The following is the most important labour law changes/amendments in the pipeline that every working South African need to know about.

1)Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act.

2)Labour Laws Amendment Bill.

3)National Minimum Wage Bill.

4)Labour Relations Act.

5)Employment Tax Incentive Act.

6)Provident Fund Annuitisation.

1)Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act.

Parliament has amended the Unemployment Insurance Act to increase benefit values, simplify their administration, and clarify that foreign national employees and learners employed on a learnership agreement are eligible to claim benefits.

It also amended the Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act to make it compulsory for foreign national employees and people on a learner ship to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. These changes took effect from March 2018 but there is no concrete date for the changes to the benefits offered under terms of the Unemployment Insurance Act.

2)Labour Laws Amendment Bill.

This Bill will introduce three new forms of leave for employees: parental leave of 10 days, adoption leave of 10 weeks, and commissioning leave of 10 weeks (where a surrogate mother is involved). Adoptive parents and parents working with a surrogate will be entitled to time to bond with the new member of their family. These changes require further amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act before it can be implemented.

This bill seeks to introduce parental leave for not only the birth of a child, but also for parents who choose to adopt or commission the service of a surrogate. It will remove the provision for family responsibility leave for the birth of a child, which usually applies to the father or in the case of a same-sex relationship, the non-child bearing parent, and provides ten consecutive days leave for parental leave when an employee’s child is born or adopted. An employee who is an adoptive parent of a child younger than two years or who is commissioning parent in a surrogacy agreement, will be entitled to ten consecutive weeks leave. If there are two adoptive parents, one parent will be entitled to ten weeks leave and the other only ten consecutive days leave.

The following details that still needs to be addressed is who is entitled to the longer form of leave as in most cases the parents will not be working for the same employer, it could also be challenged as being discriminatory on the grounds that maternity benefits for female employees are greater than those for males who elect to be the primary caregiver and to woman who are unable to bear their own children as they are not afforded the same maternity benefits as those that are able.

3)National Minimum Wage Act.

The implementation of this act has been postponed from 1 May 2018 to an as yet undetermined date. Parliament has introduced amendment bills to align the BCEA and LRA with the National Minimum Wage Act. This minimum wage will be administered on an hourly value and the minimums set by a current wage regulating measures will move up to the National Minimum Wage level if they are less.

There will be no prescribed monthly wage, only an hourly minimum wage of R20 p/h. Those that work flexible hours or part time, will be unlikely to earn R3500, if they work less than 40 hours per week. With the implementation the exceptions are, that a domestic workers will receive R15 p/h and farm workers R18 p/h and only in 2020 a full minimum wage.

The amendments provide for fines for not paying an employee in accordance with the National Minimum Wage Bill which may be greater of twice the value of the underpayment or twice the employee’s monthly wage, as well as providing Labour Inspectors with the power to enforce the National Minimum Wage.

Employees earning below the minimum earnings threshold of R205 433 per annum will be able to refer disputes relating to non-payment of wages to the CCMA. Employees earning above the threshold maintain their right to refer their disputes through the Civil or Labour Courts.

Employees who work less than four hours a day must not be paid less than four hours on that day. An exemption to this new section would be employees who work less than 24 hours a month for an employer.

The CCMA has also been given a wider jurisdiction relating to labour inspectors and theenforcement  of compliance orders. If an employer fails to comply with a labour inspector’s written undertaking or compliance order, the Director General may apply to the CCMA instead of the Labour Court to give this order the status of an arbitration award. This is an attempt to resolve these disputes faster and also in a more cost effective process.

4)Labour Relations Act.

The proposed amendments will affect workers right to strike, which is protected under South Africa’s Constitution.

The first amendment would introduce measures which although designed to minimise violent strikes, would in fact, discourage strikes in general. They would require trade unions to hold secret ballots to decide on strikes, which undermines the collective nature of a strike.

The second amendment will introduce a mechanism where strikes could be resolved through an advisory arbitration panel, which would be led by a senior commissioner of the CCMA. This will mean that employers will have an easier way to resolve strikes without necessarily having to engage their workers directly or agree to any of their demands. The decision of the advisory arbitration, unless appealed, will be binding on all parties.

5)Employment Tax Incentive Act.

For an employee to qualify for the Employment Tax Incentive, the employer must pay the employee at least the minimum wage. Where there is no wage-regulating measure (Bargaining Council), the Act specifies that the employer must pay a minimum of R2000 per month. There is no hourly or weekly minimum wage option, making it difficult to apply this test fairly in a weekly payroll.

If the life of the Act is extended, it will need to be amended to replace the R2000 monthly minimum with the proposed R20 per hour national minimum. SARS however finds it complex to administer and the next round of amendments should be used to streamline the compliance requirements.

6) Provident Fund Annuitisation.

Subject to recommendation from the Minister of Finance, from March 2019, legislation aligns the rules for pay-out of a provident fund benefit with those governing a pay-out by a pension fund and a retirement annuity fund, with the provisions to phase in the change and to overcome hardship situations. One third of the total benefit will be paid as a lump sum and two thirds will be reinvested to provide monthly annuity income.

This income and the minimum wage however, could result that some individuals can earn above the means-test level for a security grant and resulting in them losing their right to the grant, and policymakers are looking at this issue.