Know your notice period rights

Know your notice period rights

The world of work has changed significantly with employers frequently hiring staff on a contract, part-time or project basis rather than on a full-time, permanent basis. This article outlines the different aspects of notice periods in South Africa and the rights of employers and employees regarding notice periods for various employment contract types. Notice period regulation is governed by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) in South Africa. You can read the full  BCEA here

Notice periods as per BCEA

Summary of the minimum notice periods for South African employees.

 

Notice periods for part-time workers 

The notice period regulations stipulated in the BCEA do not apply to people who work less than 24 hours in a month. 

Part-time work is often associated with working half-day or mornings only. With a month having an average of 21.67 working days, it means that if you are a part-time worker who works five hours per day, the regulations of the BCEA would apply to you, as you work roughly 108 hours per month. See the table below for scenario 1.

Scenario 1 - Part-time work for 5 hours per day on all workdays.
Hours per day Hours per week Hours per month BCEA minimum
5 25 108.35 24

 

Some part-time workers work a reduced number of days per week. If you work a full day of eight hours per day for one day every week of the month, the BCEA would apply to you as you would be working more than 24 hours in the month. See the table below for scenario 2.

Scenario 2 - Part-time work for one full day per week.
Hours per day Hours per week Hours per month BCEA minimum
8 8 32 - 40 24

 

 

Notice periods for fixed term contract workers

Fixed term contracts are often preferred by employers who have a specific project that needs to be completed by a predetermined date. Read more on fixed duration contracts here. The duration of these contracts can be anything less than a month or more than two years. It depends on the need of the employer. The notice period for fixed term or duration contracts is not based on the length of the contract, but rather on how many hours you have already worked. In other words, if the contract is for a year and you have worked for more than four weeks but less than a year, you need to give two weeks notice and not four weeks notice which would be required when working more than a year. See scenario 3 below.

Scenario 3 - Notice period for a person who is hired on a 2-year contract and only worked 4 weeks.
Contract term Number of weeks actually worked Notice period required
2 years 4 weeks 2 weeks

 

Notice periods and Independent contractors 

Independent contractors, also called freelancers, are not considered employees of a company under the BCEA, unless certain conditions are filled. These workers are contracted to complete a project and are not added to the company payroll. For example, when a company hires a consultant to advise on certain business practices, they may hire independent contractors to undertake the work.

As these contractors are not employed by the company, they do not fall under the regulation of the BCEA. Notice periods, in this case, are dependent on the agreement in the terms of the contract. 

 

Frequently asked questions about notice periods

Does the BCEA notice period apply when an employer terminates a contract?

Yes, the notice period stipulated in the BCEA can be given by either employers or employees for permanent and fixed-term employment contracts. Employers need to adhere to strict conditions for the reasons given for the notice of termination. Read more about that here.

 

What is meant by a week in the BCEA?

One week is a calendar week, that means it includes weekends and is seven days from the day of notice regardless of the number of days you work within the period. Definition as per BCEA: “week” in relation to an employee, means the period of seven days within which the working week of that employee ordinarily falls. Employment contracts may state a working week, in which case they must still fall within the time period stipulated by the BCEA. 

 

What is ‘written’ notice?

Companies require a record of the notice period given, and therefore a written notice is required. It can either be a handwritten or a typed letter in the form of an email. Email is often the prefered method, as it can be sent to the Human Resources department as well as the line manager. The manager needs to confirm that they have received the notice.

 

How do notice periods work when working for an international company?

If you are a South African employed by an international company, the notice period of the country in which the company is registered applies. Adhere to the stipulation of the contract signed.

 

Can the notice period be shorter than the period outlined in the BCEA?

No. The BCEA stipulates the minimum notice period. 

 

Can the notice period be longer than the period outlined in the BCEA?

Yes. If you and your employer agree on a longer notice period on the employment contract, you are bound to that longer period. In some cases, it is reasonable for an employer to request more than the BCEA minimum notice period. Longer notice periods are often required for jobs where the nature of the work is complex and the company would require more time to recruit and train a new person to fill the position.

 

Can I take annual leave during the notice period?

Employers usually don’t allow employees to take annual leave during their notice period so as to ensure continuity of the business and a smooth hand-over to the next incumbent. However, if an employee has accumulated considerable annual leave, an employer may ask the employee to shorten their notice and use the annual leave. 

 

Can I leave without working a notice period? 

No, you would be in breach of contract.  In addition, it is unprofessional to leave a job without giving notice and to not work the full notice period. 

 

Making sure that proper and timely notice is given to an employer will ensure that the professional working relationship remains intact. One should always leave a company leaving a good impression, after all, you will require a reference from the employer which can help you further your career path in the future.


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