The right to work from home in South Africa – what the law says

 ·1 May 2024

South African employees are embracing flexible work practices, but the nation’s laws do not recognize this as a right.

Several studies have shown that workers in South Africa prefer working from home, and many were introduced to this way of working following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

A recent survey from jobs marketplace OfferZen showed that over half of all remote working developers in South Africa will quit if they are forced to return to the office, despite many employers calling for a return to the office.

The concert of this flexible work environment is new and means anything outside of the typical 8-hour workday or 45-hour workweek, including remote work, working from abroad or on a flexi-time basis where employees determine the start and end time of the workday.

According to Nedbank, remote work, more specifically working from home, has many benefits for the employee, such as greater work-life balance, eliminates of the daily commute which saves time and money, and increases productivity as there are fewer distractions and interruptions from colleagues.

That said, there are several benefits to working in a traditional 9-to-5 workplace, such as building face-to-face time, better mentoring of junior employees and visibility.

According to Anli Bezuidenhout, Nadeem Mahomed and Kirsten Davids from Cliffe Dekker Hofmyer, the trend to greater working flexibility can be seen on an international level.

For instance, Australia’s Fair Work Legislative Amendment (Closing Loopholes No.2) Bill of 2023 will establish the right for employees to refuse to engage in work or work-related communication outside of working hours or at home.

However, in South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) of 1997 and the Labour Relations Act (LRA) of 1995 do not provide for the right to disconnect or to work remotely.

“(Employees) should not expect any legislative changes any time soon,” said the experts.

“For now, we recommend that flexible working arrangements be regulated in terms of policies. Employers should take proactive steps to discuss and decide what is practical within their environment and then clearly communicate their expectations to the staff who are impacted.”

“Points to consider include availability, communication outside of working hours (including contact by third parties such as clients), connectivity, the impact of load shedding and online or remote meeting etiquette. What these requirements will look like will depend on the circumstances of the employer.”

Read: Big changes for work hours in South Africa possible – but at a cost

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter