The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) sets a minimum of 15 annual days’ leave, and provides that this leave must be taken within 6 months of the end of your annual leave cycle. Clearly this is to encourage you to follow the healthy route of taking your leave regularly rather than accumulating it by working without a break for years on end.
Until recently however there have been conflicting court decisions as to whether or not such leave is automatically forfeited if not taken within the 6 month period.
Use it or lose it
A new Labour Court ruling has now confirmed that you will indeed forfeit such untaken leave, so keep a careful eye on how much leave you are accumulating and in what annual cycle.
Note however that we are only talking about the BCEA’s 15 day statutory minimum here – if your employment contract entitles you to more than 15 days, whether or not you can accumulate that excess indefinitely will depend on your particular terms of employment.
Employers – take note!
Your employment contracts should set out your leave policy clearly and should specifically address what rules apply to accumulation of any annual leave in excess of the 15 day statutory minimum. Remember that you cannot contract out of the BCEA’s basic conditions except to provide your employees with more favourable terms. Consequently in this case a less favourable provision in the employee’s contract – to the effect that he had to take his leave within 30 days of his employer’s financial year end – was unenforceable.