Many South Africans are now working from home, and although various benefits come with this, the problem is that remote work often leads to an “always-on” culture. In other countries, like France, there are regulations in place that allow employees to negotiate their right to disconnect, but for those working from home in South Africa, the law is not as clear-cut.
That’s not to say there are no regulations in place. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) offers some protection to employees regarding the maximum working hours and overtime. It all comes down to an earnings threshold (R211 596.30 a year), according to experts from legal firm Bowmans, who spoke to BusinessTech.
There may be certain limitations but in general, it is pretty simple. Employees under that threshold who are working from home in South Africa, the law states, may “unplug” in several instances. “Employees who work five days a week, for example, may not be permitted to work more than nine hours in a day or more than 45 hours in a week,” Bowmans notes. “Accordingly, time worked in excess of this amounts to overtime, which can only be required by agreement and is statutorily limited to 10 additional hours in a week per employee.”
Employers must also provide pre-authorization before employees can work overtime. Additionally, employees working ordinary hours as well as overtime cannot be required to work more than 12 hours a day. “These employees, again subject to limited exceptions, are also entitled to a daily rest period of 12 hours from the end of work on one day to the start of work on the next, as well as a weekly rest period of 36 hours, which must include a Sunday, unless otherwise agreed,” Bowmans explains. “This means that any Sunday work must be by agreement.”
When it comes to paying employees working overtime, the BCEA stipulates that they be paid 1.5 times the normal wage for overtime. This amount also applies if they regularly work Sundays and public holidays. However, if they do not, they should be paid double time on these days.
So, what about employees above the earnings threshold?
The BCEA excludes regulations regarding their working hours and overtime. Staff earning above R211 596.30 a year may still be required to work overtime, weekends, and public holidays without additional remuneration, Bowmans says.
These points are usually laid out in their contracts, and failure to adhere to these stipulations may very well be a breach of contract. That being said, employees above the threshold who are working from home in South Africa aren’t sidelined by the law. “The BCEA, which cannot be contracted out of, requires employers to regulate the working time of all employees, including senior employees and those earning above the earnings threshold, from the perspective of health and safety and the family responsibilities of employees,” Bowmans states. “Taking into account the potential adverse physical and mental health consequences that may arise from an always-on-culture, reasonable boundaries may be required when it comes to working hours of more senior employees or those earning above the earnings threshold.”
Although the law does not specifically stipulate what may qualify as reasonable hours for employees in this category, employers should self-regulate according to their environment and requirements.
Disconnecting is important for remote workers, but taking leave is also essential. The problem is that many employees associate taking leave with going on holiday. When working from home, they may be less likely to apply for time off, but this is counterproductive as it can prevent burnout and boost productivity.
This leaves one question though - Do leave policies for remote workers have to change?
The simple answer is no. Regardless of whether employees work from home or at the office, their leave is still governed by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).
It is not always easy to ensure that you are compliant with the BCEA though, especially if you are managing leave manually, which sets up room for errors. Many companies are now turning to online leave management systems as a way of combatting these errors and ensuring they are not breaching the law.
LeavePro is one such system that offers several other functions.
We help you stay compliant with the BCEA, and assist you in catering for annual leave, sick leave, family responsibility leave and other leave types including public holidays, which are also automatically taken into account when applying for leave. But this is a small part of what LeavePro does.
Employees can apply for leave online and check their leave balances via a company calendar. Managers will be notified via email when a leave request is sent for their approval and employees will be notified when their leave is approved or declined. Furthermore, our system allows you to run detailed reports on employee’s leave balances and leave history.
Our system was designed to make the leave management process as simple and easy as possible.
Have you been considering adopting a leave management system into your company? We are offering a 30-day free trial to give you the full experience of what LeavePro has to offer.