“South African business can expect a slump in productivity in April and May this year, when a wave of public holidays and Election Day on 7th May will drastically reduce the number of working days,” says the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“From April 13, we have two four-day weeks followed by a three-day week and then another four-day week for the election,” said Janine Myburgh, President of the Chamber. “On top of that, people generally add some days from their annual leave to the weekends, especially when a holiday falls in the middle of the week. To make matters even worse, the wave of public holidays follows school holidays which end on 7th April.”
Myburgh said this would make it difficult to maintain productivity and many businesses would have to pay double time to bring staff in on holidays to maintain productivity and meet deadlines. The week at the end of April would be the worst. It would start with Freedom Day on Sunday, 27th April, which would be celebrated with a public holiday on Monday, 28th April. This would be followed by two working days and then another holiday on Thursday, 1st May, to celebrate Labour Day. Friday would be a normal working day and then came the weekend.
“It is quite clear that very little work will be done at the end of April and we might as well close down the country for the week,” Myburgh said.
One of the problems was the decision to grant extra holidays when a public holiday fell during the weekend. “This is what is happening in the case of Freedom Day but not for Women’s Day which falls on Saturday, 9th August. Why are both holidays not treated in the same way?” she asked.
There was a case to be more flexible and to move holidays to a Friday or Monday so they did not break up the whole week. “For example, Heritage Day falls on Wednesday, 24th September. There is no reason why the public holiday cannot be moved to Friday where it will be less disruptive.”
Myburgh said the midweek public holidays also played havoc with the school year as schools often closed on the day wedged in between a holiday and a weekend. This forced many working mothers to take a day’s leave to look after children.”
“If South Africa was serious about improving productivity and competing with the rest of the world, it should start by cleaning up the calendar,” Myburgh said.