1. Minimum Requirements
Most employees in South Africa are employed under contracts of employment, which may be written, oral or a combination of both.
By law, the basic conditions of employment provided for under the BCEA constitute terms of any employment relationship. The contract of employment can provide more favourable terms. Collective agreements can vary contracts of employment, if the employers and employees are bound by the collective agreement, within the limits set by the BCEA, that is, there are some terms that cannot be set at less than those provided by the BCEA even by collective agreement.
In practice, most employers in South Africa enter into written employment contracts with their employees. There is no general legal requirement for an employer to have a written contract, subject to a few limited exceptions such as merchant seamen.
2. Fixed-term/Open-ended Contracts
It is possible to be engaged either on a permanent (open-ended) or a fixed-term basis as an employee; however, unless agreed otherwise, employment will be assumed to be permanent (open-ended) in nature.
3. Trial Period
Trial/Probationary periods are permitted for newly hired employees in order to afford the employer an opportunity to evaluate the employee’s performance and suitability for employment before confirming his or her appointment. The duration of the period must be reasonable with reference to the nature of the job and the time required to assess suitability.
4. Notice Period
The BCEA stipulates minimum notice periods of one week for employees with less than six months’ service, two weeks for employees with service between six months and one year, and four weeks for employees with service over a year. Employers may pay their employees in lieu of notice, and it is common for more senior employees to be contracted to notice periods greater than these minima (e.g. 2 – 6 months).