Christmas Bonus time? - December 2010

All about Christmas Bonuses, 13th Cheques, Labour Laws, Salaries and Trade Unions on Mywage South Africa.

It's that time of year, when the holidays are going to hit and a bit of extra money would be much appreciated. There are those who are lucky enough to get a Christmas bonus, or 13th cheque. And then there are those who do not. Many people wish to know what the legal situation regarding bonuses is. Quite simply - there isn't one.

Labour Law and Bonuses

South African Labour Law is silent on the question of bonuses. If an employer wishes to pay or not pay a bonus to an employee, that is their decision to make. They can choose to negotiate with employees. But if they do not pay a bonus, it is not an unfair labour practice.

The Christmas Bonus or 13th Cheque

Many employees have come to expect the payment of the 13th cheque as a right or as a condition of employment. At job application interviews most applicants will ask "do you pay a 13th Cheque?" 

However, it is not covered by labour law - payment is at the discretion of the employer. This should be covered in an employees terms and conditions of service.

If a company or employer has been paying employees an annual 13th cheque, but then wishes to discontinue or change the situation, such changes do constitute a change to the employees' terms and conditions of employment. This cannot be done unilaterally - it must be negotiated with the employees. However, if the employer has sound and reasonable commercial reasons for making the change, then they can implement it after negotiations, even if all employees do not agree to it.

However, it would be fair to employees who are expecting a 13th cheque to help with holiday payments, presents and such like to be informed well in advance - perferably up to six months in advance - if such a change will take place.

The bottom line remains - a 13th cheque or christmas bonus is not a right, but an "extra". 

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Want to know more about negotiating your salary and workplace conditions? Find out about Joining a Trade Union.

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