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BCEA – Leave and Rest Periods

Leave is categorised as annual, sick, maternity, family responsibility or unpaid leave and these as well as rest periods will be discussed below.

Annual leave

Annual leave is calculated as an “annual leave cycle” which means the period of 12 months’ employment with the same employer and every worker is entitled to 21 consecutive days paid leave per year in respect of the annual leave cycle. Annual leave must be taken within 6 months of the end of an annual leave cycle (a year’s work).

An employer must grant an employee an additional day of paid leave if a public holiday falls on a day during an employee’s annual leave on which the employee would ordinarily have worked.

Sick leave

  •  A permanent worker is entitled to paid sick leave of 30 days over any 3-year cycle (36 days if the worker works a 6-day week). During the first 6 months that a worker works for an employer, she or he gets 1 day paid sick leave for every 26 days worked. Once all these paid sick leave days are used up, the employer does not have to pay the worker when he or she is off sick. An employee who works more than 24 hours during any month earns one day’s leave for every 26 days worked
  •  Seasonal or temporary workers are entitled to 1 day’s sick leave for every 26 days worked over the first 6-month cycle
  •  Workers who are sick for more than 2 days may be required to produce a doctor’s certificate. If a worker lives on the premises and it is difficult for them to get to a doctor (for example, in rural areas), the worker does not have to produce a certificate unless the employer gives the worker reasonable assistance to get the certificate.

Maternity leave

Women workers are entitled to 4 months unpaid maternity leave. During this time, the worker may draw maternity benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Family responsibility leave

Every worker with more than 4 months service with an employer, and who works on more than 4 days a week, is entitled to 3 days paid family responsibility leave per year. This can be taken if a direct family member dies, or when a child is born or ill. A total of three days is allocated for this kind of leave and not three days for each event.

Unpaid leave

An employer may agree to let a worker take extra days of annual leave, or the worker may be sick for longer than the paid sick leave. Then the employer does not have to pay the worker for these days.

Absent without leave

If a worker takes leave without the employer’s permission and is not sick, the employer does not have to pay the worker for the time taken off. If the worker takes off many days in a row without permission (normally more than 4 consecutive days), or often takes time off without permission, the employer may presume that the worker has deserted (left without giving notice) his or her employment.

The employer may employ someone else to do the job. In this case the employer does not give the worker notice. But if the worker returns, fair dismissal rules must be followed.

Daily and weekly rest periods

No employee’s hours of work may be spread over more than 12 hours per day. ‘Spread over’ means from the start of work to the end of work, including any breaks for meals or rest and any overtime

A rest period of 1 hour is required after every 5 hours worked. This can be reduced to 30 minutes, if the worker and employer agree in writing

Every worker is entitled to a daily rest period of 12 hours from the end of work on one day to the start of work on the following day. This rest period can be reduced to 10 hours if a worker lives on the premises and gets a meal break of at least 3 hours.  This is applicable to domestic workers, caretakers and farm workers.

Every worker is entitled to a weekly rest period of 36 continuous hours, often over the weekend

An agreement in writing between the employer and employee may reduce the meal interval to not less than 30 minutes or do away with a meal interval if the employee works less than 6 hours on a day

The agreement can also provide for a rest period of at least 60 consecutive hours (hours in a row) every two weeks.