medical expenses, disability benefits, and compensation for dependents in the event of a worker’s injury, illness, or death. The act also sets out procedures for reporting and claiming compensation. 
  • Skills Development Act – The Skills Development Act of 1998 in South Africa is legislation aimed at promoting skills development and training in the country. The act establishes the framework for the National Skills Authority (NSA) and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) to oversee and coordinate skills development initiatives. It requires employers to contribute to the Skills Development Levy, which funds various skills development programs and initiatives. The act also encourages the implementation of learnerships, apprenticeships, and other forms of workplace training to enhance the skills of the workforce. Its main goal is to address skills gaps, improve productivity, and promote lifelong learning and career advancement opportunities in South Africa.
  • Unemployment Insurance Act – The Unemployment Insurance Act of 2001 enables the payment of unemployment benefits to eligible employees from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. These benefits are provided to individuals who are unemployed and also cover illness, adoption, maternity, and dependant’s benefits associated with unemployment. The framework for the imposition and collection of contributions to the Fund’s financial resources is set by the Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act of 2002. The Act has undergone several amendments since its initial enactment. 
  • Whistleblowers Protection – The Protected Disclosures Act of 2000 in South Africa establishes procedures to protect employees in both the public and private sectors who disclose information about unlawful or corrupt behavior by their employers or colleagues. The purpose of this law is to create an environment where honest employees feel safe to raise concerns and report wrongdoing within the workplace without facing any negative consequences. It is considered an essential tool for promoting corporate governance, ensuring accountability, and fostering a safe and transparent working environment.
  • Background Check Laws  In South Africa, background check laws are regulated by the National Credit Act (NCA) and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), among other regulations. The NCA prohibits employers from conducting credit checks on potential employees without explicit consent, particularly for positions in finance, senior/trust roles, or jobs involving cash handling. POPIA governs the processing of personal information in the employment context, imposing responsibilities on employers such as appointing an information officer and informing employees about the purpose and recipients of collected information. The use of employee data is limited to specific circumstances, including situations where consent is given or there is a legal obligation to process the data. 
  • Recordkeeping Laws – Employers in South Africa are required under the Employment Equity Act to maintain records that include essential details, such as the employee’s name, occupation, hours worked, amount of remuneration paid, date of birth (if the employee is under 18 years old), and any other information as prescribed by law.

What are South Africa Employee Payment Laws?

In South Africa, when it comes to the payment of employee wages, various laws apply setting minimum wage standards, frequency, deduction provisions, any exceptions that may apply.

According to the National Minimum Wage Act, employers are obligated to pay their workers at least the national minimum wage, and this requirement cannot be waived.

This applies to all workers and their employers, with the exception of certain military and intelligence agencies. It does not cover volunteers who do not receive remuneration for their service.

The national minimum wage takes precedence over any conflicting provisions in contracts, collective agreements, sectorial determinations, or laws, except for laws specifically amending the act, unless there are more favorable provisions in the employee contract, collective agreement, or law.

Unilaterally altering wages, work hours, or employment conditions in connection with the implementation of the national minimum wage is deemed an unfair labour practice by employers.

If individuals believe that they are being paid below the Minimum Wage, they have the option to lodge a complaint with the South African Department of Employment & Labour. Trade union members also have the opportunity to raise their concerns with their union representatives.

In the event that a complaint is filed and an employer is found guilty of paying below the minimum wage, the employer may face fines under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and National Minimum Wage Act or they may negotiate an agreement with the employee to settle any owed arrears.

What is the Minimum Wage in South Africa?

The South Africa national minimum wage for all workers is R27,58 per ordinary hour worked (effective March 1, 2024, in accordance with the Basic Condition of Employment Act (BCEA). 

Notably, although there was a distinction in minimum wages between general workers, farm workers, and domestic workers, however, under recent revisions, the national minimum wage now encompasses farm workers, which include individuals employed as domestic workers in a home on a farm or forestry environment, as well as security guards on farms or other agricultural premises (excluding security guards in the private security industry regulated by the Private Security Industry Regulation Act). The same applies to other domestic workers, such as gardeners, drivers employed by households, those employed or provided through employment services, and those caring for children, the elderly, the sick, or the disabled.

What are the Exceptions from Minimum Wage Payment in South Africa?

The Minimum Wage Act specifies that individuals employed on Expanded Public Works Programmes are entitled to a minimum wage of R15,16 per hour (instead of the national minimum wage of R27,58). 

Additionally, the Act allows employers to request an exemption from paying the complete national minimum wage. Regulations on South Africa minimum wage exemptions were released in 2018, outlining the specific procedures and requirements for applying for such exemptions. The regulations do not allow for complete exemption from the national minimum wage. Instead, they allow for a maximum reduction of 10% for qualifying employers. 

Exemptions can only be granted starting from the date of application and are valid for a maximum period of 12 months and will only be granted if the delegated authority, which could be the Director-General of the Department of Employment and Labour or a delegated official, is satisfied with two conditions. Firstly, the employer must demonstrate that they cannot afford to pay the minimum wage. Secondly, the employer must have consulted all representative trade unions within the workplace. If there are no trade unions, the employer must consult with the affected workers.

Exemptions can be sought by individual employers or their registered employers’ organisations. However, it is important to note that bulk applications by employers’ organisations on behalf of all their members are not permitted. Instead, separate applications must be made for each member individually.

Learn more about South Africa’s minimum wage exemptions and regulations through our South Africa Minimum Wage Laws guide.

What is the Due Date for Paying Employees in South Africa?

The frequency of payroll cycles is not fixed in South Africa and is typically determined through mutual agreement between employers and employees as stated in the employment contract. As such, the payroll cycle can vary and be either monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly.

Wages can be determined based on various time intervals such as hours, days, weeks, or months. Employers have a responsibility to pay workers their wages in the local currency, the Rand, within seven days after the completion of the wage period for which payment is due. If there is a specified pay date outlined in the employment contract or any other agreement, the employer must comply with the agreed-upon terms. Furthermore, it is mandatory for employers to provide employees with accurate payslips on each payday.

Payment of wages must be made during working hours or within 15 minutes before or after the scheduled working hours at the workplace. If payment is made in cash or by cheque, it should be handed to the employee in a sealed envelope. Alternatively, wages can be directly deposited into a bank account specified by the employee in writing. 

What Pay Deductions Can Be Made in South Africa?

Employers in South Africa are prohibited from deducting money from an employee’s remuneration unless certain conditions are met. Firstly, the employee must provide written consent for the deduction of a specific debt. Secondly, deductions can be made in accordance with a collective agreement, law, court order, or arbitration award.

When it comes to deductions for damage or loss caused by the employee, an agreement must be reached and the employer must follow a fair procedure.

Furthermore, employers are required to promptly pay deductions and employer contributions to benefit funds within a seven-day period.  

How are Remuneration and Wages Calculated in South Africa?

Wages are typically determined based on the number of hours worked in a regular workweek.

For monthly remuneration, it is calculated as four and one-third times the weekly wage.

Remuneration based on factors other than time or that which significantly varies from period to period must be calculated based on the employee’s average remuneration over the preceding 13 weeks or the duration of their employment if shorter.

What are South Africa Overtime Laws?

Employers in South Africa are prohibited from having employees work beyond certain limits.

This includes a maximum of 45 hours per week, nine (9) hours per day if the employee works five days or less in a week, or eight (8) hours per day if the employee works more than five days.

Additionally, employees who earn below the threshold and work less than four (4) hours on a particular day must still be compensated for a minimum of four (4) hours on that day.

Any hours worked beyond the employee’s regular working hours will be considered as overtime. For example, if an employee is contracted to work 45 hours per week, any hours worked beyond that will be classified as overtime.

Similarly, if the employee’s normal working hours are 40 hours per week, any hours worked in excess of 40 will be considered as overtime.

Overtime work in South Africa is voluntary and can only be undertaken with the agreement of both the employer and employee. The maximum allowable overtime is 3 hours in a day or 10 hours in a week.

Overtime pay is set at 1.5 times the normal wage rate, except for work on Sundays and public holidays, which must be compensated at twice (2x) the normal wage rate. Alternatively, time off in lieu of payment can be granted, but only with the employee’s agreement.

Learn more about South Africa overtime laws through our detailed guide.

What are Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in South Africa?

Employees who earn above the current minimum wage are not subject to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act’s overtime provisions and cannot demand overtime pay or paid time off in lieu of payment. However, it is important to note that employers cannot compel these employees to work overtime without compensation. If overtime work is required from such employees, the hours and compensation must be negotiated between the employer and employee. If the employer refuses to compensate for overtime, the employee has the right to refuse to work the overtime.

Although an employee is not allowed to work more than 12 hours in a day, a collective agreement can extend overtime hours to a maximum of fifteen (15) hours per week for a period of up to two (2) months within a 12-month timeframe.

Further, an employee has the option to consent in writing to work up to 12 hours in a day without being entitled to overtime pay.

However, this agreement must not result in the employee working more than 45 ordinary hours in a week, exceeding ten (10) hours of overtime in a week, or working more than five (5) days in a week.

Under a collective agreement, it is also possible to average the hours of work over a maximum period of four (4) months. In such cases, employees who are subject to this collective agreement must not exceed an average of 45 ordinary hours per week over the agreed period, nor an average of five (5) hours of overtime per week over the agreed period.

What is the Pay for Working on Sundays in South Africa?

Employees who occasionally work on Sundays are entitled to receive double pay, while those regularly working on Sundays should be paid at a rate of 1.5 times their normal wage. Alternatively, there is the possibility of reaching an agreement for paid time off in exchange for working on a Sunday.

Night Work in South Africa

Working during the night shift, specifically between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., entitles employees in South Africa to compensation in the form of an allowance or a reduction in working hours. Transportation must also be provided to these employees.

For those who consistently work between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., information must be provided regarding any potential health and safety risks associated with their work, as well as their right to undergo a medical examination.

What are the Break Laws or Meal Intervals in South Africa?

Rest Breaks in South Africa

In South Africa, the regulation of adequate rest periods is an essential aspect of labour laws designed to ensure employee well-being and promote a healthy work-life balance.

  • Daily Rest Periods: In South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) stipulates that employees are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 12 consecutive hours between the end of one workday and the start of the next. This period may be reduced to 10 hours for employees who live on their employer’s premises under certain conditions.
  • Weekly Rest Periods: Besides daily rest periods, employees in South Africa are also entitled to a weekly rest period. This typically consists of at least 36 consecutive hours of rest, which usually includes a Sunday or a public holiday. This provision ensures that employees have sufficient time to recuperate from a week’s work and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
    Meal Breaks in South Africa

South African labour laws are more specific about meal breaks. Employees working for more than five continuous hours are entitled to a meal break of at least one hour. This break can be reduced to 30 minutes by mutual agreement between the employer and the employee. If an employee works less than six hours a day, the meal break can be waived entirely through an agreement. It is important to note that the timing of the meal break after five hours of work is flexible and can be negotiated between the employer and the employee via a mutual agreement.

Entitlement to Meal Breaks in South Africa

Most employees in South Africa are entitled to meal breaks, especially those working continuous shifts exceeding five hours. However, the application of this rule can vary depending on the job type and the specific agreements in place. In some cases, employees may be required to work during meal breaks, particularly when work cannot be left unattended. In such cases, the employees should be compensated, either at their normal rate or at overtime rates, if applicable.

If you want to know more about the entitlements of employees in South Africa, you can read our comprehensive guide on South Africa Labour Laws, which covers all the essential regulations.

Compensation for Meal Intervals in South Africa

South Africa employers must compensate their employees for a meal interval in which they are required to work or be available for work.

Additionally, employees should be compensated for any portion of a meal interval that exceeds 75 minutes, unless the employee lives on the premises where the workplace is situated.

Rest or Tea Breaks in South Africa

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) does not specifically address tea or other breaks, allowing employers and employees to establish their own agreements regarding these breaks.

According to common law principles, such breaks are typically unpaid unless both parties agree to payment.

However, there are exceptions to this general rule. For instance, in the South Africa Wholesale and Retail Sector, employees are entitled to two 15-minute breaks that are considered working time in addition to their unpaid meal interval.

Similarly, the Main Collective Agreement in the Metal and Engineering Industry Bargaining Council in South Africa stipulates two 10-minute breaks that are fully paid.

What are South Africa’s Breastfeeding Laws in the Workplace?

The importance of breastfeeding infants for the first six months of their lives is emphasised by South Africa’s Public Health Policy.

To support this, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and its accompanying Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy and after the Birth of a Child outline provisions for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace.

According to these regulations, employers are required to grant breastfeeding mothers a minimum of two (2) breaks per day, each lasting at least thirty (30) minutes, specifically for the purpose of breastfeeding or expressing milk during the first six months of their child’s life. These breaks should be provided in addition to the employee’s regular tea and lunch breaks.

It is the responsibility of the employee to communicate with her employer if she intends to continue breastfeeding beyond six (6) months and to collaborate on arrangements that facilitate and support breastfeeding.

What are South Africa Leave Laws?

There are various types of leaves that employers in South Africa are required to provide their employees. Such provisions do not apply to employees who work less than 24 hours per month for an employer or to any leave granted that exceeds specified entitlements. Such leaves include leave that are legally mandatory and those that are at the discretion of the employer.

What are Mandatory South Africa Leaves?

South Africa employers are legally obligated to grant specific types of leave to their employees. Below is a comprehensive overview of the different categories of mandated leave in South Africa:

Sick Leave (Public Employers)

In South Africa, full-time public employees are eligible for sick leave, typically amounting to 30 days over a three-year period. The specific accumulation and capping of sick leave can vary according to different public sector policies. This leave is intended for use during personal illnesses or injuries, providing essential time off for recovery.

Holiday Leave (Public Employers)

State employees in South Africa are entitled to holiday leave, which generally corresponds to public holidays declared by the government. These days are meant to be non-working days. However, if employees are required to work on a public holiday, they are usually compensated with either additional pay or compensatory leave.

Annual Leave

Annual leave is a benefit extended to all employees in South Africa, both in public and private sectors. The minimum duration is 21 consecutive days per annual leave cycle, or equivalently, one day for every 17 days worked or one hour for every 17 hours worked. Employees typically utilize this leave for personal rest, travel, or other leisure activities.

Family and Medical Leave

Employees in South Africa who have been employed for more than four months and work at least four days a week are entitled to family responsibility leave. This leave typically includes three days of paid leave during each annual cycle. It is applicable for significant life events such as the birth of a child, a child’s illness, or the death of an immediate family member.

Jury Leave

All employees in South Africa who are required to serve on a jury are eligible for jury leave. This leave covers the entire duration of the jury service. It is specifically designated for individuals serving on a jury or those who are subpoenaed as witnesses in court proceedings.

Voting Leave

Voting leave in South Africa is available to all workers. It typically covers the time required to vote in any local, regional, or national election. This leave facilitates employees’ participation in the democratic process, allowing them to exercise their voting rights without loss of pay or fear of reprisal.

Military Leave

Employees who serve in the South African National Defence Force reserves are eligible for military leave. The duration of this leave varies, depending on the requirements of the military service or training. It is specifically intended for fulfilling obligations related to military service or attending necessary training sessions.

What are Non-Mandatory South Africa Leaves?

In South Africa, certain types of leave are at the discretion of the employer and are not mandated by law. These optional benefits may vary among companies and can be offered selectively to employees based on company policies. Some of the leaves include: 

Sick Leave (Private Employers)

In the context of private employment in South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) sets the minimum standard for sick leave, and employers are not legally required to exceed these provisions. The decision to offer additional sick leave benefits is at the discretion of each private employer. While some private companies may opt to extend extra sick leave as a part of their employee benefits package, doing so is a choice reflecting the company’s policies and commitment to employee welfare, rather than a legal obligation.

Holiday Leave (Private Employers)

Regarding holiday leave for private employers in South Africa, there is no legal mandate to offer leave or additional pay for public holidays that are not worked. It is within the purview of private employers to decide whether to provide holiday leave or compensate employees for public holidays. This decision is typically guided by the company’s internal policies and is not compelled by law.

Bereavement Leave

The provision of bereavement leave in South Africa’s private sector is not governed by a specific legal requirement. It falls to the discretion of individual employers to offer bereavement leave, determining whether it will be paid or unpaid. This results in a variety of practices across different companies and industries, with some employers providing bereavement leave as a part of their employee benefits, while others may not have a formal policy in place.

If you want to know more about the entitlements of employees in South Africa, you can read our guide on South Africa Leave Laws, which covers each essential regulation in detail.

What are South Africa Child Labour Laws?

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) in South Africa establishes strict regulations regarding the employment of children under 15 years old or under the minimum school-leaving age if higher.

Employers are prohibited from employing children under 15 directly or indirectly, and they should not be present at the workplace.

Children aged 15 to 18 are also protected from engaging in work that may be hazardous, inappropriate for their age, detrimental to their schooling, or harmful to their overall development, whether it be economic activities or household chores.

If young persons between the ages of 15 and 17 seek employment, employers must ensure that it does not interfere with their education and implement special measures to safeguard them from workplace-related harm.

In cases where child labour is discovered, employers are required to take appropriate action to remediate the situation and prioritise the best interests of the child

It’s worth noting that the definition of “work” extends beyond economic activities like paid employment and encompasses household chores or activities within the child’s home. However, this definition applies only if such tasks are exploitative, hazardous, unsuitable for the child’s age, or detrimental to their development.

What are the Exemptions to Child Labour Law in South Africa?

Certain exceptions to child labour regulations may apply including that a child aged 15 years or younger can be employed in the performing arts with a valid permit obtained from the Department of Labour.

Exemption may also be granted if an application for an exemption by an employer is approved or in the case of work done as part of a learnership or approved vocational training program, a sector education and training authority. Such applications may not grant unless there is reasonable assurance that the child worker will not be exposed to significant hazards that could jeopardise their health or overall development.

What are Laws on Working Hours for Minors in South Africa?

In South Africa, cetrain provisions limit the working hours of minors to safeguard their well-being, education, and development and prevent exploitation in the workforce.

Child workers who are not enrolled in school are legally prohibited from working for more than 40 hours per week.

For minors who are enrolled in school, it is also illegal to require or permit them to work more than 20 hours in any week during the school term or more than 40 hours in any week that falls entirely within school holidays.

Moreover, on any given day, it is considered a violation to require or permit a child worker to work for more than eight (8) hours. If the child is enrolled in school, the limitations extend to a maximum of two (2) hours on a school day or four hours on a day when the child is expected to attend school but not the following day.

What are the Laws on Night Work for Child Workers in South Africa?

It is a punishable offense for any individual in South Africa to require or permit a child worker to work outside specified time frames.

Specifically, no child worker should be allowed to work before 6 a.m. or after 6 p.m. on any given day.

There are certain exceptions outlined regarding child workers who are not expected to attend school the following day, allowing them to work between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. under specific circumstances. These exceptions include working in establishments like restaurants, cinemas, theaters, or shops where adequate adult supervision is provided, or engaging in activities such as babysitting or child-minding.

It is essential that employers comply with the requirement that if a child worker is allowed to work after 6 p.m. based on the aforementioned exceptions, they must ensure safe transportation for the child at the end of their shift, at no cost to the child, their parent, or caregiver.

This provision can only be waived if there is written agreement otherwise from the child’s parent or legal guardian.

Working Away from Guardian or Parent in South Africa

It is prohibited to have a child worker work away from their parents or legal guardian overnight without written consent in South Africa.

If consented to, the accommodation provided for the minor must be safe, suitable, and free of charge, with sufficient bedding and facilities. Violation of this rule is an offense, and the child’s schooling should not be affected. The employer must provide nutritious food or an allowance for the child’s meals.

What are the Banned Jobs for Minors in South Africa?

Minors in South Africa are not allowed to engage in certain types of work due to their hazardous and unsafe nature and it is considered a violation for anyone to require or permit them to do so. These occupations include:

  • Deep sea fishing, commercial diving or other hazardous work underwater
  • Slaughtering of animals, meat, poultry, or seafood processing
  • Manufacture or packing of tobacco products or any other work involving exposure to tobacco dust
  • Logging
  • Protecting or safeguarding of any person or property, or work involving the handling of firearms
  • Refining of petroleum products, filling cars with petroleum or other chemical fuels at a filling station, or performing work in close proximity to such activity
  • Brewing, manufacturing, or selling of any liquid containing more than one percent alcohol in its final form
  • Working in establishments primarily selling alcoholic beverages to the general public for on-site consumption, such as bars, shebeens, taverns, or pubs
  • Manufacture or application of tar or asphalt
  • Work involving exposure or potential exposure to blood-borne or airborne pathogens
  • Work in health care, veterinary, or related facilities, where exposure to biological agents like Hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis, anaesthetics, anti-neoplastic medications, or addictive drugs is likely
  • Work involving exposure to hazardous substances or agents such as lead, asbestos, silica, coal, pressurised gases, etc.
  • Production, transport, handling, storage, or use of explosives or flammable substances
  • Working in a casino or other gambling establishment
  • Electrical work involving high voltage cables or power sources exceeding 250 volts, or welding, brazing, or soldering 
  • Rock or stone crushing, or operating vibrating equipment like rock drills and riveters
  • Operating heavy equipment such as tractors, winches, forklift vehicles, front-end loaders, and earth-moving equipment
  • Driving any motor vehicles or mobile plant, working in vehicles transporting passengers or heavy goods
  • Working in confined spaces

It is also important to note that it is considered an offense for anyone to require or permit a child worker to engage in piece work or task work. In this context, “piece work” refers to work where the child’s remuneration is primarily based on the quantity of work completed, while “task work” refers to work where the child’s remuneration is mainly based on completing set tasks.

However, this regulation does not prohibit the payment of a commission or incentive payment to a child worker upon completing a task, provided the child is paid at least the minimum wage set by any sectoral determination or bargaining council agreement for that specific work. If there is no prescribed minimum wage, the child should receive a basic wage calculated based on time worked, which should exceed the commission or incentive payment received, and this wage should be consistently calculated.

What are the Sanctions for Employing Minors in South Africa?

It is considered an offense for any individual to employ or allow a child worker to work in violation of the above regulations. Those found guilty of such offenses may face either a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to three (3) years.

However, there is a defense available to a person charged with an offense if they can prove that the child in question was not their employee and did not contribute to their business in any manner.

In cases where a person is prosecuted for causing injury or the death of a child worker, or for breaching any law related to health and safety at work, and a labour inspector believes that the person may have engaged the child in the worst form of child labour as described in these regulations, the labour inspector must bring this information to the attention of the relevant prosecuting authority.

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