Hire in South Africa
Here’s where you get started with human resources best practices and hiring in South Africa.
Key Country Facts
South Africa, officially called the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is Africa’s southernmost country. It is classified by the World Bank as a newly industrialized country and hosts the second-largest economy in Africa after Nigeria. It is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and G20. South Africa has three capital cities: Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial) and Cape Town (legislative).
South Africa is bound to the south by 2,798 kilometers of coastline stretching along the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. To the north, it borders the neighboring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. To the east and northeast, it is bordered by Mozambique and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). South Africa surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho.
South Africa has a generally temperate climate, as it is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides. The climatic zones range, including the extreme desert of the southern Namib Desert in the farthest northwest to the lush, subtropical climate of the east. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa’s winters occur between June and August.
South Africa is one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries. A substantial majority of the South Africans still live in rural areas where cultural traditions have survived. South African culture is not homogeneous; rather the country is home to a range of cultures. Different cultures are predominant in different regions. Some of South Africa’s prominent cultures are the Khoikhoi and San, Zulu, Ndebele, Xhosa and Sotho cultures.
Christians account for almost 80% of the population, with a majority of them being members of various Protestant denominations and a minority of Roman Catholics and other Christians. Approximately 15% of South Africans have no religious affiliation. The rest of the population identifies as Muslims, Hindus, traditional African religion, Judaism or they are unspecified.
The country has 11 official languages: Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venḓa, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans and English. The majority of South Africans are able to speak more than one language. Zulu is spoken by 23% of the population, followed by Xhosa (16%) and Afrikaans (14%). English is the primary language of parliamentary and state discourse.
South Africa HR at a Glance
The Republic of South Africa consists of nine provinces. Provincial governments have the authority to legislate certain areas. However, employment law is solely under the purview of the central government.
The main platforms of employment legislation are the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and Labor Relations Act (LRA). The BCEA addresses matters such as written contracts, payment of wages, working time, rest breaks, annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, other parenthood-related leave, family responsibility leave and notice periods. The provisions under the BCEA exclude employees who work less than 24 hours a month. The LRA regulates issues such as unfair dismissal, unfair labor practices, trade unions, collective bargaining, strikes, workplace representation, fixed-term contracts and part-time work.
Other key employment laws are the National Minimum Wage Act, Employment Equity Act (EEA) and Occupational Health and Safety Act.
An employer should furnish a formal, written employment agreement with a worker, including specific prescribed provisions such as remuneration, hours of work and leave entitlements.
South African law recognizes both fixed-term (limited duration) and open-ended (indefinite) employment contracts. The framework also allows for both full-time and part-time work.
The use of temporary workers through agencies is allowed. However, if such workers are engaged for a period exceeding three months, they will be deemed to be employees of the client (employer) and not of the agency.
An employment contract may be written or oral. However, under the BCEA, employees who work at least 24 hours per month must be provided a written statement of the main particulars of their employment:
- employer’s full name and address
- employee’s name
- employee’s job role and responsibilities
- place of work
- start date of employment
- ordinary hours and days of work
- remuneration or the rate and method of calculating wages
- rate for overtime work
- cash payment or other payment in kind the employee is entitled to
- frequency of method of wage payment
- deductions to be made from remuneration
- leave entitlement
- notice period in event of employment termination or, if employment is for a specified period, the termination date
- any period of employment with a previous employer counting toward the employee’s length of service with the current employer
- a list of any other documents that form part of the employment contract, indicating a location that should be accessible to the employee
Employers with fewer than five employees do not need to provide written information on the three last items listed above.
The employer must ensure the employee understands the contents of the document. Where necessary, they must also confirm the provisions of the document are explained to the employee in a language and a manner they will understand.
An employer is permitted to require an applicant to undergo a medical examination if legislation permits or requires the testing.
Criminal background check
A criminal background check can be performed, subject to the individual‘s informed consent. However, prior authorization from the Information Regulator is required if the criminal record check is to be performed by a third party.
Reference and education checks
Employers are permitted to conduct professional reference and education checks, provided the individual is informed and provides his or /her consent.
Probation Period / Trial Period
There is no prescribed limit on an employee’s probation period. However, the period must be agreed with the employee in advance and be of a reasonable duration.
Termination of employment during the probation period is subject to the contractual termination notice. This cannot be less than one week’s notice if the employee has been employed for less than six months; the period cannot be less than two weeks’ notice if the employee has been employed for more than six months but less than one year.
Weekly working time must not exceed 45 hours. Daily working time must not exceed eight hours if the work schedule is more than five days per week; daily working time must not exceed nine hours if the work schedule is five days or less per week.
An employee may agree to work a “compressed working week.” In this arrangement, the employee works on five days per week or fewer and may work up to 12 hours on one or more days per week without this being considered overtime. The employee’s normal weekly working time must not exceed 45 hours and they must not work more than 10 hours of overtime in any given week.
Employees must generally be granted a meal interval of at least 60 minutes after five hours of continuous work. Employees must also be granted a daily rest period of at least 12 consecutive hours; a weekly rest period of at least 36 consecutive hours must also be granted. This weekly rest period must include Sunday, unless agreed otherwise.
Employees may work overtime only if they agree to or if an applicable collective agreement provides for this. Employees must not work more than 10 hours of overtime per week, though a collective agreement may permit them to work up to 15 hours of overtime for up to two months in any 12-month period. An employee can legally refuse to work more than 12 hours in any one day
Employees must be compensated for overtime, with a pay supplement of at least 50% on top of their normal rate. However, by agreement, an employee can be compensated with:
- normal pay for overtime hours worked, plus time off in lieu of 30 minutes for every hour worked
- time off in lieu of 90 minutes for every overtime hour worked but no payment for the overtime hours
The Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act, together with the Income Tax Act, oblige employers to retain records for each employee of remuneration paid, tax which has been deducted and unemployment insurance fund contributions and payments.
These records should be stored for five years from the date of the last entry. They must be available for inspection by the South African Revenue Service and Unemployment Insurance Fund officials.
There are three common types of bonuses in South Africa: the Christmas bonus (or ‘13th cheque’), annual performance bonus and production bonus. Employers are not legally required to pay out bonuses. However, if it arises out of established custom or practice, it becomes a condition of employment.
For example, if the Christmas bonus has become expected, it becomes necessary for the employer to inform the employees at least six months in advance if it will not be paid in any given year. If an employer only advises employees near the year-end that no bonus will be paid, it can be considered unfair labor practice.
To avoid this, many employers have done away with the Christmas bonus. Instead, they have incorporated the amount into the employee’s basic salary.
It is important for employees to be mindful that the payment of bonuses is not guaranteed. At the same time, employers should ensure they inform employees within a reasonable period if bonuses will not be paid.
Employment law does not recognize the concept of the termination of an employee’s employment “without cause” or “at will.” The employer is always required to act fairly when terminating a contract, both substantively and procedurally. Termination of a contract by the employer is generally only permissible if the employee is in breach of the employment contract.
There are three recognized fair grounds for dismissal. For each there are specific procedures that must be followed:
- Misconduct: the employer should conduct an investigation and disciplinary enquiry
- Operational requirements (redundancy/retrenchment): employer and employee should engage in a consultation process to arrive at a consensus
- Incapacity (ill health, poor work performance and incompatibility): this may involve providing the employee with assistance or time to improve or seek alternatives
Notice of termination of employment, when given by the employer, must not be given during any period of leave to which the employee is entitled (except sick leave).
Employees are entitled to resign with notice at any time and for any reason. An employee is also entitled to terminate employment without notice if the employer has made continued employment intolerable or risky.
South African law provides for specific minimum periods of notice to be provided to employees as follows:
- Period of employment 0 < 6 months: 1 week notice
- Period of employment 6 < 12 months: 2 weeks notice
- Period of employment >12 months: 4 weeks notice
The same periods apply to an employee’s resignation if the employment contract does not state the notice period. However, the parties can contractually agree to a longer period of notice. This is common for senior management and executives. A collective agreement may also dictate longer periods of notice.
An employee may be compensated in lieu of notice.
Redundancy / Severance Pay
If an employee is dismissed for operational reasons, the employer has to pay a minimum of one week’s remuneration for every completed year of service. Furthermore, additional payments agreed upon in the consultation process must be offered.
The employer may pay remuneration in lieu of notice, irrespective of who gives notice, but with the employee’s agreement.
Post-Termination Restraints / Restrictive Covenants
Restrictive covenants are enforceable in principle. However, the enforcing party must prove a proprietary interest worth protecting and legitimate business interest (e.g. client relationships or trade secrets). The restraint must be reasonable in its nature, duration and geographical area.
For non-competes, a 12 month period is generally regarded as reasonable.
Other Termination Formalities
When employment ends, the employee is entitled to receive from the employer a certificate of service stating the following:
- the employee’s full name
- the employer’s name and address
- the dates that employment started and ended
- the title of the job or a brief description of the work for which the employee was employed at the termination date
- the employee’s remuneration at the termination date
- the reason for termination of employment (if the employee requests)
- a description of any bargaining council or sectoral determination that covers the employer’s business
The entitlement to a certificate of service does not apply to employees who work less than 24 hours a month.
A fixed-term contract terminates upon the occurrence of a specified event, the completion of a specified task or project or a fixed date other than an employee’s normal or agreed retirement age.
Fixed term contracts should be used only for specific, justifiable reasons, such as limited duration of the assignment or project, seasonal work, apprenticeships for students or recent graduates or to accommodate the temporary increase in volume of work not expected to last more than 12 months. Any extension or renewal of a fixed-term contract will be interpreted as continued employment. Thus, any subsequent failure to extend or renew will be regarded as an unfair termination.
There are some statutory restrictions on fixed-term contracts, namely:
- It is only applicable for employees who earn below a certain threshold (ZAR 203,433.30 per year)
- For employers with at least 10 employees (or at least 50 employees for employers who have been in business for less than 2 years)
If fixed-term employment lasts for longer than three months without a proven justifiable reason, the employee is deemed to have an indefinite-term contract with the employer.
If an employee has been employed for longer than 24 months on a fixed-term contract for a specific project with a limited or defined duration, the employer must pay the employee one week’s remuneration for each completed year as severance when the contract expires. In lieu of this, the employer can offer indefinite term employment on the same terms.
Tax and Social Security
Personal Income Tax
South Africa has a progressive rate of income tax, ranging from 18–45% depending on income bracket. Non-residents are subject to the same tax rates as residents. Employers must withhold the income tax due from employees’ pay and remit the contribution to the tax authorities. Withholdings from employment income are made under the Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) system.
|Taxable Income (ZAR)||Tax Rate|
|0 – 216,000||18% of taxable income|
|216,201 – 337,800||ZAR 38,916 + 26% of taxable income above ZAR 216,201|
|337,801 – 467,500||ZAR 70,532 + 31% of taxable income above ZAR 337,801|
|467,501 – 613,600||ZAR 110,739 + 36% of taxable income above ZAR 467,501|
|613,601 – 782,200||ZAR 163,335 + 39% of taxable income above ZAR 613,601|
|782,201 – 1,656,600||ZAR 229,089 + 41% of taxable income above ZAR 782,201|
|>1,656,601||ZAR 587,593 + 45% of taxable income above ZAR 1,656,601|
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) manages social security payments.
SASSA grants are administered along with insurance-based schemes, covering areas such as unemployment and child benefits. Social security is funded by national income tax and payments into insurance-based funds, overseen by the Ministry of Social Development.
Work-related social security benefits – such as unemployment, sickness or maternity pay – are insurance-based and linked to SASSA payments.
There is no obligation on employers to provide pension fund benefits to employees.
Deductions from Pay
Pay as You Earn (PAYE): This is the tax required to be deducted by an employer from an employee’s payable or paid remuneration.
If an employer is registered with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) for PAYE or Skills Development Levy (SDL) purposes, it is also required to register with SARS for the payment of Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) contributions to SARS. They are payable monthly, along with the income tax that the employer has withheld on its employees’ salaries.
|Employer (%)||Employee (%)|
|Unemployment Insurance Fund||1.0||1.0|
|Skills Development Levies*||1.0||0.0|
|Workers’ Compensation Levies**||Rate varies by industry.||Rate varies by industry.|
*Small employers with annual payroll less than ZAR 500,000 are exempt from the levy.
**The Workers’ Compensation Fund sends employers notices of assessments from April every year, informing them how much levy to pay. This is done throughout the year; it is not possible to predict when employers will receive their notices.
The above rates serve as a broad guideline. Actual rates charged by GoGlobal will differ.
- The BCEA states employers must pay employees their remuneration in South African currency on a daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. The most common mode of payment is a direct deposit into a bank account designated by the employee.
- Any remuneration paid in cash or by cheque must be given to the employee at the workplace (or a place agreed to by the employee) during the employee’s working hours or within 15 minutes of the start or end of those hours, in a sealed envelope.
- The employer must remit remuneration to the employee no later than seven days after the completion of the period for which it is payable or, where relevant, no later than seven days after the termination of the employment contract.
- The rules on payment of wages and requirement of payslips do not apply to employees who work less than 24 hours a month.
An employer with five or more employees must provide certain information in writing (i.e. a payslip) when paying an employee. This includes:
- employer’s name and address
- employee’s name and occupation
- pay period
- remuneration in monetary form
- amount and purposes of any deductions
- net amount paid to the employee
Where relevant, the following details should also be provided:
- the employee’s normal and overtime pay rates
- the amount of normal and overtime hours worked during the pay period
- any working time completed worked on a Sunday or public holiday during the pay period
- the total normal and overtime hours worked during the reference period (if the employee is covered by an hours-averaging scheme)
- Employees are entitled to at least 21 consecutive days of paid annual leave. The employee is entitled to take the leave in a single block but, if agreed upon, may take the leave in one or more shorter periods. Employees are entitled to the accrued leave within six months of continuous employment.
- For fixed term or part-time employees, the annual leave entitlement may be calculated proportionately, e.g. one day leave for every 17 days worked (or was entitled to be paid for) or one hour’s leave for every 17 hours worked.
- During annual leave, employees must be compensated at their normal remuneration rate. The general rule is the employer should pay the employee for the whole period of annual leave before it starts. However, by agreement, the employee may instead be paid on their normal payday.
- An employer must permit an employee to take any of their statutory annual leave entitlement during sick leave, maternity leave, parental leave, family responsibility leave, or during a notice period. If a public holiday falls during an employee’s annual leave, on a day when the employee would normally have worked, the employer must grant the employee an additional day of annual leave.
Sick leave entitlement is based on a ‘sick leave cycle’ of 36 months, starting from the date the employee commenced employment. For each sick leave cycle, the entitlement is six weeks. This translates to 30 days of paid sick leave for employees working a five-day week and 36 days for employees working a six-day week.
For the first six months of employment, the employee is entitled to one day of paid sick leave for every 26 days worked. If an employee uses up their six-week statutory paid sick leave entitlement during a sick leave cycle, any further sick leave before the cycle ends will be unpaid.
Employees must be paid their normal remuneration on the normal payment day during sick leave. However, if agreed upon, employees can be paid less than their normal full pay if the number of paid sick leave during a cycle is increased. The payment cannot be less than 75% of normal pay; at 75% of pay, this equates to the employee being entitled to 25% more paid days of leave. This works out to a total of 37.5 days for employees working a five-day week and 45 days for employees working a six-day week.
Family Responsibility Leave
Employees who work at least four days a week and have been in service with an employer for at least four months are entitled to take paid family responsibility leave of up to three days per year in the event of their child being sick or upon the death of an immediate family member.
This leave cannot be carried over. Employees may apply the leave in units of less than one day. The employer has the right to obtain reasonable proof from the employee.
Maternity & Parental Leave
Pregnant employees are entitled to maternity leave of at least four consecutive months. This leave can be taken from any point four weeks before the expected date of birth or earlier if medically necessary. An employee should not work in the first six weeks immediately after childbirth and can do so only if medically certified.
An employee who suffers a miscarriage during the third semester of the pregnancy or bears a stillborn child is entitled to six weeks’ maternity leave after this event, regardless of whether maternity leave has already commenced.
The employee must inform the employer of the intended start and end dates of maternity leave at least four weeks before the leave is planned to commence or as soon as it is reasonably practicable.
Employers do not need to pay statutory entitlements during maternity leave. If the employee has been in employment for at least 13 weeks before the start of maternity leave, and have contributed to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), the employee will be entitled to receive all or part of the maternity benefits capped at ZAR 17,712 per month and ZAR 4087 per week.
It is relatively common for employers to pay employees at least part of their wages during maternity leave. In such cases, the UIF maternity benefit tops up the pay from the employer up to no more than 100% of the employee’s normal remuneration.
UIF maternity benefit is paid based on the employee’s contribution history, where four years of contributions are required for a full four months of maternity benefit entitlement.
Breastfeeding employees are entitled under the BCEA to two unpaid breaks of at least 30 minutes per day to feed their child.
An employee who is the parent of a child has the right, under the BCEA, to take “parental leave” of at least 10 consecutive days. This leave period begins when the child is born. This is not applicable to the biological mother, who will be entitled to maternity leave.
Other Parenthood-related Leave
An employee who adopts a child under the age of 2 is entitled to an adoption leave period of at least 10 consecutive weeks, starting when the adoption order is issued or the date when the child is placed with the employee prior to the adoption order being finalized, whichever is earlier
If an employee enters into an agreement commissioning a woman to bear a surrogate child, he or she is entitled to take “commissioning parent leave” of at least 10 consecutive weeks. This begins when the child is born.
If a child is adopted by a couple, only one parent is entitled to take adoption leave. Likewise, if two employees have entered into an agreement commissioning a surrogacy, only one of them is entitled to take commissioning parent leave. However, the other parent is entitled to 10 days parental leave in connection with the adoption or birth.
The employee must inform the employer of the intended start and end dates of parenthood-related leave at least one month before the leave is planned to commence, or as soon as it is reasonably practical.
Employees who have been in employment for at least 13 weeks and who contribute to the UIF are entitled to receive benefits during all or part of the leave. The benefit is set at 66% of the employee’s normal pay. If the employer pays the employee part of their wages during leave, the UIF benefit tops up the pay from the employer up to no more than 100% of the employee’s normal remuneration.
There are 12 public holidays per year. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the holiday is transferred to the following Monday.
By agreement, a public holiday may be exchanged for another day off. For example, employees may work on a public holiday with normal pay and be granted a day off on another agreed date.
Benefits to the Employee in South Africa
SASSA grants cover the following areas:
- Older person >60 years of age earning less than ZAR 69,000 or with assets less than ZAR 990,000
- War Veterans Grant for >60 years of age, registered as disabled and have fought in the Second World War or the Korean War
- Grants In Aid: additional grant for recipients of older person, war veteran or disability grant if full-time attendance of carer is required
- Disability Grant for those aged 18-59 and assessed as medically disabled
- Child Support Grant: for primary caregivers of children under 18, where the applicant does not earn >ZAR 42,000/year or >ZAR 84,000 if living with a spouse
- Care Dependency Grant: for children under 18 with severe disabilities requiring full-time care; for caregivers earning <ZAR 180,000 if single or >ZAR 360,000 if living with a spouse
- Foster Child Grant: for foster parents with children under 18
- Social Relief in Distress: temporary assistance for those in desperate need, unable to meet basic needs for themselves or their family (maximum three months payout, extendable for another three months in exceptional cases)
Healthcare benefits are administered by the Department of Health, which runs provincial hospitals in South Africa. South African citizens and permanent residents can access free primary healthcare. Unemployment insurance is paid through the UIF.
Visas and Foreign Workers
Foreign nationals are generally required to obtain a visa specifically permitting them to work, issued by the Department of Home Affairs. This allows them to be employed in South Africa. There are several types of work visas available including general employment, inter-company transfer (ICT), highly-skilled migrant or business entrepreneur.
Work visas last for the same time as the employment contract or for a maximum number of years. In general, visa extensions are possible.
Types of work visas:
- General Work Visa is the most common type of visa; the employer needs to prove the position cannot be filled by a South African.
- Critical Skills Work Visa is intended to employ workers with skills regarded as exceptional by the South African government. This visa is valid for a maximum of five years with extensions possible.
- Intra-company transfer: This scheme is for applicants who have worked for a minimum of six months in the company’s foreign office before relocating to the South African branch. It is issued for four years and is not extendable.
- Corporate Visas are issued to an employing company, allowing the company to employ several foreign workers during a specific period.
- Business Visa is for applicants who can invest substantial capital and show a business plan.
Public Holidays in 2022
|1||New Year’s Day||January 1st|
|2||Human Rights Day||March 21st|
|3||Good Friday||April 15th|
|4||Family Day (Easter Monday)||April 18th|
|5||Freedom Day||April 27th|
|6||Workers’ Day||May 1st|
|7||Youth Day||June 16th|
|8||National Women’s Day||August 9th|
|9||Heritage Day||September 24th|
|10||Day of Reconciliation||December 16th|
|11||Christmas Day||December 25th|
|12||Day of Goodwill||December 26th|