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In Labour News, Members by Pieter32 Comments

Question: Does an employee have a right to an annual wage increase?

Answer: There is no general duty on an employer to give an annual increase.

Brief explanation: The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 does not make provision for minimum wages or wage increases. However, if the employer’s business falls in an industry or geographic area where a Bargaining Council Agreement or Sectoral Determination applies, the employer has to comply with minimum wage stipulations contained in such Agreement or Determination. If the employee is already earning the same or more than the applicable minimum wage, the is no obligation to increase the employee’s wages.

If you are unsure whether such an agreement applies to your business, please contact our offices.


  1. Does the South African constitution allow workers not to be back payed if the company and the Union don’t agree in time on annual wage increases.

  2. If I am not in a union and receive a 5% salary increase but union members receive a 7% increase do I automatically also fall under the union agreed upon increase?

    1. Reply to Bevan: If there is a “closed shop” agreement is place, you would automatically be entitled to the increase. If not, you would in any event have a good case for insisting that your salary is on a par with other employees (union members) that do the same job.

  3. Hi. I have a lady employed as a housekeeper at my B&B. I have given her annual increases of between 6 and 10% over last 3 years. She had to take unpaid leave for 7.5 months while she had surgery on her hands. She is now back at work demanding an increase. Am I legally obliged to give an increase after only 4.5months worked in the year? Thankyou

    1. Reply to Sally: An employee does not have an automatice right to an increase. As long as you at least pay the current minimum wage that applies in your sector (In your case, the Hospitality Sector).

  4. what are the implications of the inclusion of “any other arbitrary ground” as a form of unfair discrimination in the amended employment equity act.

    1. Reply to Ralton: The current the grounds for claiming unfair discrimination are confined to the 20 or so that are listed. Adding “any other arbitrary ground” opens up potential claims to forms of discrimination have not been specifically contemplated, but where an employee (or prospective employee) still deserves protection.

  5. I have been working for this company for this passing six years and has been given an increase every year , this year I got a letter in which my annual incentive an increase remains unchanged , is that legal , I got the mentioned letter without any explanation or consultation ,

    1. Reply to Lionel: Employees do not have an automatic right to an increase even if they had been receiving increases several years in succession. The employer also has no obligation to consult. However, there may be cause for complaint if another employee doing similar work and with the similar lenght of service has received an increase.

  6. Hi, I am working in local government as a financial intern. My contract stated that I will not receive an increase for the full 3 years that I am employed (term of contract 3 years). Is this legally right? As all other government officials receive there annual increase per the agreed salary % increase.

    1. Reply to Jane: The question might not so much about your right to an increase, but rather whether you are entitled to equal pay for work of equal value. The forthcoming changes to our labour legislation will provide you with a better chance of a remedy. However, whether you have recourse under the current dispensation would depend on the particular facts surrounding your situation – if you wish to pursue it further I suggest you see a specialist in the field of labour and employment law.

  7. I have been employed in the present Company for a year. In the employment contract we were told that salaries would be revised at the end of a year. We were informed that there would be no increases. We are a group of companies. The Head Office is the Property company, and we were informed that because the Property company is not doing well we would not get increases. The owners of the company are buying more property, vehicles and have employed another 5 to 6 people. The owners of the company also travel extensively. We are being paid well under the market related salary bracket. How can the Company keep buying and employing people but not give an increase. I also believe that employees have not had a salary increase for over four years. Please help or advise us what to do, the staff are very unhappy.

    1. Reply to Carol: An undertaking to “revise” salaries, does not give rise to a right to an increase. However, two or more employees may approach the employer collectively for an increase. If the employer refuses, a dispute can be referred to the CCMA and employees can go on a protected strike if the matter remains unresolved.

  8. Hi There,

    I work for a Company at Manager level for almost 5 years now and received a yearly increase of 10%. A new employee that is not working for us less than 1 year received his 10% after 3 months and 80% after 7 months. My director also still needs to payout our December bonuses as agreed. What is my rights as there is not good reason for his increase?

    Thank you


    1. Reply to Dewald: If an employer decides to give increases there is no obligation to give everyone the same percentage increase. Howver, if there was an agreement to pay a specified bonus by a certain date this can be enforced. If the company refuses to pay, I suggest you get advice from an expert in labour law.

  9. Good day

    I work for a company where everybody else always gets an increase but not me.Each year the same story, there was a time where I did not get an increase for two years in a row. I have asked our manager about this and he always has an excuse, and my increase was due last year. The last time he told me he has a board meeting and will get back to me on that, when I phoned our office they told me he is on leave. Please advise me on what should be my next step.
    Kind Regards

    1. Reply to Cynthia: There is no general duty to give an increase (provided you at least receive the minimum wage for your position in your industry). Yet, in your case it would not be unreasonable for you to understand why you are repeatedly not getting an increase. Consider putting this history in writing to your manager and ask him again why you are the only one not getting an increase. If you don’t get a response, follow the company’s grievance procedure.

  10. I have started working in my current employer in November last year and in February 2013 I went on maternity leave so now they say I will not get the salary increase because I took 3 months off work. But those who were hired in end of February 2013 are getting. Do i not deserve it also as everyone else.

    1. Reply to Esther: While there is no automatic right to an increase, an employer my not unfairly discriminate on the basis of a reason related to pregnancy. One cannot say whether this is the case without understanding the employer’s reasoning. We suggest you take this up with your employer first to get clarity on their reasoning.

  11. im working for one of the industries in south africa. upon my employment my contract stated that i was due for an increase in that same year in October. when everyone got their increase i was not given any. i pointed it out to my manager and was told that it will be sorted out. its been 6 months now and still not sorted out, what should i do, please advice.

    1. Dear Moe: You should first establish whether there is compliance with any minimum wage provisions that might apply in your industry. In addition, one would look whether the wording of the contract specifies a percentage. If not, you could submit a grievance. If that does not resolve the matter we suggest you seek legal advice.

  12. Dear Labour Wise Team

    I am a medical doctor at a public hospital. I started at the institution last October. A letter was given to me at the end of last year by my employer advising of an annual increase. My increase was based on the 3 month salary since I had only started working in October. This year we were advised that increases where a mistake and that we will be required to ‘pay back’ the increased amount.

    Is this legal? They have advised us that we will be required to have a one on one meeting with our supervisors who will advise us of the amount. We have been told that we are not allowed legal representation nor can we have any trade union rep present, we will also be required to sign a confidentiality document.

    What are my rights in this matter?


    1. Response to Leanne: There are likely to be several factual and legal issues to this matter and you might have to seek legal advice from a labour law exert who is properly briefed. For now I suggest you establish why it is alleged to have been a “mistake”. I cannot see the point of them requiring you to sign a confidentiality document and you would be justified to resist this unless you are provided with a satisfactory reason.

  13. i have started on the 01st Febuary in 2012 and i have a 2 year contract. do i qualify for annual increase for financial year 2012/2013?

    1. Reply to Tandi: There is no automatic right to an increase, except where the business is subject to a Sectoral Determntation or Bargaining Council Agreement

  14. How does this apply to Domestic Workers. The Act requires an employer to give an annual increase.

  15. Sometimes the main agreement stipulates that salaries of employees earning more than the minimum wage must also increase by a certain percentage!

  16. Dear Labourwise Team, we have an empoloyer in our service for more than 10 Years. he received a yearly increace of 7-10% yearly. He has now reached a salary income way above the normala domestic worker . He got upset this year when we did not grant him his yearly bonus, which was always substancial.
    ( received yearly bonus throughout his employment. ) Kindly advise. Trudi

    1. Assuming that the understanding was that the bonus was variable and discretionary, he would not have a right to a bonus. Presumably you had reason for not paying the bonus, in which case we suggest that you make an effort to explain to him the basis on which you normally make your decision to pay a bonus and why he did not receive one this time.

  17. Your statement that if an employee is equal to or above the minimum wage that is prescribed by the bargaining council there is no obligation to award a further increase.
    What if the bargaining council says regardless of the current wage all employees will receive a 5 % increase?
    Then presumably you will ahve to award the increase.

    1. Author

      I suspect that you are confusing the bargaining council with the union. They are two different entities. A union cannot prescibe any increase that is more than the minimum increase that the sectoral determination or bargaining council agreement stipulates unless there was a prior agreement with the employer.

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