A compressed work week allows an employer to proactively have employees work longer hours than the regular agreed-upon hours in a situation where this is warranted, without paying overtime. An example of such a situation might be when fruit ripens over a weekend and necessitates extra work hours on the Monday.
However, certain conditions must be taken into account when calculating a compressed working week, including the following:
- Employees must give written consent, i.e., it should be part of their employment conditions in their employment contract;
- employees may not work more than 45 hours in one week
- employees may not work more than 12 hours in one day
- employees may not work longer than five days in one week
- and there cannot be more than ten hours of overtime in a week.
This option can only be used if it is contracted before the employee starts their employment and there is a valid reason for implementing the compressed work week.
The employees are contracted to work 9 hours a day for 45 hours a week. Due to a hotter weather pattern over a specific weekend, the plums ripened sooner than expected and now need to be picked as soon as possible. Due to these production needs, the farm may require the employees to work:
Monday 12 hours; Tuesday 9 hours; Wednesday 9 hours; Thursday 9 hours, and Friday 6 hours.
This equals: 12 + 9 + 9 + 9 + 6 = 45 hours for the week. This option is only possible based on the additional clause within the employee’s contract allowing for a compressed work week.
This is not just a SIZA requirement; it is also a legal requirement, and the law says:
Legal References: SD13, Section 15 (1) & (2).
An agreement in writing may require or permit a farm worker to work up to twelve hours in a day, inclusive of the meal intervals required, without receiving overtime pay.
An agreement may not require or permit an agri-worker to work:
- more than 45 ordinary hours of work in any week;
- more than ten hours’ overtime in any week; or
- on more than five days in any week.
With economic challenges and increased production demands, it could sometimes be required for a business to operate with more needs, and may require extreme measures, such as working more than the 12 hours with overtime allowed or more than the overtime limit per week. If any business operates outside these legal limits, they are operating outside of legislation and can be fined or even imprisoned.
What options do I have if I need more hours for overtime work due to peak production demand?
There is room for a variation on the practice versus the legal limits, should it apply in a specific case to a particular business. The law allows an employer to apply to the Minister of Employment and Labour for an exemption from any of the legal provisions/regulations.
If needed, an employer can apply annually to the Provincial Executive Manager by completing the application form BCEA form 6:
Other forms are available for download on the website of the Department of Labour as well (www.labour.gov.za).