All employees in South Africa are entitled to leave provisions as set out in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) – and during the lockdown period, an employee may be requested by the employer to take annual leave from his/her annual leave credits.
While the BCEA allows employers to determine the time that employees can take their annual leave, the Department of Labour has asked employers not to force employees to use their annual leave but rather use one of the other packages provided by government to ease the financial stress.
“We are getting complaints from workers that their employers have instructed them to take unpaid leave during this lockdown,” said labour minister Thulas Nxesi.
“We do understand that in terms of the leave determination, employers can compel employees to take leave at any time as they deem fit. However, this is a different situation that requires all of us to act in a manner that seeks to promote social solidarity.
“As the department, we have issued a directive explaining the process to be followed and the kind of benefit the employees will be entitled to. We announced a National Disaster Covid-19 benefit that the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has put in place as an instrument to mitigate the effects of lay-offs of workers during the lockdown.”
However, Nxesi said it was important to note that the UIF cannot deal with millions of individual claims as this would lead to serious delays.
Instead, he said that his department has put systems in place to pay out UIF benefits through companies, sectoral associations and bargaining councils.
“We are in the process of concluding such an agreement with the Textile Bargaining Council. We would also like to mention that discussions with the travel and tourism sector are underway,” he said.
“We need to stress that such arrangements require that we enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with employer bodies including and Bargaining Council that their use of the monies will be subject to audit.
“This has led to some resistance from some employers. We all need to understand that these are public funds and that by law have to be audited. We therefore, shall insist on the implementation of proper governance in this regard. None of us has a choice in the matter.”