Agriculture is an ever-changing environment that operates in seasons and can be operationally dependent on weather, production capacity, and other external factors. As many producers enter extremely high production seasons where longer hours are needed to meet the production outputs and requirements, it can sometimes (very quickly) happen that we forget about the required rest periods. In line with Sectoral Determination 13 (SD13), Section 19(1)(a), employees must receive a daily rest period of not less than 12 consecutive hours between ending work on one day and starting work the next. During the audit, the audit team will verify the timesheets, business policy on working hours, employment contracts, and other relevant documentation, along with employee interviews to confirm that there is a break of not less than 12 hours between the end of one shift and the start of another.
Employees must furthermore receive a weekly rest period of not less than 36 hours which must include a Sunday (unless otherwise agreed and the employee agrees to work on a Sunday and rest on another day). However, this can be adjusted to 60 hours of rest every two weeks, if so agreed. Legal reference: SD13 Part D: Clause 19.1.b read together with 19.3. As with overtime, management must adequately identify work functions where long working hours might occur, e.g., irrigation, and keep accurate records to demonstrate compliance.
Workers that work more than five consecutive hours must also be given a meal interval of at least one continuous hour. This may be reduced to 30 minutes by a collective agreement with the workers or dispensed with entirely for workers that work for six hours or less. During interviews on the day of the audit, it will be established by the auditor whether employees do, in fact, receive the breaks as required by law. Legal reference: SD13 Section 18(1)- (5).
In events where employers enter an extremely busy season, where they foresee that they might need additional hours and have limited rest periods, they must apply to the Department of Employment and Labour before implementing longer hours or reduced rest periods. This is important because not only does this affect the well-being of the employees, but it is also something that will be escalated during the site’s SIZA audit.
More information can be found here: https://www.labour.gov.za/DocumentCenter/Pages/Forms.aspx
For more information on the requirements around rest periods, feel free to view the SIZA Social Standard: https://siza.co.za/standard/social-standard/