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Understanding Employee Pay on Public Holidays in South Africa

In South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) ensures that employees are fairly compensated for public holidays, reflecting the country's commitment to protecting workers' rights. Here's what employers and employees need to now about pay entitlements on public holidays.

Working Hours Requirement

Before we continue, it is important to note that the BCEA applies only to employees who work more than 24 hours a month. Employees working fewer than 24 hours monthly are not covered by these provisions.

Public Holiday Pay Entitlements

Under the BCEA, if a public holiday falls on an employee’s ordinary working day, the following rules apply:

  1. Non-Working Employees: Employees who do not work on a public holiday must be paid their normal daily wage. This means they receive the same pay as if they had worked on that day.

  2. Working Employees: Employees who work on a public holiday are entitled to double their normal rate of pay (or if it is greater - their normal rate of pay, plus payment for the actual number of hours worked).

Work on a public holiday is by agreement only. An employee cannot be forced to work if it has not been contractually agreed.

Applicability across contract types

These provisions are not limited to certain types of employees; they apply universally. Whether you are a permanent, fixed-term, casual, or contract employee, you are entitled to the same protections and benefits regarding public holiday pay. This inclusive approach ensures that all workers receive fair treatment and compensation.

Practical Examples

  • Example 1: Sarah, a full-time retail worker, does not work on Human Rights Day, which is a public holiday. She must still receive her regular daily wage for that day.

  • Example 2: Mpho, a contract IT technician, works on Workers' Day. His employer must pay him double his normal daily wage worked on that public holiday.

  • Example 3: Sindi, a part-time domestic worker, does not work on SA Voting Day, however, she works the next day (which is not her normal working day). Her employer must pay her for her normal daily wage for the public holiday, plus her normal rate for the next day.


South Africa’s approach to public holiday pay under the BCEA is a crucial part of the broader labor rights framework. By guaranteeing pay on public holidays, whether or not an employee works, the law ensures fairness and acknowledges the importance of rest and compensation for all workers, regardless of their employment status.

Employers should stay informed and diligent in applying these rules, ensuring that every employee enjoys the full benefits they are entitled to on public holidays

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