Why did my audit risk rating change from Platinum to Gold?
As part of the Terms & Conditions of SIZA, when registering with the programme, a producer must drive continuous improvement and implement the required practices within their business. The aim is to get fewer findings and a higher rating during the next audit cycle. It is important to remember that circumstances change over time, and with each season, there are new challenges, such as a different workforce, changes in legislation, different market requirements, and other external factors that might influence everyday business operations, which can lead to different risk factors. There are two scenarios that can cause a different audit rating or validity period.
- Sometimes, a producer receives a certain rating during their audit (for example, Platinum), but with the next audit, this rating changes to Gold, for example. The rating is determined based on the number of findings, the severity of the findings made during the most recent audit, and the risk ratings allocated to each of these findings (for example, Minor, Major or Critical). It is also possible that legislation changes or that the market puts more emphasis on certain aspects of the Standard. The SIZA programme is improvement‐led rather than audit‐led and uses the SIZA Audit Frequency Matrixto support this position. It creates four categories of risk: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze where the Platinum category has the most stringent qualifying criteria and provides a longer audit validity period of 3 years. If the producer receives high ratings during their next audit, they cannot receive a Platinum rating again.
- Another reason why a producer might only receive a validity of 12 months or less following their audit, even if they received Silver, for example, can be because the producer did not submit their corrective actions before the given deadline. If any corrective action is submitted after the deadline, then the audit validity period will automatically be 12 months from the date of the audit. This means that even if a producer receives a Platinum rating but does not submit the corrective actions in time before the deadlines, the audit will expire at the same time next year.
Completing corrective actions following an audit is extremely important and not only shows a drive toward continuous improvement but will also be verified during the next audit. If a producer has not implemented the corrective action in their business since the previous audit, the auditor will give a higher risk rating to the finding because it’s not being implemented.
When should your SIZA audit take place?
Audits should take place during a period when the employment site is in full operation (such as peak production or harvest). In any event, there should be a minimum of two-thirds (66%) of the total number of workers (calculated during the busiest period) present in the workplace for the audit to be deemed valid. Remember that if any processing or packing facility is on-site, this facility should be accessible and in operation to allow for a thorough evaluation by the audit team on the day of the audit.
The reason why the social and environmental audits should take place during peak season is to ensure that auditors can conduct the interviews needed to declare the social audit valid. For environmental auditors, it’s a requirement to verify these practices whilst the business is in operation. Buyers need to understand the risks during the highest risk period when the largest amount of workers are present in the business, and that is also why packhouses need to be operational to allow the auditors to evaluate the occupational health and safety measures in place and even on the environmental side to verify practices such as wastewater, electrical systems being used etc. Understanding risk is the main element of an audit, and therefore, it is required to be able to verify risk during audits as well as social site visits and SIZA CARES verifications.
Can an employer penalise an employee by fining him/her for damages or lost work equipment?
Sectoral Determination 7(3) stipulates that an employer may not impose a fine against an agri-worker. The SIZA Social Standard is furthermore clear in its code requirement that no fines or mention thereof shall be permitted as a form of discipline. It is important to remember that deductions for the replacement or repair of lost or damaged goods do not constitute a fine but rather a legal deduction if a fair process has been followed. If an employee damages equipment, for example, due process and procedural fairness must be applied before the deduction is made. This is especially important where the loss or damage of equipment is accompanied by a disciplinary process.
Employers can only deduct the replacement cost of the goods (if lost by the worker) and retain the invoice of the purchase or a copy thereof on file to demonstrate that the deduction was not a fine. It is illegal to levy fines against agri-workers as a result of poor performance or any other issue which is or could be related to discipline in the workplace. All deductions must be accurately recorded, and all disciplinary hearings, as well as their outcomes, must also be on record. For more information on deductions, feel free to visit the SIZA guideline on Working Hours and Wages.
When should normal leave be paid out to workers?
Sometimes, an employee does not use their annual leave during their employment period, and when they leave the business, the question is asked whether the leave that accrued should be paid out. Employers will have to refer to Sectoral Determination 13, Section 29(1) (e) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Section 40 (c), which states that on termination of employment, an employer must pay a farm worker all monies due to the farm worker including if the farm worker has been in employment longer than four months, in respect of the farm worker’s annual leave entitlement during an incomplete annual leave cycle. For more information on deductions, feel free to visit the SIZA guideline on Working Hours and Wages.
What happens if my business employs a foreign national?
Let’s start by looking at ‘foreign national’. This refers to individuals who are not South African citizens and are also referred to as foreigners or immigrants in some cases. Employees who are foreign nationals must have a valid passport/ID and the necessary work permits required in South Africa before they may work for a South African business. It is illegal to employ a foreigner who does not have a valid work permit and passport. The employment of foreigners in South Africa is regulated by the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 (as amended). Section 38 of the Immigration Act stipulates that no person may employ an illegal foreigner and places a duty on the employer to determine the status or citizenship of the person employed. This means that management will remain responsible for verifying that the documents provided are legal.
Producers must have a recruitment system in place to ensure that all employees provide a copy of their ID, passport, and work permit to confirm various aspects, such as:
- Is the employee a legal foreigner who has the necessary documentation in place?
- Until when are the permit and passport valid?
- Is the employee’s age suitable for work and by legislation? It is important to remember that an employee cannot employ or allow any child under the age of 15 to engage in any form of labour.
- Where young workers are involved, the business must comply with the requirements set by law regarding working conditions for employees aged 15 to 17.
Those individuals with a Zimbabwean exemption permit that expired on 31 December 2023 or the extended validity period will be entitled to apply for a new exemption permit and remain in South Africa during the validity of the exemption permit. The new release permits to be issued will then expire on 29 November 2025. If persons have already requested/submitted their application or exemption, they do not need to do so again until they receive a decision on it.
The applications can also be done online so that you have proof of the process when an auditor visits the farm. come. You can apply here: vfsglobal. Contact the Department of Home Affairs in your area to verify passport and permit details or use other programmes that can assist with this verification process. For more information on the employment of foreigners or refugees, please visit the Immigration Act.
Refer to more Frequently Asked Questions here: https://siza.co.za/siza-faqs/