Farm Workers - Basic Conditions of Employment

2014-07-05 14:58

In general, most employees are protected by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act which sets the standard for minimum conditions of employment. In certain cases to protect vulnerable employees in a specific sector, sectoral determinations are made which provide for minimum conditions for employees in that sector. One such sector is the farming industry where Sectoral Determination 13 regulates the basic conditions of employment and remuneration of farm workers in South Africa.

Who is considered a farm worker?

In brief, it includes any person who is involved in farming activities, including a general worker on a farm, all domestic workers who work in a house on a farm and also a security guard (not employed in the private security industry) who is employed to guard the farm and areas where farming activities takes place.

Must I have a written contract with a farm worker?

It is always better to have a written contract between the employer and the farm worker as information regarding remuneration and written particulars of employment as required by Sectoral Determination 13 can then be included in the contract.

There are essentially two kinds of written contracts that an employer can enter into with his farm worker:

  • Permanent employment contract – the farm worker is permanently employed for an undetermined period.
  • Fixed term employment contract - the farm worker is employed only for a fixed period of time as set out in the contract.

What must be in the contract?

It is important to look at what needs to be in your farm worker contract regardless of whether it is a permanent or fixed term employment contract.

The following key items should be dealt with in the contract (please note that this is not a closed list, but merely guidance to a general contract and more clauses can and in certain cases should be included):

  • Contact details
  • Place of work
  • Working Hours
  • Wages/Payment
  • Overtime
  • Benefits
  • Deductions from the salary
  • Leave
  • Termination of Employment

What are the allowed working hours of farm workers?

A farm worker may not work more than:

  • 45 hours in any week; and
  • 9 hours on any day if he/she works for 5 days or less in a week; or
  • 8 hours in any day if he/she works for more than 5 days in any week.

Overtime is any work done by agreement that exceeds the above limits. If a farm worker is required to work overtime, they must be paid for that overtime worked at a rate of 1.5 times the worker’s normal wage. Otherwise, an agreement can be reached where instead of paying the employee for overtime worked, time off can be given.

Night work (after 20:00 and before 04:00) may only be required or permitted by agreement and if transport is made available to the farm worker. The worker must be compensated by an additional allowance of at least 10% the ordinary daily wage.

Where farm workers are required to work on Sundays and Public Holidays, the rule of thumb is that double remuneration must be paid to the farm worker.

Are there minimum wages/payments?

Sectoral Determination 13 provides for minimum wages and rates for farm workers and with which all employers of farm workers must comply and must be included in their contract. These wages and rates must also annually be escalated in accordance with the relevant determination.

  • Monthly Rate R2 420.41
  • Weekly Rate R558.60
  • Daily Rate  R111.72(this is applicable to Farm Workers who work 9 hours per day)
  • Hourly Rate  R12.41

Can deductions be made?

An employer must make certain compulsory statutory deductions for example UIF and PAYE from a farm worker’s remuneration, if applicable. In addition, there are also other deductions that both the farm worker and employer can agree to, for example if the employer provides the farm worker with accomodation, a deduction not exceeding 10% of the farm worker’s wage can be agreed on, provided this accomodation complies with certain basic conditions. Additionally deductions for medical aid, pension fund etc. can also be agreed to. Employers must however tred carefully when it comes to deductions and ensure beforehand that they are allowed to make the deductions in terms of Sectoral Determination 13.

What forms of leave must be granted?

The following types of leave should be included in the contracts of employment:

  • Annual Leave
  • Sick Leave
  • Family Responsibility Leave
  • Maternity Leave

How can employment be terminated?

The farm worker must give notice if he/she wishes to end the employment relationship. If employed for less than 6 months, a notice period of 1 week must be given. If employed for more than 6 months, a notice period of 1 month must be given. Ideally these periods should also be provided for in the employment contract. If the employer wishes to terminate the farm worker’s employment, this must be done in accordance with the Labour Relations Act.

Notice must be in writing, but if the farm worker is illiterate or he does not understand the notice in writing, it would be better to explain the notice orally and in a language that he/she can understand.

Where can I get a copy of the Sectoral Determination?

To ensure that your farm worker contract and conditions of employment are in line with Sectoral Determination 13 for Farm Workers, it is advised that a copy of the Sectoral Determination be kept at hand. A copy can be downloaded from the Department of Labour website at www.labour.gov.za which also contains a pro forma contract format for a Farm Worker which can be used by employers.

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