Working culture

Hours, holidays and working life in South Africa

Working culture

Business life in South Africa is still facing changes, and there are a couple of customs foreigners should observe. Other than that, the working culture in South Africa is very similar to the rest of the world.

In South Africa, as in most countries, the majority of employees work Monday to Friday, from 9 to 5. They can agree to work extra hours, but less than 10 extra hours a week, and must not work more than 12 hours a day.

Extra time is paid 1.5 times more than regular working hours. Working on Sundays is paid two times higher than regular working hours, only if the employee does not usually work on Sundays (if he does, Sundays are paid 1.5 times higher).

Holidays and vacation

The annual vacation period is of 21 consecutive days (including weekends). There are 12 public holidays a year, which can not be counted as vacation leave. If the period of employment is of less than a year, the employee's entitled 1 day for every 17 days worked, or an hour for every 17 hours worked. Employers cannot offer to pay out their employees instead of granting them an annual leave.

Labour unions

Labour unions have always played a big role in the establishment of democracy and job equality in South Africa (a quarter of the working force is member of a labour union). The most important ones are the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Independent Labour Caucus.

Inequality in wages is still an issue (white people are usually paid more than black people), but labour unions are working hard to change this. There is a difference between union members and those who are not: union members are usually paid better salaries. Employers can also be a part of these organizations.

Business environment

Business in South Africa is quite conservative. As it happens with salaries, the business environment is still divided, but this is slowly changing. Because of that, it is recommendable to address political issues carefully. However, sports is a good topic to bring up at breakfast-, lunch-, and dinner business meetings. Try not to schedule those meetings between mid-December and mid-January, since almost everything is closed down and you will need to postpone them.

The minimum age of employment is 15. Children under 15 are allowed to work for the advertising, artistic, and cultural industries. Between the ages of 15 and 18, some things must be taken into account: the working place and environment must not be harmful for its physical, educational and emotional well-being. They cannot work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, if they do not attend school or during holiday. It is a maximum of 20 hours a week if they attend school. They must not be paid depending on the quality of work done either. In reality, some children from communities that have been discriminated against during apartheid are not working under these conditions.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: