How South Africa compares to other countries when it comes to public holidays


As South Africa enters into a prolonged 4-workday week period, many will be taking the time off to relax, dreading the return to ‘normality’ in April.

With only ‘Youth Day’ (16 June) falling on a Saturday this year, South Africans who typically work 9-5 are also set to receive bumper time off in 2018 – with the country currently celebrating 12 mandatory public holidays under the Basic Conditions Employment Act.

And while the country ranks highly in this regard, it’s not the highest according to the Telegraph and labour consultants Mercer, with both India and Colombia celebrating 18 public holidays each year.

They are followed by Thailand, Lebanon, South Korea and Japan (all with 16 public holidays), and Argentina and Chile which both boast 15 public holidays.

At the lower end of the scale, Mexico has just seven public holidays, while the UK, Hungary and the Netherlands have eight public holidays.

Mercer said that religious observances are the most common reasons for national time off, with independence days also granting a fair number of days off too.

Notably Thailand has three days’ holiday for Thai New Year – Songkran festival – while Muslim countries are granted three or four days for Eid al-Adha.

South Africa

In January, Faan Coetzee, employment director at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, cautioned that consecutive public holidays can be seriously detrimental to the cost of doing business in South Africa.

This is especially true for working arrangements and shifts in workplaces that run a ’24/7/365′ operation, he said.

“Employers can expect requests for additional days off on Monday, 30 April, Friday, 10 August, Monday, 24 December and Monday, 31 December as these dates are convenient for employees to create long weekends,” he said.

“Employers are advised to timeously make arrangements with employees who wish to take extra days off to work in those days.”

He added that employers should also consider collective agreements and Bargaining Council agreements that impact public holidays, working arrangements and shifts.

“There is bad news for employees who are on strike on public holidays in that they are not entitled to any remuneration. They are only entitled to be remunerated for public holidays if they ordinarily worked the public holiday (see s16 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act).”

“As they would not ordinarily work on any day during the strike, they would not ordinarily work on a public holiday that falls in the strike period. Thus, they are not entitled to remuneration for the public holiday during the strike,” he said.


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