Employees who may have been led to believe that because Good Friday and Human Rights Day this year fall on the same day (21 March) they are entitled to two days’ pay for taking the holiday on Friday or to four days’ pay if they work on the day, are going to be disappointed.

Payroll software specialist Softline Pastel Payroll has advised payroll administrators within its client base that the Public Holidays Act (36 of 1994) states that every employee taking the public holiday is entitled to at least the payment they would ordinarily have received for working on that day.
Employees that do work are entitled to at least double the amount they would have ordinarily received or, if it is greater, the ordinary hourly rate amount plus an amount earned for the actual time they worked on that day.
Pastel Payroll MD Grant Lloyd says the confusion may have stemmed from the fact that the Public Holidays Act (36 of 1994) was promulgated before the new Basic Conditions of Employment Act (75 of 1997) (BCEA) and therefore its references to the old BCEA (3 of 1983) are no longer valid.
“The only reference to payments on public holidays in the new BCEA (75 of 1997) is in section 18 where it clearly states that payment is for that day and, in the absence of any definition of the word ‘day’ in the new BCEA legislation it can only be assumed that a ‘day’ is a 24 hour period, which is what it has always been.”
Lloyd adds that the entitlement of any employee not working on 21 March is therefore one day’s wage. For anyone that does work on the public holiday, the employer must pay the greater of two possible amounts – either double a day’s wage or a day’s wage plus payment for the number of hours worked on the public holiday.
“The upshot is that those people who intend working on the public holiday and anticipated being paid quadruple, just because it happens to be the date on which two public holidays fall, will not be getting four days’ pay for one day’s work or two days’ pay if they take the holiday, even though they may have been led to believe otherwise.”
It has been reported that President Thabo Mbeki intends to declare May 2 a public holiday to compensate. The Public Holidays Act provides for at least 12 paid public holidays a year. As Good Friday and Human Rights Day fall on the same day this year, the total of public holidays this year is currently 11.