Identification Documents and Work

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All workers should be able to produce legal evidence of their age, in the form of a birth certificate, South African ID document or a passport. However, this is not always easy, especially in very rural areas.

Is this a legal requirement?

Yes. Legally, an employer is responsible for providing evidence of age for all their employees.

Why is this important?

Workers’ age

  • It is a criminal offence to employ any persons under the age of 15 as this constitutes child labour. In addition, restrictions apply to the employment of young workers, defined by the law as individuals between the ages of 15 and 18 years of age. This is to protect the abuse of children and young workers.

Social grants and entitlements

  • Without  a relevant identity document, claims are difficult to access. For example, an individual that becomes unemployed and then wishes to claim UIF would have difficulty doing so without some form of identification. It would also be difficult to prove that contributions have been paid for that individual when there is no proof of identity to link the payment to. 

Health, safety and welfare

  • If a person is injured whilst on duty and requires medical treatment, this is normally covered by the Commissioner for Occupation Injuries and Diseases. But the claim must always display the identification number of the individual for whom the claim is being made. If there is no number, it becomes difficult to make a claim.

What if an employee is not South African, and has no papers?

Employing foreign individuals without valid work permits is illegal and can result in hefty fines being levied against the employer.  Without identification documents, establishing the immigration status or legal entitlement to work is not possible. 

How can the identification of workers be managed?

The best solution is a valid, bar coded South African identification document.  A copy should be taken and retained for records by the employee and the original handed back to the owner.

If the person does not have an identification document or passport, an employee can ask for an original birth certificate – this will at least establish the workers’ age. To make sure it is valid, one could request an affidavit stamped by a commissioner of oaths (e.g. local police officer) proving the authenticity of the document.

In some instances, workers may not posses a birth certificate or a bar coded identification document. In this instance it is still good practice to request that the individual proves their age and eligibility to work. This can also be done in the form of an affidavit, although this is fairly open to abuse and might not provide enough proof. 

How do you get a South African identification document?

The law states that South African citizens and permanent residents, 16 years and older, must be in possession of an identity document (ID). Persons applying for their South African ID book for the first time must submit applications through the nearest Department of Home Affairs in South Africa.

You can apply for an ID if:

  • You are 15 years or older
  • You are a South African citizen or a permanent resident
  • It is lost, stolen or damaged 
  • Your personal particulars have changed
  • You are married or would like to resume any of your previous surnames
  • Your citizenship status has changed and you want to return to South Africa.

What you should do:

  • Go to your nearest Department of Home Affairs or service point
  • Complete form BI- 9

Bring the following:

  • Copy of your birth certificate or previous ID book
  • Reference book or a copy of the TBVC (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei) ID or travel document
  • Two identical photos
  • Your marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Your permanent residence permit or SA citizenship certificate and your passport, if applicable
  • Your fingerprints will be taken for recording in the National Population Register.

Note:  You can no longer receive your ID book in the post but have to collect it at the office where you made the initial application. It should take six – eight weeks to receive your ID.

Read more

Visit the Department of Home Affairs website for more information. And find out about Minimum Wages in South Africa.