Public holidays and employees – what now?

The productivity and financial success of any employer’s business depends on various factors, of which employees’ presence and effective service delivery in the workplace, makes out a critical part.

Public holidays can have a major impact on employers in cases where employees are needed to be able to continue with business activities. Public holidays are regulated by the Public Holidays Act (PHA) while employees remuneration for work done on a public holiday is regulated by labour law – the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, a Sectoral Determination or Bargaining Council Collective Agreement, whichever is applicable to the employer’s specific industry.

An employer is entitled to require his/her employees to work on a public holiday, but such an arrangement must be included in the employee’s employment contract as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act does not require an employee to work on public holidays.

How does remuneration work for work done on a public holiday?

South Africa has 12 official public holidays. The PHA determines that if a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday will also qualify as a public holiday. Employers must keep in mind that the calculation of remuneration with regards to any public holiday must be handled in the same way, regardless of whether the public holiday falls on a Sunday.

The calculation of remuneration payable for public holidays can be confusing. Two scenarios are applicable:

Scenario 1: The public holiday falls on a day that the employee would normally work:

  • Remuneration if the employee is expected to work on this day: double the employee’s daily wage (regardless of the number of hours worked).
  • Remuneration if the employee is not expected to work on this day: the employee’s normal daily wage.

Scenario 2: The public holiday falls on a day that the employee would not normally work:

  • Remuneration if the employee is expected to work on this day: the employee’s daily wage plus the employee’s hourly rate for hours worked (take note that the employee must be payed for a minimum of at least 4 hours, even if the employee worked for less than 4 hours).
  • Remuneration if the employee is not expected to work on this day: no remuneration.

Reasonable notice and exchange of public holidays

The employer must give employees reasonable notice should employees be expected to work on a public holiday. In terms of the PHA a public holiday can be exchanged with another day, but only when there is a written agreement in place with an employee for this exchange. When a public holiday is exchanges, the employee will only receive the normal daily rate for both days.

Contact the LWO for any assistance or advise with this matter.

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LWO Regsadviseur - LWO Legal Advisor

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