How to accumulate leave and when you can apply

annual leave
30 May 2022

In this article we will be exploring all the different types of leave and when you have the right to apply.

What the law says about leave

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act applies to all employers and workers in South Africa and regulates leave, working hours, employment contracts, deductions, pay slips and terminations. The Act does not apply to members of the National Defence Force, National Intelligence Agency, South African Secret Service and unpaid volunteers working for charities.

Annual leave entitlement

This is the most common type of leave requested. All employees have the right to annual leave. However, there are a few pointers to take note of before you are entitled to apply:

  • Employees who work for 24 hours or more a month for the same employer may take annual leave.
  • Every employee is entitled to 21 consecutive days annual leave on full pay in every leave cycle. This equates to 15 working days per year if you work a five-day week and 18 working days per year if you work a six-day week.
  • A “leave cycle” means a period of 12 months commencing from the first day of employment or commencing from the end of the previous leave cycle.
  • Employers may not pay workers instead of granting leave, except on termination of employment.
  • Public holidays are not counted as leave.
  • Annual leave may only be taken in an agreement between you and your employer. In the absence of any such agreement, annual leave must be taken at a time to suit your employer. This means that an employer may have a policy stating that certain periods will be regarded as a shutdown period and all employees are required to take annual leave for this period of closure.
  • Calculation of accrual of leave – 1,25 days per month or 1,5 days per month.

Sick leave entitlement

The objective of sick leave is to ensure that you do not have to work while sick, risking your health and that of your fellow colleagues. During the first year of employment, you are entitled to one day’s paid sick leave for every 26 days worked. Those who work a five-day week are entitled to 30 days’ sick leave in a sick leave cycle and if you work a six-day week you are entitled to 36 days’ sick leave in a sick leave cycle. Unused sick leave will lapse at the end of the sick leave cycle.

Sick leave procedure

Absence due to illness is to be reported directly to your manager or Human Resources (HR) as soon as it is possible to do so, stating the general nature of your illness and the estimated duration of absence. Thereafter contact must be made at regular intervals (at least once a week) in the case of prolonged illness.

Medical certificates or proof of incapacity

A medical certificate is required on request of your employer when you are absent from work for more than two consecutive days or when you are absent on more than two occasions during an eight-week period. It is also important to note that your medical certificate must also state that you are unable to work for the duration of the time that you have been booked off.

Family responsibility leave

This type of leave is only available if you have worked for longer than four months for the same employer. You are entitled to three days of paid family leave which replaces what was previously known as paternity leave, special leave and compassionate leave.

This type of leave covers instances where:

  • A child is born
  • Your child or adopted child is sick
  • The death of your spouse or life partner, parent, adopted parent, grandchild, grandparent, brother or sister.

Religious leave

This type of leave is dependent on whether your employer has stipulated in your employment contract that you have a specific number of days you may take for religious observance. This leave is not accumulated and, in the event you do not have set religious leave, any time taken off for any religious reasons will be regarded as annual leave.

Maternity leave

All female employees have a right to four months’ maternity leave when they are pregnant. By law, your employer is not obliged to give you paid maternity leave, but you are entitled to four consecutive months of maternity leave. The maternity leave may begin at any time from at least four weeks before the birth of your baby. The maternity leave may also be taken earlier if a medical condition does not allow you to work.

Paternity leave

Also referred to as parental leave, an employee is entitled to 10 consecutive days of this specific leave. You are entitled to take this leave on the first occurring date between the date your child is born, the date an adoption order is granted, or the date that a child is placed in the care of a prospective adoptive parent by a competent court, pending the finalisation of an adoption order.

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

It is important that you are granted all specific leave days. You have the right to take your leave or have it paid out when your employment contract is terminated with your employer. Our legal advisors are here to assist you 24/7. Contact us:

Article sourced from Legal&Tax.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Michael Visser

Michael Visser is a legal advisor at Legal&Tax. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) Law and LLB from The University of Pretoria. Read more about Michael Visser


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