South Africa - HR & HR Software Guide

Country Overview:

South Africa offers excellent opportunities for foreign investors. The major sectors of the country’s diversified economy include agriculture, fisheries, mining, food processing, vehicle manufacturing, energy, telecommunication, and textiles. The combined value of South Africa’s imports and exports is equal to 58.2% of GDP, which shows the importance of foreign trade in the economic landscape.


South African Rand

Principal Language:

English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Southern Sotho, Tswana


Parliamentary Democracy

Capital City: 

Cape Town

Major Provinces: 

Pretoria, Durban, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein

Even after including overtime, an employee’s workday cannot be more than 12 hours.

Employees usually need to get 12 hours off from the end of one shift to the beginning of the next. Between shifts over a weekend that includes a Sunday, employees need to get 36 consecutive hours off, unless the agreement between an employer and an employee specifies otherwise. If determined by a collective agreement, the hours of work and overtime may be averaged over a duration of up to 4 months.

The regular workweek may vary for different employers and workers, though the maximum is 45 hours. For employees whose regular workweek is 5 or fewer days, the regular workday cannot be more than 9 hours. For those who work more than 5 days a week, the regular workday cannot exceed 8 hours. Even with overtime, an employee’s workday cannot exceed 12 hours.

Employees who work between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. regularly must know from their employer about health and safety hazards related to night work and that they have the right to get medical examinations related to those hazards at the employer’s expense.


The decision to work overtime must be through an agreement between an employee and employer. Employees usually cannot work more than 3 hours as overtime per day or 10 hours per week, but a collective or bargaining council agreement can increase overtime to 15 hours per week for up to 2 months in any 12-month period.

The overtime pay rate is 1.5 times the standard wages. Employees receive double their normal wage rate if they work on Sundays unless the day is part of their regular workweek. The overtime laws do not apply to senior managers, traveling sales staff, and employees who work fewer than 24 hours a month.


The Public Holidays Act declares 12 paid holidays. They are:

  • January 1: New Year’s Day
  • March 21: Human Rights Day
  • Good Friday: The Friday before Easter Sunday
  • Family Day: The day after Easter Sunday
  • April 27: Freedom Day
  • May 1: Workers’ Day
  • June 16: Youth Day
  • August 9: National Women’s Day
  • September 24: Heritage Day
  • December 16: Day of Reconciliation
  • December 25: Christmas
  • December 26: Day of Goodwill

If a holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is considered a public holiday.

Annual Leave

Employees are entitled to 21 consecutive days of paid annual leave for every 12-month period of work with one employer. Based on the agreement, employees can accrue one day of leave for every 17 days worked or one hour of leave for every 17 hours worked. An employee usually has to complete the 12-month leave cycle before taking leave, although employers have the discretion to change this.

Paternity Leave

Working fathers are entitled to 10 days of parental leave upon the birth of their child.

Sick Leave

Paid sick leave is granted in 36-month cycles, commencing from an employee’s start date with an employer, and is equal to the number of days the employee would work during a 6-week period. So, during the 3-year cycle, an employee who works a 5-day week is eligible for 30 days of sick leave. Workers in the civil engineering sector, however, receive 36 days of sick leave. Sick leave terms are open to negotiation through an employment contract or a collective agreement.

Maternity Leave

Women employees are eligible for 4 consecutive months of maternity leave, with benefits paid by the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Employees are entitled to commence their leave within 4 weeks of the due date, although earlier or later dates are allowed by agreement between an employer and an employee or in cases of medical emergency.

Women are not permitted to work for 6 weeks after giving birth unless certified by a doctor or midwife to do so. An employee who suffers a miscarriage during the third trimester of pregnancy or who gives birth to a stillborn child receives 6 weeks’ leave after the loss, regardless of whether maternity leave has already begun or not.

Employees can also receive paid maternity benefits based on a collective agreement or employment contract in which the employer agrees to pay over and above its contribution to the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Family Responsibility Leave

Employees who have been working with the same employer for more than 4 months and who work at least 4 days a week are generally entitled to 3 days of paid family responsibility leave during each 12-month period after starting the job (the annual leave cycle). The leave can be taken for the birth of a child, a child’s illness, or the death of a family member, who can be a spouse, life partner, biological or adoptive parent, grandparent, child (including adopted), grandchild, or sibling. Family responsibility leave time may vary based on a collective agreement.

Retirement Plans

There is no statutory retirement age in South Africa. Retirement funding in South Africa is private and voluntary. For the most part, employers and employees contribute equal amounts to private pension plans or schemes, although this is not mandatory.

Employers do not contribute to the social security old-age pension system. South Africa has been exploring reform of the government-provided pension system, which may require employer and employee contributions and widen the distribution of benefits. The country has no formal retirement age, but workers must be at least 60 years old to be eligible for a state pension.

Health Insurance

Health insurance plans are often provided by bargaining councils and by most employers that are not covered by a bargaining council plan. Employers and employees contribute equally to such plans.

Unemployment Insurance

Workers who have lost their jobs and are unemployed for more than 14 days even though they are willing and able to work, are entitled to benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The fund aims to provide unemployment benefits to people who are temporarily unemployed, including those who are on maternity leave or in the process of adopting a child. The duration of benefits depends on the person’s contributions to the fund.

Employers and employees need to make monthly contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Workers contribute 1% of their pay to the fund, and their employers match up this contribution. These mandatory contributions have an upper ceiling of 14,872 rand per month.

Survivor Pension Fund

If an employee dies due to accident or illness in a workplace, the worker’s spouse is entitled to a lump sum payment equal to 2 times the monthly pension that the deceased employee would have been entitled if 100% disabled. Also, a monthly pension equivalent to 40% of the pension to be paid that the employee would have been entitled if 100% disabled.

The monthly pension continues until remarriage or death of the surviving spouse. Each child under 18 years of age is entitled to a monthly pension equal to 20% of the pension that would have been payable to the employee for 100% disability. A surviving child’s monthly pension ceases at age 18, or at death or marriage before age 18.

Work Injury Insurance

Under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, employers make contributions to the Compensation Fund based on the size of their payroll and the type of business they operate. Employers must report occupational injuries to the compensation commissioner’s office or the mutual association that administers workers’ compensation benefits within 7 days of learning about them and must report occupational diseases within 14 days. Those who are temporarily disabled receive 75% of their salary up to a maximum benefit of 14,872 rand per month.

Employees who are 30% or less permanently disabled receive a lump sum payment equal to 15 times their regular monthly earnings, and up to a maximum of 125,400 rand. Those who are severely disabled receive a monthly pension for the rest of their lives equal to 75% of their regular monthly salary, to a maximum 14,872 rand.

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