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Guideline for Working Hours, Meals, Overtime etc

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act applies to all employers and workers,except members of the National Defence Force, National Intelligence Agency, South African Secret Service and unpaid volunteers working for an organisation with a charitable purpose.

The basic conditions of employment contained in the Act form part of the contract of employment of employees covered by the Act.  Some, but not all, basic conditions of employment may be varied by individual or collective agreements in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

What should you know?

There are several very important sections which must be noted and form part of any contract of employment, including working hours, overtime, meal intervals,daily and weekly rest period, payment for work on Sundays and public holidays, leave, including annual leave, sick leave,maternity leave and family responsibility leave, remuneration and deductions, salary slips and record keeping, termination of employment and more, below we have provided a guideline to what you should know about your employees working hours and the guidelines as provided for by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) by the South African Labour Department, each one of these points will assist you in knowing what you can and cannot ask of an employee in terms of working hours.

Working hours

Ordinary hours of Work

In terms of the BCEA, the following rules and guidelines apply:

No employer shall require or permit an employee to work more than:

  • 45 hours in any week.
  • nine hours in any day if an employee works for five days or less in a week; or
  • eight hours in any day if an employee works on more than five days in a week.

Overtime

So anything worked over and above the above stated times, is considered to be overtime, the guideline for this is as follows:

An employer may not require or permit an employee to:

  • to work overtime except by an agreement;
  • to work more than ten hours’ overtime a week. In other words no more than a maximum of 55 hours per week is allowed, inclusive of overtime.

By law, an agreement may not require or permit an employee to work more than 12 hours on any day.
A collective agreement may increase overtime to fifteen hours per week for up to two months in any period of 12 months.
Overtime must be paid at 1.5 times the employee’s normal wage or an employee may agree to receive paid time off.

Compressed working week

Never heard this term before? In terms of the BCEA the following can apply:

An employee may agree in writing to work up to 12 hours in a day without receiving overtime pay.

However, this agreement may not require or permit an employee to work

  • more than 45 ordinary hours in any week;
  • more than ten hours’ overtime in any week; or
  • more than five days in any week.

Averaging of hours of work

  • A collective agreement may permit the hours of work to be averaged over a period of up to four months.
  • An employee who is bound by such a collective agreement may not work more than:
    • an average of 45 ordinary hours in a week over the agreed period;
    • an average of five hours’ overtime in a week over the agreed period.

Meal intervals

  • An employee must have a meal interval of 60 minutes after five hours work.
  • A written agreement may:
  • reduce the meal interval to 30 minutes;
  • dispense with the meal interval for employees who work fewer than six hours on a day.

Daily and weekly rest period

An employee must have a daily rest period of 12 consecutive hours and a weekly rest period of 36 consecutive hours, which, unless otherwise agreed, must include Sunday.

Pay for work on Sundays

  • An employee who occasionally works on a Sunday must receive double pay.  
  • An employee who ordinarily works on a Sunday must be paid at 1.5 times the normal wage.
  • Paid time off in return for working on a Sunday may be agreed upon.

Night work

  • Employees who work at night between 18h00 and 06h00 must be compensated by payment of an allowance or by a reduction of working hours and transport must be available.
  • Employees who work regularly after 23:00 and before 06:00 the next day must be informed:
  • of any health and safety hazards; and
  • the right to undergo a medical examination. 

Public holidays

  • Employees must be paid their ordinary pay for any public holiday that falls on a working day.
  • Work on a public holiday is by agreement and paid at double the rate.
  • A public holiday may be exchanged with another day by agreement.

Sources for this Article:

Department of Labour ( Republic of South Africa) 

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