Clement May Blogs

Key Differences in South African and UK Employment Law

As many CIOs and IT managers from the UK are being offered positions in South Africa’s burgeoning IT industry (and vice versa), we take a look at some key differences between the two countries’ employment law for those of you considering relocation: 


Private sector pensions

There is no legal requirement for South African companies to provide any form of retirement scheme for employees, whether in the form of a provident fund, occupational pension or other arrangement. Most organisations, however, tend to have some sort of program in place – it’s definitely worth enquiring about a firm’s precise arrangement before accepting a job offer.

In the UK, a private employer is required by law to enrol all its UK workers in and contribute to a pension scheme. The regulations apply to all employees aged 22 and over who earn at least £10,000 per year. There’s also a host of additional legal requirements including offering opt-out options; the possibility of a ‘salary sacrifice’ (or SMART) scheme and certain information you should be kept up to date with. Again, we highly recommend you ask for more details when considering whether to take up an offer as private sector schemes in the UK can vary enormously.


Maternity and paternity leave

While female employees in South Africa have a legal right to four consecutive months of maternity leave, companies are under no obligation to offer paid maternity packages. Unpaid leave may begin up to four weeks before the birth of the baby. If you meet certain criteria and have been contributing to the country’s Unemployment Insurance Fund, you can claim up to 60 percent of your salary for the duration of your leave. It’s worth bearing in mind that the UIF is unavailable to foreign contract workers.

Maternity law in the UK is much more generous, though legal requirements vary between those classed as employees and workers taken on as independent contractors. Employees, umbrella employees and company directors who meet certain criteria, for example, are entitled to a 90 percent of their average earnings plus £139.58 for the first six weeks, dropping to £139.98 for the following 33 weeks. As always, this merits thorough investigation if it’s likely to apply to you.


Informing and consulting about transfers

British employees considering a move to the rainbow nation might be a little shocked to discover that there’s no requirement under South African law for employers to consult either employees or unions when a business is being transferred to new owners or merging with another organisation. This right to secrecy applies to both the transferer and the transferee, though the new employer is under the same legal obligations to its employees as the original one. 

In the UK, by contrast, there is an explicit legal requirement for employers to keep employees and unions thoroughly informed of any impending business transfers or mergers. Company bosses must consult with union reps or elected spokespeople for employees, also informing them in writing the reasons, timing and economic implications of a transfer, among several other requirements. 


Clement May Ltd cannot be accountable for decisions made based on the information provided here.  You should always speak to your employer and consult government websites in the UK and South Africa.