South African labour law is fairly progressive compared to many other parts of the world, affording a good deal of protection to both employers and employees. At the centre of labour, legislation is the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), No. 75 of 1997, as amended by the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Act, No. 11 of 2002. This is the core of labour law in the country; it governs working conditions and relationships and cannot be overruled even by other agreements.
The BCEA applies to businesses of all sizes and types; it governs all workers and employers except for those serving in the National Defence Force, National Intelligence Agency, South African Secret Service, as well as unpaid volunteers working for charities. It is a legal requirement that the Act is displayed in workplaces in the official languages spoken there so that everyone remains aware of their rights at all times.
The Act is very comprehensive, setting out detailed requirements for the smooth, fair workplace functioning of employees and employers. For a start, the BCEA dictates ordinary working hours, capping them at 45 hours a week. It sets out overtime rules and prescribes rates. It also regulates remuneration for Sunday and holiday work. Also, the Act details daily meal breaks and rest periods, as well as leave of all kinds – annual, sick, maternity and family responsibility leave, down to the number of days and obligations of both the employer and employee in taking the leave
Other work conditions that the Act governs are administrative tasks such as the keeping of employment records, payment times and required information for pay slips, deductions and more. The Act also dictates acceptable notice periods for termination of employment on both the employer and employee’s side. While employees may be excluded from certain sections of the Act based on their salary level, it is not possible to sign away its basic protections. The BCEA prevents employers from exploiting their employees, as well as employees taking advantage of employers. Neither party can ignore the conditions of the Act, and work contracts must reflect and honour its provisions. Any questions or concerns regarding employment conditions can generally be answered by consulting the BCEA. It is recommended that employees familiarise themselves with the Act, which can be downloaded online so that they have a firm understanding of what is and is not reasonable when it comes to working.
It is, of course, also essential that employers have a good understanding of the BCEA to ensure that they operate in a manner that is fully compliant with labour laws. However, most bosses are not legal experts. This is where labour assistance can be beneficial – and indeed, most employers rely on a legal expert for advice. An experienced labour consultant can provide clarity on the sections of the Act and answer any questions you might have. To find out how you can connect with one of our labour consultants, contact us today. For any queries visit www.chamlabour.co.za .