Unpaid Leave vs. Deductions

unpaid-leaveThe issue of leave and remuneration is one of the most common sticking points between employers and members of staff. Although the law is quite clear on the number of leave days an employee is entitled to, including annual leave, sick leave and family responsibility leave, disagreements often arise from employees taking their leave without notice.

Any member of staff employed by an employer in South Africa is obliged to work under the conditions described in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, often referred to as the BCEA. Employers are also required to fulfil their obligations to staff as described in the Act. Though the law is quite clear on the matter of leave and payment for leave, employers and staff are often not aware what the correct way is to approach the issue.

The BCEA and Labour Relations Act exist to protect both workers and their employers. According to these laws, staff should be paid for the time they worked and deductions may only be made if agreed to before the time or if they form part of a law or collective agreement with a union. What some employers may not realise however, is that a member of staff who is absent without reason or permission does not have to be paid for the time he or she didn’t work – and this is not a deduction.

How can this be? Although it may seem that a deduction has been made, it has not because the member of staff missed work without permission (in the case of paid annual leave) or good reason (ill-health or family responsibility) he or she did not work as expected by the law. Because of this, employers are not obliged to pay the employee his or her full salary at the end of the week or month – he or she is only to be paid for work done.

If you are in any doubt about how to approach the issue of leave and staff payment, contact the Northwood team without delay – our professional staff will advise you on the best approach to take.

2 thoughts on “Unpaid Leave vs. Deductions

  1. Good day.

    I hope this email finds you well.

    I was recently in a car accident, which happened on a Tuesday on my way home from work. Total right off. Head injury and back injury. The Dr. put me off for the rest of the week, only to return to work on the following Monday.

    Two days after my accident I decided to go back to work on the Thursday but there was trouble with the public transport and my train that I was on got cancelled. From the morning 7am I informed the guy at work that I report to about this and he knew about everything from the beginning with the trains not working and that I have been stuck inbetween stations with no way off the train for over 2hours on one spot… so I never made it to work that day.

    On Friday when I returned to work the HR and Financial Director sent me an email to say that I can only apply for sick leave for the one day (if I have a sick note) otherwise it will be normal annual leave and I MUST apply for unpaid leave for the second day because I was already on my way to work. But in my contract it states that only if I’m absent for more that two days am I required to hand in a sick note. When I asked them why I should apply for unpaid leave they simply replied bacause my reason for staying out of work was not valid enough.

    Yesterday I found out by HR that they already deducted that one days unpaid leave from my salary before I even put in my leave.

    Am I allowed to apply for sick leave for both of those days if I have a valid sick note for those days and I still have sick leave left to take?

    Please help.


    1. Based on the information given, and assuming that no other relevant information exists, you should consider a telephone call the Labour Department. It would seem as if your rights are being infringed.

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