Table of Contents

1. Knowing the laws and your obligations

The South African employment relationship between an employer and an employee is fundamentally governed by the employment contract. The employment contract is, however, subject to sectoral determinations, bargaining council agreements and employment legislation that provide minimum standards, rights and entitlements to the employment relationship. Minimum terms and conditions of employment are regulated by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 75 of 1997.

All employees (both foreign and local) working in South Africa are protected by South African employment laws.


1.1 Employment Equity Act

This Act promotes equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination of unfair discrimination. In addition, affirmative action measures must be implemented to redress disadvantages in employment experienced by designated groups in order to ensure their equitable representation in all occupational categories of employment.

1.2 Occupational Health and Safety Act

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires an employer to maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health and safety of its workers.

1.3 Skills Development Act

This Act provides a framework to devise and implement national, sectoral and workplace strategies to develop and improve the skills of the South African workforce.

2. Employee rights - Dismissals and dispute resolution

The Labour Relations Act regulates and deals with dismissals or termination of employment. This recognises three grounds on which a termination might be legitimate: The conduct of the employee, the capacity of the employee, and the operational requirements of the employer’s business. There are strict procedures for dismissing an employee as well as adequate dispute mechanisms to resolve conflicts. An independent body established for dispute resolution in terms of the Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995 (LRA) is the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The CCMA is equipped to be impartial as it is not controlled by any political party, trade union or business (


3. Creating Company Policies

Company policies set out the norms and acceptable behaviour of employees as expected by the company. The standards ensure consistency and certainty in the applications of rules and regulations in the workplace. The policies also ensure that employees are fully aware of their rights, obligations and expected actions in employment related situations.
It is the responsibility of the employee to familiarise themselves with the company policies as they may be mentioned in the employment contract.
A company’s employment policies must be in compliance with South African law and should not violate the employees’ rights.

Examples of Employment Policies:

  • Computer usage policy
  • Company vehicles policy
  • Corruption policy
  • Company communication policy
  • Recruitment policy
  • Performance Management policy
  • Leave policy
  • Travel policy
  • Grievances policy
  • Employment Equity policy
  • Smoking policy
  • Telephone usage policy

4. Full time staff versus Part time staff

The choice to employ staff on a full-time or part-time basis is largely dependent on the nature of the business and affordability. Both forms of employment have regulatory compliance to abide to such as minimum wage (R3 500) as well as all precepts of labour Law. The Return On Investment (ROI) is also a key determinant of whether part-time or full-time employment is best suited.

4.1 Full-time Staff

The advantages of hiring full-time staff are that you have stronger employee loyalty, higher rates of productivity and consistency with workloads. The disadvantages of hiring full-time staff are that the business has to compensate the employee during holiday periods and in some cases pay for sundry benefits (allowances, retirement contributions and medical aid).

4.2 Part-time Staff

The most obvious advantage of hiring part-time staff is the cost savings since the salary is lower and minimum or no benefits are paid. Often students and pensioners are seeking employment and both demographics can offer great expertise at a cheaper rate. For expansion purposes it would be a great idea to hire a part-time employee as a trial to see the effect of additional hours, or new processes on overall turnover. 

The disadvantage of hiring a part-time employee is the risk of low productivity levels and low employee morale due to substantially lower salary and limited benefits. In some instances, the part-time worker may have low technical skills and require more micro-management and training.

5. Job Descriptions

A job description sets out the roles and responsibilities the job entails. The description of the position also equips one with the ability to decide whether the position requires a full-time or part-time employee. In short, the job description sets out clearly the expected day-to-day functions the job entails with expected deliverables.

6. Interviews

In order to hold successful interviews, the job description must be used as a roadmap to structure the interview questions.

There are various types of interviews all with their own advantages and disadvantages. One can use a combination of interview types or use only one.

The various types are:

  • Telephonic interview
  • Panel interview
  • Face-to-Face interview
  • Group interview
  • Sequential interview
  • Competency-based interview
  • Portfolio based interview
  • Second interview

As a potential employer, it is important to understand the kind of candidate you would like to attract and which interview type will best highlight the desired competencies.

As an interviewer it is also important to ensure that the interview questions are relevant and non-intrusive. Remember to be mindful that the interviewee is under immense pressure and his/her success is also linked to your approach, tone and body language.

7. Employing Staff

Employing staff can be a daunting task. Wherever possible, it is recommended that a recruitment agency with expertise is used. If the use of an agency is not an option, the following tips may prove to be useful:

  • Hire candidates with relevant experience – experience should be defined by achievements and skill-set and not solely on years.
  • Hire candidates who are self-managed – micro-management takes up crucial time in start-ups which could be spent on more important issues such as strategy.
  • Hire candidates who can handle pressure – business is inherently competitive and erratic, so candidates who thrive under pressure and able to work in different environments are best-suited.
  • Hire candidates with perseverance – business is unpredictable hence the need for unwavering staff who will not quit when faced with disappointment.
  • Hire someone on contract basis – this will give you an opportunity to review their abilities and organisational fit. This also reduces the risk of employing someone who does not add value to the business.

8. Setting Objectives

In order to succeed, the business must have clearly set-out goals. Goals determine what a business would like to achieve, whereas objectives stipulate the exact steps a business needs to take in order to reach the goals.

Objectives specify what action must be taken and when.

Most companies fail due to misalignment to their goals, or not setting measurable goals. This makes setting objectives even more problematic. An objective should always be linked to a goal; this ensures alignment to the mission of the company.

Things to keep in mind when setting goals and objectives are:

  • Simplicity: Keep each goal clear and simple.
  • Be specific: Vagueness will only cause more confusion.
  • Be realistic: If the goal is unrealistic it will be impossible to achieve.
  • Ambition: Push your limits within reason, think big.
  • Synchronisation: Ensure the goals are aligned to your mission.

9. Paying Staff

As of 1 January 2019, South Africa’s national minimum wage came into effect. The legislation stipulates a minimum national rate of R20 per hour or R3 500 per month, depending on the number of hours worked.

Salary range is dependent on location, profession and expertise.

The below table is based on a remuneration survey for a six-month period (May to November 2018), which considers the total cost to company salary packages in South Africa. The earning potential for similar job functions may differ between provinces due to job and skill supply and demand.

10. Training

Training is a key component of a business which helps both employer and employee keep abreast with industry standards as well as improve their skills.

The Sector Education Training Authority system (SETA), are regulating bodies for various sectors in South Africa. In March 2000, 23 SETA’s were established, each with their own clearly defined sector and subsectors. Most importantly they have a series of skills plans which are aligned to the National Skills Development Strategy. This alignment ensures that the training offered by the SETA’s can be operationalised by the employer or employee in any company in South Africa so long as it is within the same sector.

Many training programs are available online; however not all are accredited.

Depending on the nature of business, it is advisable to contact the appropriate SETA in order to find out about their accredited training programs.


11. Health and Safety

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (1994) requires employers to create and maintain as far as it is reasonably practical a work environment that is safe and poses no risk to the health and safety of its workers. The Act aims to avoid work related illnesses and injuries.

The Act also extends to non-employees and protects all people from hazards arising from business activity.

The Act regulates and controls the majority of industries in South Africa, from normal office environments to hazardous industrial plants and construction sites. Industries which fall outside the scope of the Act are fishing boats and floating cranes, mines and mining areas. These industries are regulated by their own Acts.