15 May 1997

15 May 1997


ANC Labour Minister, Tito Mboweni, has published the Basic Conditions of Employment
Bill for discussion. The Bill proposes to establish and enforce a new set of
basic employment conditions, in line with South Africa`s obligations as a member
state of the International Labour Organisation.

The Main Points of the Bill

The Bill proposes contracts of employment for all employees (except members
of the SANDF, National Intelligence Agency, South African Secret Service and
unpaid charitable workers) which guarantee a set of basic employment conditions
(with a few permissible exceptions). These basic conditions are proposed to
protect employees against exploitation and abuse, and to safeguard their health
and safety. The key points include:

Working Time

  • working time must be arranged so as not to endanger employees` health
    and safety

  • a maximum working week of 45 hours a week

  • a maximum working day of nine hours a day

  • a maximum of three hours` overtime a day, and ten hours` overtime a week

  • within the maximum working week, employees may be permitted, by agreement,
    to work for up to 12 hours in a day, without receiving overtime pay

  • by collective agreement, hours of work of an employee may be averaged
    over four months, subject to a weekly average of 45 ordinary hours and five
    hours` overtime

  • employees must have a daily rest period of at least 12 consecutive hours
    and a weekly rest period of at least 36 consecutive hours (60 per fortnight
    by agreement)

  • an employee working five hours must have a meal break of at least 60 minutes
    (though by agreement, this may be reduced to 30 minutes)

  • employees required to remain on premises or be available for work during
    mealtimes must be paid

  • senior managers, travelling sales persons and employees earning above
    a certain amount may be excluded from the working time provisions.


  • employees are entitled to three weeks` paid leave after every 12 months
    of continuous service (one day`s leave per 17 days` employment)

  • an employer must not pay an employee instead of granting annual leave

  • employees are entitled to six weeks` paid sick leave for every 36 months
    of continuous employment (but only one day`s paid sick leave for every 26
    days worked for the first six months of employment)

  • a pregnant employee is entitled to four months` maternity leave, which
    may begin up to four weeks before the expected date of birth

  • an employee working four or more days per week is entitled to three days`
    family responsibility leave.

Written Particulars and Information

  • Employers must give employees written particulars of employment when employment
    starts and provide information regarding remuneration, deductions and time

Wages, Deductions, Compensation and Notice

  • No unauthorised deductions may be made by an employer from an employee`s

  • Sunday work must be paid at double the normal wage (or by 1.5 times if
    an employee normally works on Sunday)

  • work on public holidays must be paid at double the normal rate, and no
    employee can be required to work on a public holiday, unless by agreement

  • overtime work must be paid at 1.5 times the employee`s normal wage, or,
    by agreement, employees must be given paid time off in lieu

  • night work must be compensated by either an allowance or by reduced working
    hours, and transport must be available to employees

  • Employment may be terminated with one week`s notice within the first four
    weeks of employment; two weeks during the remainder of the first year; and
    30 days` notice thereafter (one month for a farm worker or domestic worker
    with more than a year`s service)

  • employees occupying employer-provided accommodation may remain for the
    duration of the notice period

Child and Forced Labour

  • No person may employ a child under 15, and no child under 18 can be employed
    to do work which either puts them at risk or is inappropriate for their

  • Forced labour is prohibited (unless permitted by any other law).

Variations to Basic Conditions

  • Basic conditions may be varied by collective agreement, with the exception
    of conditions regarding:

    • (a) arrangement of working time with due regard to employees` health &

      (b) child labour, forced labour and maternity leave

      (c) sick leave

  • Basic conditions may be varied by the Minister of Labour.

Protection of Employees

  • Employees may not be discriminated against for exercising any right under
    the proposed Bill including:

    • (i) complaining to a trade union representative or fellow employee

      (ii) refusing to comply with an unlawful instruction or condition of employment

      (iii) participating in any proceedings in terms of the Bill

      (iv) inspecting, or requesting a trade union representative to inspect,
      any record kept in terms of the Bill.

Enforcement and Monitoring

  • The Minister of Labour may appoint inspectors to promote, monitor or enforce
    compliance with employment laws

  • Inspectors will have the power to enter and inspect any premise, without
    notice or a warrant, and question any person and inspect, copy and remove
    documents and other relevant items

  • Inspectors may issue compliance orders to employers, stating what provision
    is not being complied with and indicating the steps the employer must take
    to comply with the provision

  • Maximum penalties for failure to comply are:

    • - R20,000 for contraventions not involving underpayment

      - 200 per cent of the amount due for contraventions involving underpayment

      - three years` imprisonment for criminal offences.