There has been some confusion from some businesses on whether seasonal workers must be paid for public holidays, even if they do not work on the public holiday. In terms of labour legislation, all employees have the same rights, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Although there are practical differences between “permanent” and “seasonal” (or rather temporary/ fixed term) employees, their entitlement towards public holiday benefits remains the same. The law does not differentiate between permanent and seasonal (temporary of fixed term term) employees in relation to the payment of public holidays and the principle of payment for public holidays is applicable to all employees.

If a public holiday falls on a day that the employee is contractually bound to work, he/she must be paid the normal daily rate if not agreed to report for duty on that day. If agreed to work on a public holiday the employee must be paid double the ordinary hourly rate regardless of whether the public holiday falls on a normal working day, or not. It is only when the public holiday falls on a day that the employee would ordinarily not have worked, and it was not agreed with the employee to work on that day, that the “no work no pay” principle will apply. (Sec 18 BCEA and Sec 20 Sectorial Determination 13: Farm Worker Sector). Clause 20(2) of SD 13 states the following: “If a public holiday falls on a day on which a farm worker would ordinarily work, an employer must pay the employee for that day”. The question would remain, would the worker have worked on that day if it was not a public holiday? If the answer is yes, then public holiday remuneration will be applicable, whether or not the worker is employed as a permanent or seasonal.

The Public Holiday Act provides for selected days which are declared as official public holidays in South Africa (at a given time). As production requirements require full-time attention and sometimes cannot afford a break or delay, such as packing or harvesting of a particular commodity, it is a common occurrence in agriculture to exchange these public holidays with other days, to lessen the burden of a break in the middle of a week if and when the majority of the workforce agrees to such an exchange, for example. There are, however, several regulations which must be adhered to regarding public holidays in terms of the hours worked and the payment of these days/hours worked. The following clauses are pertinent:

  • An employer may not require an agri-worker to work on a public holiday, except when an agreement has been made to do so.
  • If a public holiday falls on a day on which an agri-worker would ordinarily work, an employer must pay:
    • an agri-worker who does not work on the public holiday, at least the wage that the farm worker would ordinarily have received for work on that day;
    • an agri-worker who does work on the public holiday- (i) at least double the daily wage

For more detailed information, feel free to refer to the Section on Public Holidays in the SIZA Guideline on Working Hours and Wages.