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Basic Conditions Of Employment

There are basic standards which are set out in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 which regulate, amongst other, the working hours that employees are permitted to work. Whether these conditions are enforced in practice, however, is uncertain.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA) sets certain minimum standards of working conditions for employees. In Section 1 and 3 the BCEA sets out that it does not apply to independent contractors, as well as certain others such as unpaid volunteers, members of the South African National Defence Force and South African National Secret Service. Conditions regulating working hours are included in the BCEA which, in addition to the general exclusions mentioned above, exclude the following persons:

  • Senior managers;
  • Sales staff who travel to the premises of customers and who regulate their own work hours;
  • Employees who work less than 24 hours a month for an employer;
  • Employees earning in excess of R 205 433.30 per annum.

If you do not fall into one of the abovementioned categories then the conditions in the BCEA (Sections 9 to 15) regulating working hours will apply to you.

The maximum amount of working hours per week are 45 hours. Those who work five days a week may work for 9 hours a day and those working six or seven days a week may work for 8 hours a day. These hours may be extended by agreement between an employee and employer but this extension is limited to a maximum of an extra 15 minutes per day or, alternatively, an extra 60 minutes per week. 

A meal interval of at least 1 hour is due to an employee who works continuously for more than 5 hours and at this time the employee may only be asked to perform tasks that cannot be left undone or that cannot be entrusted to another employee. If the employee is required to work during a work interval, or if they are required to be available for work, that employee must be remunerated for being available during that time.

Overtime is limited to 10 hours per week if it is arranged per agreement between an employer and employee. This can, however, be increased to 15 hours a week by means of a collective agreement but this agreement is limited in duration in that it may not apply for more than 2 months in a 12 month period. The rate at which remuneration is calculated for overtime is at 1.5 times the employee’s normal remuneration. 

These are some of the basic conditions regulating working hours, and further conditions and exceptions thereto can be found in Section 9 – 18 of the BCEA. Although the abovementioned conditions seem to provide protection to employees many employees will merely take note of them and continue to work overtime continuously without pay and without complaining. Unfortunately we live in a country where there are far more people to fill jobs than jobs available and therefore the only time that this Act is properly utilised is through collective bargaining and trade unions; therefore it offers little comfort to individual employees not belonging to trade unions.


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