Annual leave is governed by both employers and employees in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. In essence it is simple; an employee is entitled to annual leave of 21 consecutive days on full remuneration. This could be calculated as 1 day of annual leave on full remuneration for every 17 days worked or 1 hour of annual leave on full remuneration for 17 hours worked. These consecutive days refers to a three week period and if the employee works a two day week then that employee will be entitled to 6 days’ worth of annual leave.

A rather vect problem is when an employee has to take this annual leave. The act is clear in that the employee must take the annual leave not later than 6 months after the end of the annual leave cycle i.e. the leave can be carried over for 6 months only and then must be taken or will be forfeited.

Another issue which often arises is when an employee is entitled to take that leave. Obviously leave should be taken when both the employer and employee agree on the dates. However, often this agreement is not reached and clearly it is the employer that would have the final say as to when the employee must take the leave. A suggestion to most employers is that the annual leave cycle should be properly determined and the dates upon which an employee should take the leave should be enumerated in the contract of employment or the letter of employment.

Furthermore an employer is NOT entitled to pay an employee to not take leave. Again it is reiterated that annual leave is granted as per right and there is no leeway to forfeit the leave even if by agreement.

Over and above this if an employee’s falls on a public holiday and it is a day on which the employee would ordinarily have worked then the employer must grant the employee an additional day’s paid leave. Obviously, by agreement, an employer and an employee can agree on a further day’s leave which might be unpaid.

Should the employee have outstanding leave left at the end of the employment relationship then the employee must be paid the outstanding leave. This payment must be made on the last payment to that employee. An employer must pay an employee leave pay at least equivalent to the remuneration that the employee would have received for working for a period equal to the period of the leave. Usually the employer must pay the employee leave pay before the beginning of the leave period or if by agreement, on the employees usual pay date.

Certain industries have set leave dates such as teaching. However, the entertainment, travel and tourism would normally not grant leave at the height of the normal holiday period.