Recruiting in South Africa is not a straightforward route. Significant amounts of red tape have to be unravelled, plus strictly-applied legislation sets out the obligations of employers and protects the rights of their employees. More recruitment complications could be on the way. Employers must also be aware of potential changes to employment law and quotas under the Draft National Labour Migration Policy and Employment Services Amendment Bill. The Ministry of Employment and Labour proposes setting maximum limits on employing foreigners in any sector.

Quotas may be set by sector, region or occupation. Employers will have to apply for an exemption from the quota requirement. Alternatively, if the foreigner fills a position with a critical skills shortage they may be exempt. South Africa has high unemployment. According to the World Bank, the highest-ever 35.3% unemployment was reached by the end of 2021, with 66.5% applying to the 15-24 years old age group. Yet despite the sizeable labour pool seeking work, skills shortages will hinder finding the right talent.

The legislation imposes statutory minimums on their employees’ compensation and benefits. South African employment legislation is based on the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). These can also be affected by trade unions and Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), which can improve statutory minimums, but not reduce them. This highlights that recruiting in South Africa is complicated; especially for foreign companies who are not familiar with the employment market.

This is where Bradford Jacobs’ global experience is vital for taking the smartest recruitment route into South Africa. Our platforms as a Professional Employer Organisation (PEO) have worldwide reach.  You can trust us to put the brightest talent in place for your company.

Recruiting in South Africa

International companies plotting their path through the recruitment process in South Africa not only have to cope with the bureaucracy but also plan for the likelihood that quotas will be applied to hiring non-South African employees in various sectors, regions and nationally. Employment legislation is also strictly used, based on the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), to protect the rights and benefits of workers.

The recruitment process is the vital stage in making your company competitive in South Africa. However, complications surround moving staff in and obtaining residence permits and work visas. To avoid these issues, knowing where to locate the finest recruits for your company’s International Expansion is vital.

Once employees are recruited and onboarded, the process continues with meeting these responsibilities:

  • Employers register with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) within 21 days of starting operations.
  • Register employees with SARS’ ‘eFiling’ system to automatically begin obtaining their Tax Reference Number (TRN).
  • Obtain the employees’ Notice of Registration (IT150) from SARS, which shows their TRN, displaying South African ID or passport number.
  • Employees in the formal economy are registered for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) fund. Note: There are no significant social insurance contributions as there is no comprehensive social insurance system in South Africa.
  • Non-South Africans must have a valid work visa before starting work and must have an employment contract from the employer to apply for the visa.

Employees' Legal Checks in South Africa

Generally, checks are allowed, but only with permission from the applicant. Employers must comply with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and the National Credit Act (2005). Checks should be relevant to the position being applied for. Employees’ background checks can include the following:

Criminal Record: Known as ‘Criminal History Searches’, permission is required, and the candidate must supply a copy of their fingerprints through the Automated Fingerprint Identification Service (AFIS). A Police Clearance Certificate may be required for immigration and visa purposes.

Credit:  These checks are prohibited without the permission of the applicant. Further, checks should only be conducted where the position requires handling cash or other financial responsibilities or in positions of trust.

Medical: The employer requires permission to conduct these checks. Foreign applicants may need to provide a medical report; a Yellow Fever Certificate if from, or having travelled through, a relevant location; an X-ray or radiology report.

Education Qualifications and References: The National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act permits the South Africa Qualifications Authority to maintain records of fraudulent employee claims regarding their qualifications. The candidate must enable the prospective employer to verify their previous position and that they are available to hire.

Required: Compliance with all immigration and work visa regulations.

Basic Facts when Recruiting in South Africa

Employment legislation is governed by the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). These set statutory minimums for employees, although Collective Bargaining Agreements and individual contracts can improve terms but not diminish them. Other Acts cover minimum wages, occupational health and safety, supplemented by various Codes of Good Practice.

Employers cannot ignore basic employment requirements that apply to their employees, including:

  • They must be registered with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) through the ‘eFiling’ system to obtain their Tax Reference Number (TRN).
  • Contracts can be oral or written, but employees working more than 24 hours a month must have a written agreement detailing the essential aspects of their role.
  • Part-time or temporary employees must also have at least a written agreement.
  • Fixed-term contracts are allowed for specified circumstances and duration and must be in writing for employees below a certain BCEA-established earnings threshold.
  • Probation periods, generally between three and six months, must be for a reasonable period to assess suitability.

After hiring new staff and onboarding them onto the company payroll, employers must ensure they make no mistakes on statutory entitlements for their employees. Mandatory standards include minimum wages, sick leave, working hours, maternity allowances, paid vacations, termination and severance, notice periods and social insurance payments. All of the statutory minimums can be improved by contracts or CBAs. Examples include:

  • The BCEA restricts working hours to 45 a week and nine a day (excluding lunch break) in five-day working weeks or less; and eight hours a day (excluding lunch break) in working weeks of more than five days. Hours can be extended by agreement, particularly in the service industry. After five hours’ work, employees must have one hour’s unpaid break.
  • Employees are entitled to 21 days paid vacation after working for one year with an employee under BCEA regulations or one day’s leave for every 17 days worked. Vacation pay is equal to the amount the employee would have earned during that period, either at the start of leave or, by agreement, on the usual payment date.
  • The BCEA restricts overtime to 10 hours each week or three per day at a minimum of 50% extra pay over their standard hourly rate. There must be a written agreement regarding overtime. Employers can pay employees their regular wage for overtime but award a minimum of 30 minutes of time off on full pay or mention at least 90 minutes of paid time off for each hour’s overtime.


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