Extra public holiday in December – a double win for workers in South Africa

 ·23 Nov 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared 15 December as a national public holiday to celebrate the Springboks’ victory in the 2023 Rugby World Cup – a move that has implications for employers and workers in the country.

South Africa will now have a double public holiday, with the extra day off coming before the 16th of December, which is the Day of Reconciliation.

This year, 16 December 2023 falls on a Saturday. Only public holidays that fall on Sunday move over to the following Monday, meaning any employees who work the traditional Monday to Friday work week ‘lose out’ on the public holiday.

However, according to Talita Laubscher, partner, and Sian Gaffney, senior associate at law firm Bowmans, with the addition of the 15th as an extra public holiday, these workers will now benefit from a day off.

On top of this, workers who typically work a full week (Monday to Sunday), such as retail or shift workers, stand to benefit from both days, depending on which days they would ordinarily work.

Despite being a Saturday, 16 December 2023 remains an official public holiday in South Africa. This means that weekend workers are still entitled to the public holiday on 16 December 2023 by law.

“If they do not work on this day, they are entitled to their normal pay. If they do work on this day, they are entitled to double pay, or they can exchange this day for another day, which would then be treated as a public holiday,” the legal experts said.

This applies regardless of whether these employees earn above the earnings threshold – currently about R20,100 per month.

Regarding Friday, 15 December 2023 – if a Friday is a weekend worker employee’s ‘work day’ in a seven-day week, then that employee will be entitled to both 15 and 16 December as public holidays this year.

However, if weekend workers would ordinarily have been off on this Friday, they would ‘lose out’ on the public holiday declared on this day.

“Which employees benefit from a public holiday is ultimately determined by the day on which the public holiday falls within a calendar year.

“If it falls on a day they would ordinarily work, they get the day off at full pay. If they work on that day, they get double pay or can exchange the day for another day,” the experts said.

“If the public holiday falls on a day that they would not ordinarily work – too bad, unless they work on this day and earn below the threshold, in which event they get paid a premium.

Read: South Africa can’t afford an extra public holiday, say experts

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