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In terms of the BCEA, and subject to certain exceptions mentioned below, no employer may require or permit an employee to work longer than 45 hours a week, or nine hours a day if the employee works five days or fewer per week, and eight hours per day if the employee works more than five days a week. All work beyond that is overtime, which can be worked only with the employee’s consent. Overtime may not exceed 10 hours in any week, and total working hours (including overtime), may not exceed 12 hours per day.
The rate for overtime is one and a half times the normal wage, unless the employee is subsequently granted 30 minutes off on all pay for each hour of overtime worked at normal rates, or 90 minutes off if the overtime was not paid at all. Time off in lieu of pay for overtime must b e taken within a month of the time worked, unless the employee agrees in writing to a longer period of up to 12 months. Although overtime is voluntary, BCEA does not affect the employer’s right to require employees to work overtime in terms of the contract of employment or collective agreement. Refusal by an employee to perform contractual overtime may constitute a disciplinary offence.
The parties are given some flexibility by the devices of ‘compression’ and ‘averaging’ of working hours. ‘Compression’ takes place when the employer and its employees agree on longer daily hours on ordinary wages, provided that daily working hours do not exceed 12, and provided that this does not result in the employee working longer than 45 ordinary hours or 10 hours overtime in any week, or more than five days a week. So, for example, if the maximum daily hours were chosen for particular days, the employee could work 12 hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays without overtime but would have to revert to an ordinary nine-hour day on Thursdays and Fridays. ‘Average’ may be effected only by collective agreement (i.e. a written agreement between the employer and a registered trade union). Such agreements may permit employers to agree with their employees that they will work an average of five hours per week overtime for an agreed period.
Special provision is made for night workers i.e. those who work after 18h00 and before 06h00 the next day. Work may be performed during these hours only with the employees’ consent. Employees are not permitted to perform night work unless transport is available between their residence and the work place at the commencement and conclusion of the shift.
Employees are entitled to a meal interval of one continuous hour after five hours’ work, for which they must be paid if they are required to work or be available for work; otherwise, meal intervals of an hour or more are not treated as paid working time. Meal intervals may be reduced by agreement between employers and employees to now less than 30 minutes, or they may be dispensed altogether if the employee works less than six hours in a day. If meal breaks are reduced to less than hour, the breaks are still unpaid if the employees are paid hourly.
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