Payment for Public Holidays

South African Engineers’ and Founders’ Association

6 May 2019

The months of April and May 2019 have several public holidays in recognition of noteworthy events in South Africa’s history – as well as a day set aside for the country’s 6th democratic elections. In light of this, it is important to understand what payment employees are entitled to for these days, should they work or not.
 
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA) and the Main Agreement both contain sections pertaining to work and payment of employees for public holidays. The BCEA sets out general provisions which overlap with several sections of the Main Agreement. However, the Main Agreement contains additional entitlements in certain circumstances.
 
A. Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (non-scheduled staff including office/admin/salary staff )
 
Section 18(1) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act provides as follows:
 
“An employer may not require an employee to work on a public holiday except in accordance with an agreement.”

This means that an employee is only required to work on a public holiday if he or she agrees to work, including where they have agreed contractually to work on public holidays.

Section 18(2) provides further that if the public holiday occurs on a day that the employee would have ordinarily worked then that the employee is entitled to be paid a minimum of double his or her normal wage rate for the day. If his or her wage rate plus his or her wage for the time worked totals more than double the normal wage rate, then he or her must be paid the higher of the two.

The amount to be paid to the employee must be the higher of the following to calculations:
 
The ordinary wage for the working day x 2
 
= AMOUNT TO BE PAID TO EMPLOYEE
 
OR

(The ordinary wage for the working day) + (The wage for the time worked)
= AMOUNT TO BE PAID TO EMPLOYEE

If, however, the employee does not work on the public holiday, he or she is to be paid his or her normal wage rate for the day. Section 18, therefore, creates the entitlement of an employee to have the full day off on full pay.

Section 18(4) prescribes that an employer must pay an employee for a public holiday on the employee's usual pay day.

B. Main Agreement in the Metal Industry (scheduled staff including factory floor/wage workers)

Section 11(1)(a) provides that an employee who does not work on a public holiday, which falls on a day he or she would have ordinarily work, the employee is entitled to be paid his or her normal wage rate for the day.

However, if an employee does work on a public holiday, which falls on a day he or she would have ordinarily work,  section 11(1)(b) provides that the employee is entitled to his or her normal wage rate for the day and to be paid one and one-third times the hourly rate for the ordinary hours worked that day. Where the employee works overtime hours on this day, he or she is to be paid two and a half times the hourly rate for any overtime hours worked.

This would be calculated as follows:
 
(The ordinary wage for the working day) + (1.33 x the ordinary hourly rate x number of ordinary hours worked) + (2.5 x the ordinary hourly rate x number of overtime hours worked)
 
= AMOUNT TO BE PAID TO EMPLOYEE

Section 11(1)(d) provides for the circumstance where an employee works on a public holiday which falls on a day which is not an ordinary working day for the employee, such as Saturday, 27 April 2019. If this occurs the employees is entitled to be paid the wage he is entitled to on an ordinary working day and to be paid one and one-third times the hourly rate for the ordinary hours worked that day. Where the employee works overtime hours on this day, he or she is to be paid two and a half times the hourly rate for any overtime hours worked.

This would be calculated as follows:
 
(The wage paid to the employee for the time which is worked by him or her on an ordinary working day, i.e. 8 hours) + (1.33 x the ordinary hourly rate x number of ordinary hours worked) + (2.5 x the ordinary hourly rate x number of overtime hours worked)
 
= AMOUNT TO BE PAID TO EMPLOYEE

For example, Saturday, 27 April 2019 was Freedom Day. Saturday may not have been an ordinary working day for many employees. An employee who was required to work on this day would be paid the wage he or she is entitled to for an ordinary working day plus 1.33 times the rate of pay for the number of ordinary hours worked on the day.

As the elections on the 8th of May are quickly approaching, many workers may be returning home to cast their vote. We would recommend that you speak with your staff prior to the 8th of May and request that all those who are returning home speak with you beforehand. This precaution is to guard against any circumstances whereby an employee does not return to work on Thursday 9th of May because he or she travelled long distances in order to vote. When speaking with the employees concerned, it is advisable to make it clear that 09 May 2019 is an ordinary working day and they are expected to report for duty. If they will not be able to do so the necessary leave arrangements should be made.