South Africa

South Africa will have one fewer public holiday next year

South Africans will enjoy one less public holiday next year, which will positively impact the economy and businesses, albeit small.

This year, South Africans had one extra public holiday on 29 May to allow voting in the general elections. However, next year, this date will be a normal working day.

Only one of the 12 public holidays provided for in the Public Holidays Act will not be observed next year.

This is because National Women’s Day, which takes place on 9 August, will fall on a Saturday in 2025 and will not be observed.

However, thanks to a technicality under the Public Holidays Act, South Africans will enjoy an ‘extra’ public holiday on 28 April 2025.

Freedom Day, which falls on 27 April, falls on a Sunday in 2025, meaning the holiday will be celebrated on Monday, 28 April 2025.

This is because, according to section 2(1) of the Act, “whenever a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday shall be a public holiday”.

This means South Africans will have one fewer public holiday in 2025, which is good news for businesses.

This is partly because of a section in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which specifies that when there is a public holiday, employers cannot require employees to work on that day and must pay them their normal wages.

Employees who choose to work on public holidays are entitled to double their ordinary pay, which can be costly for employers.

In addition, public holidays negatively impact productivity levels in the country. Salaried employees plan their leave and take extra days off to take full advantage of the public holiday, which hampers productivity.

Labour economist Andrew Levy said there is big absenteeism around public holidays, so businesses in South Africa lose much more than a single day.

Speaking with Kaya Biz, Productivity CEO Mothunye Mothiba explained that of the 365 days in a year, 104 are weekends.

In 2023, South Africa had 14 public holidays, which means that over a quarter of the year was effectively “unproductive”.

Some also argue that adding public holidays can negatively impact significant contributors to GDP, such as manufacturers and mining.

For example, in 2011, when acting President Kgalema Motlanthe unexpectedly added another public holiday to South Africa’s calendar on 27 December, BDO South Africa estimated the cost to the GDP was R7 billion in lost revenue.

However, others also argue that public holidays promote extra spending by boosting domestic tourism, retail sales, and hospitality industries.

For example, Italy added a one-off holiday in 2011 to mark the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. Three years later, Francesco Maria Esposito from the Catholic University of Milan analysed the economic data around the holiday and found a small but positive impact.

A separate study, also conducted in Italy, showed that a paid day off positively impacted staff morale – finding that workers were more productive the day after a holiday because they were “rested and relaxed”.


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