The lowdown after lockdown on leave and bonuses

The lowdown after lockdown on leave and bonuses
Are you entitled to annual leave and a year end bonus?

This article discusses an employees entitlement to leave, bonus and the effect of COVID-19 and the lockdown in South Africa.

Nadia Hadebe
Nadia Hadebe - Legal Advisor
7 December 2020 | 3 minute read
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It is nearly holiday season and after an upside down world of work this year, you might be wondering what happens now in terms of taking time off or having some extra spending money for festive fun.

Leave is a legal right

According to the law, you are allowed up to 21 consecutive days of paid leave per year if you are employed for at least 24 hours a month and the 21 days include weekends.

This means if you work a five day week, you are entitled to 15 weekday’s leave and if you work a six day week, you should be given 18 day’s leave per annum.

If your company shuts down during the holiday time, you can be forced to take your leave when the company is closed.

If you want to take your leave at another time, you will have to ask for permission.

However, if this does not suit the company because it is during a time when they are especially busy, then they can refuse if it's due to operational reasons.

Bonuses are the boss’s choice

The law does not require a company to pay its employees a bonus.

However, if your contract states that you will get paid a bonus, then you might have a legal right to one, according to contract law.

Nevertheless, this would also only apply if the contract does not give certain conditions for the payment of the bonus. This means for example, that the company states you will only be given an extra payment if you perform to a certain level at your job.

What about Covid-19?

If you catch the virus outside of work, then you can apply for sick leave.  

If you do not qualify for sick leave then you can ask the employer to take annual leave. However, if you also do not have annual leave then you should be allowed to take time off, although it may be unpaid.

If you do not contract the virus but your employer forces you to isolate because someone else at work has the virus, then the recommendation of the government is that the time off should be paid and should not be taken unilaterally from your annual leave.

If you catch the virus on duty, then according to the law –The Workman’s Compensation Act – you will get the time off to quarantine as paid leave. This should not be taken off your normal sick leave.

If the company you work for is not part of essential services and therefore was closed during level 5-4 of the lockdown, then it can apply the no-work no-pay principle.

However this is why the government created its TERS fund which should be a way for you to get some of the money you would have otherwise been paid.

Also during these lockdown stages, annual leave could only be used if you, as the employee, had agreed to do so.  According to the law, your annual leave continues running whether or not you are working, as long as you are actively employed.

Overall, companies had to make complicated decisions to cope with how Covid-19 changed the world. Going forward, your boss might want to make special arrangements when it comes to leave and bonuses this holiday season.

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

Legal&Tax is your companion in navigating labour issues and your legal rights.

Contact one of our legal experts who will guide you as to whether your workplace is being fair and reasonable when it comes to leave and bonuses.

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