The Basic Conditions of Employment Act applies to all employers and workers, but not -

  • members of the -
    • National Defence Force,
    • National Intelligence Agency, or
    • South African Secret Service; or
  • unpaid volunteers working for charity.

The section of the Act that regulate working hours does not apply to:

  • workers in senior management
  • sales staff who travel and regulate their own working hours
  • workers who work less than 24 hours in a month
  • workers who earn more than 172 000per year
  • workers engaged in emergency work are excluded from certain provisions.

Maximum Working Hours

Number of days worked per week


Ordinary hours per day

Ordinary hours per week

1 - 5



more than 5



Ø So workers may work less than the above hours by agreement. Depending on your industrial council agreement you may have to pay the workers for 45 hours even though they only work for 42.

Ø In addition ...

if the workers are contracted to work for 45 hours a week then you can reduce their pay by the number of hours not worked. (It would be very wise to agree this in their contract of employment)

Ø On the payroll this should be shown as a negative earning so as to reduce the employee’s salary. It should not be shown as a deduction as this could result in the incorrect tax or UIF being paid

Compressed Working Week

Workers may agree, in writing, to work up to 12 hours a day without getting overtime pay.

However, these workers may not work more than –

  • 45 ordinary hours a week
  • 10 hours'’ overtime a week
  • 5 days a week

Ø The key here is agreement in writing. Please include this in your contract. If you want to change the working hours to this configuration, remember to do this fairly in consultation with the workers.

Meal Breaks

Workers must have a meal break of 60 minutes after 5 hours’ work.

A written agreement may –

  • reduce meal intervals to 30 minutes
  • eliminate meal intervals for workers who work less than 6 hours a day

Ø Meal breaks are not counted as working hours.