The Republic of South Africa is made up of nine provinces. Provincial governments have authority to legislate in certain areas but employment law is solely the competence of the central Government.

The Constitution (adopted in 1996 following the establishment of majority rule) gives all workers trade union and strike rights, along with a right to “fair labour practices”. It also guarantees equality and protection against discrimination on numerous grounds and provides for affirmative action in favour of people from disadvantaged groups.

The main items of employment legislation are the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and Labour Relations Act (LRA). The BCEA deals with matters including written particulars of employment, payment of wages, working time, rest breaks/periods, annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, other parenthood-related leave, family responsibility leave and notice periods. The LRA regulates issues such as unfair dismissal, unfair labour practices, trade unions, collective bargaining, strikes, workplace representation, fixed-term contracts and part-time work. A feature of the BCEA and LRA is that certain provisions — eg in relation to working time, rest breaks/periods, fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work and part-time work — do not apply to employees who earn in excess of a certain threshold (ZAR 205,433.30 per year in 2020). Also, employees who work less than 24 hours a month are not covered by many of the BCEA’s protections and entitlements.

Other key employment laws are the National Minimum Wage Act, Employment Equity Act (EEA) and Occupational Health and Safety Act. Statutory Codes of Good Practice play an important role in guiding the detailed application of legislation, especially the BCEA, LRA and EEA. Case law, notably of the labour courts and Constitutional Court, interprets employment legislation.

Other sources of regulation of the employment relationship include sectoral determinations, collective agreements and employment contracts. Sectoral determinations are binding documents issued by the Government that set pay and conditions for employees in certain industries. Collective bargaining occurs principally at industry level, often in officially recognised bargaining councils.

This topic refers to employment law in the private sector only.

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