What Does The Law Say About Notice Periods In South Africa

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What Does The Law Say About Notice Periods In South Africa

As an employee in South Africa, it is important to be aware of your company's notice period policy. This is the amount of time you are required to give your employer before resigning from your position. Notice periods can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on your contract. While it may be tempting to quit without giving any notice, this can often lead to negative consequences and is not recommended.

The notice period ensures that the employer has time to find a replacement for the employee and to transition them out of their role.

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) in South Africa sets out the notice periods that employees and employers must give each other when terminating a contract of employment. These notice periods vary depending on the length of service of the employee, and whether the termination is for a cause or without cause. Employers must also ensure that they follow the correct procedure for terminating a contract, as set out in the LRA.

You can read the full BCEA here


Notice periods as per BCEA


Summary of the minimum notice periods for South African employees.


What are the notice periods for part-time employees? 


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


Is there a notice period 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.

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 three below:


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


Are there notice periods for independent contractors?  


Independent contractors, also called freelancers, are not considered company employees 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.

These contractors do not fall under the BCEA's regulation because they are not employees of the company. Notice periods, in this case, are dependent on the agreement in the terms of the contract. 


Here are some frequently asked questions about notice periods:


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

Yes, for permanent and fixed-term employment contracts, either employers or employees may give the required notice period. 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, which 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 specify a working week, in which case they must still adhere to the BCEA's time limits.


What is a ‘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 preferred 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?

The notice period in the nation where the company is registered applies to you if you are a South African employee of an international company. Adhere to the stipulations 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 agrees to a more extended notice period on the employment contract, you are bound to that more extended 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.


The Benefits of a Longer Notice Period: 

Some employers may require a longer notice period, such as four weeks. There are several benefits to having a longer notice period. First, it allows the employer to find a replacement for the employee who is leaving. Second, it gives the employer time to train the new employee and hand over essential projects. 


Can I take annual leave during the notice period?

Employers usually don’t allow employees to take annual leave during their notice period to ensure the continuity of the business and a smooth handover 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 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. 


3 key things to consider before leaving your job without working your notice period

When you're considering leaving your job, there are a few key things you should take into account. First, you should make sure you have another job lined up. Second, you should think about whether or not you're willing to work your notice period. And third, you should consider the potential consequences of leaving without working out your 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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