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Annual Leave and Sick Leave in South Africa: A Guide for Overseas Employers

When employing abroad HR departments need to know the host country laws about sick leave and annual holiday leave, to make sure that statutory minimums are being met.  So, if leave is being included in the employment contract, the number of days must meet local minimums even if those are more than at home.

We had a client that was onboarding an employee in South Africa and needed clarification on leave amounts required in that country.  Here is how we advised them:

Sick Leave in South Africa

The South African Department of Labour sets the number of sick leave days, and they use an unusual formula as follows:

  • Sick leave totals the number of days an employee would work in a 6-week period (30 days), and that is the total amount available to use over three years.
  • The full amount is only available after 6 months of employment, and prior to that the employee only accrues one day of sick leave for every 26 days worked.
  • Any sick days taken during the first 6 months would be deducted from the 30-day/3 year total.

Our client wanted to only give 15 days of sick leave to the employee based on his home contract, but that would not be enough to meet the minimums after six months, so we advised them on the South African rules to be compliant.

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Holiday Leave in South Africa

Holiday leave in South Africa is accrued at the minimum rate of 1.25 days per month of employment, which equals 15 days per year.  Those days are not offered upfront and can only be taken as they accrue, so the employee starts at zero and accumulates leave time during the year.

Our client wanted to offer their employee 20 days per year, so we advised them that they could do so and use the accrual method rather than offering the leave up front.  This would mean that 1.667 days would accrue during each month of employment.

The client also wanted to know if unused leave was ‘rolled over’ into the following year, or did it have to be taken in the year it was accrued.  There is no statutory rule on this, so we advised them it was their choice, as long as the employee was given an opportunity to use the leave. 

We suggested they could use a ‘truncation rule’ for unused leave, which would mean the employee has up to six months to use it after their employment anniversary.  After that, they would lose it permanently.

The Shield GEO Solution

We supports our clients’ international assignments, from onboarding, obtaining work visas, setting up payroll and complying with employment statutes.  Our local in-country experts are involved at every stage, and the employer of record in the host country will ensure a seamless and compliant deployment of staff abroad.

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Looking for a better way to employ someone in a new country? Get in touch.

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