South Africa Country Profile - Working Practices

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Working Hours

South Africa follows much of the rest of the developed world, with the majority of employees working 45 hours a week, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. Employees can agree to work up to a maximum of 10 hours overtime a week, paid at time-and-a-half, but can only work a maximum of 12 hours a day. Employees are usually paid double time for working on Sunday. This may differ if the worker’s job normally requires them to work on Sundays, however. People working between 6pm and 6am must receive an allowance and have transport provided for them to travel to and from work.

Salaries range from around R5,600 (£264) per month for factory and warehouse jobs, to over R45,000 (£2,121) per month for managers, professionals and skilled workers.


Holiday entitlement is relatively low in South Africa, with workers commonly receiving 21 days, including weekends, which is the equivalent of three weeks paid leave per year. In addition, workers are entitled to between 12 and 13 paid public holidays a year. If workers are employed for less than a year, they are entitled to one day of holiday for every 17 days worked or one hour for every 17 worked. Employees must be given holiday by law and bosses cannot offer to pay workers paid leave instead.

Public Holidays

There are 13 main public holidays in South Africa but this may vary according to province.

Public holiday dates


New Year’s Day: 1 January

Human Rights Day: 21 March

Good Friday:  19 April

Family Day (Monday after Easter Sunday): 22 April

Freedom Day: 27 April

Workers' Day: 1 May

Youth Day: 16 June

Women’s Day: 9 August

Heritage Day: 24 September

Day of Reconciliation: 16 December

Christmas Day: 25 December

Day of Goodwill: 26 December

Visas and Eligibility to Work

The government tightened the laws on people travelling to South Africa in 2014 and the changes came into effect on 1st June 2015. The biggest change is that children are now required to have their own passport. To enter South Africa people with certain nationalities must apply for a visa which allows them to visit the country for business or tourism purposes for up to 90 days. There are many countries which are exempt from applying for a South African visa, this list can be found here: More information about visas to South Africa can be found at, the country’s principal information gateway.

Following the initial three-month visiting period, expats must apply for a residence permit in order to stay in South Africa. There are four main types of temporary residence permit which foreigners can apply for and they are primarily aimed at tackling the labour shortages across the country.

A quota-work permit is available for those with particular jobs such as engineers, craftsman, and those with technical skills. Workers must provide proof of employment to the Department of Home Affairs within three months or have their visa revoked. Proof of employment is required every year after the initial three-month trial. Permits are also issued to those with general skills, exceptional skills and to those who have moved to the country with their existing company on an intra-company transfer work permit. Corporate, business and exchange permits are also available, depending on the reasons for staying in the country.

Once in South Africa, any queries regarding permits can be made to the local offices of the Department of Home Affairs, based in most large towns and cities.


The South African tax year runs from 1st March to 28th February. Tax return forms, known as ITR12, must be filed between July and November every year. All individuals resident and employed in South Africa are liable for income tax and this is taken through the employer. There are two main tax payments, one made to central government and the other to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) which is the local government.

Central government tax is made up through income tax which is set at 18% to 40% according to income, VAT, corporation tax and fuel duty. SARS payments are made up of grants from central government and local rates. If you earn less than R350,000 (£16,502) per year before tax you are exempt. Anyone earning more than this must submit an ITR12. Tax returns can be submitted online through eFiling through the website You must have a SARS tax code which can be obtained when registering in person at a SARS Branch with a valid ID. Businesses file tax returns at the end of the tax year by submitting an ITR14 form.


Middle earners in South Africa contribute to employer-based retirement plans with monthly contributions coming out of wage packets of up to 10% of earnings.

The State Pension, known as the Older Person’s Grant, is available for people when they reach 60. The grant is available for citizens, long-term residents and refugees. It is means-tested by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and takes into account a person’s income and assets. The amount changes each year but currently the maximum a person receives is R1,350 (£63) per month and R1,370 (£64.60) for over 75s. The pension is not available for people earning more than R64,680 (£3,050) per year or for married couples with a combined income of more than R129,360 (£6,101) per year.

To apply, you must fill in a form at your local SASSA office and provide ID, proof of address, income and assets.


The South African social security system is a free service controlled by the SASSA and is open to foreigners who fulfil certain criteria. Foreigners should make it a priority to obtain a social security number (from the SASSA local office) by filling in a SS-5 Social Security form.

Foreigners working on contracts or people on commission or working less than 24 hours a month cannot apply for unemployment benefit. Everybody can claim sickness benefits. Visit the SASSA website to find out more.


Since the Constitution came into effect in 1996, citizens have a right to freedom from discrimination based on disabilities. Employers now have a legal requirement to make practical changes to support disabled workers. Events, such as Disability Rights Awareness Month, also attempt to promote inclusive working practices.

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