The Covid-19 Pandemic has changed the way many businesses across the world have operated, and South Africa is no different. One of the many changes is how employees take leave. With many working from home, employees often do not see the need to take leave. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 entitles employees to 21 consecutive days’ annual leave per cycle, yet there has been a significant decrease in employees making use of this benefit.
Employers have seen a decrease in the amount of leave taken by employees, however, in many cases, this has led to an increase in burnout, stress, and poor quality of work. Employers should encourage their employees to exercise their rights as set out in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act to take leave.
The purpose of annual leave is for employees to take a break and to rest both physically and mentally so that they may return to work rejuvenated and ready to continue productively.
What was once considered a “normal” 8:00-17:00 job at the office has now turned into a virtual world, where it is often hard to track what employees are doing during the day. Many employees find it difficult to switch off when working from home and neglect to take reasonable breaks or to stick to their usual working hours. It is easy to lose track of time and work late hours, leading to a lack of work-life balance.
Employers should encourage their employees to take annual leave in order to perform at their optimal level of efficiency, and employees should be aware that they cannot accumulate leave into the next leave cycle unless the Company’s policy allows for this specifically. There is therefore no benefit in an employee not taking their annual leave.
As per the BCEA, employees are entitled to 30 days paid sick leave in a 3-year cycle if they work 5 days a week, and 36 days’ paid sick leave if they work 6 days a week.
Companies have seen a decrease in the amount of sick leave taken by employees in the last year with many opting to “be present online” but not being productive for the day. Like annual leave, sick leave does not carry over and employees should use it when necessary rather than saving it for a rainy day. Employees who are found to be online but not productive may be subjected to disciplinary proceedings by the employer.
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