Possible reasons why your boss may not have to give you a bonus this year

Do you know whether or not you're entitled to receiving an employee bonus?

If your company is threatening to cancel your bonus, read this now!

The first thing to remember is that a company does not owe you a bonus or a 13th cheque at all – which is why you should read your employment agreement carefully. In the same breath, as an employee that’s been receiving a bonus, you are entitled to at least a few things…

When you aren’t entitled

According to the labour law of South Africa, an employer can decide whether or not to offer (and negotiate) some sort of bonus with their employees. If a company chooses not to pay their workers, or wishes to continue not paying their workers, they may do so. Legally there’s nothing you as an employee can do about it. In other words, there is no threat of unfair labour practice if this is the case.

Read more: Are your salary expectations reasonable?

When you are entitled

If you do receive a bonus, your employer has to continue paying it. Your employer cannot just go and make changes to your bonus without consulting the very people whose salary will be touched.

If your company is threatening to alter the frequency, date of payment, or amount of payment, they have to liaise with you and your co-workers before making any changes. They are then going to have to try and make you agree to and accept the changes. They will have to speak to every one of your co-workers, or at least those that the changes will affect. 

When you aren’t entitled

Now, if your employer has discussed it with you and you don’t agree with the changes, they are still legally able to make the changes anyway. However, important to note is that this is only applicable if there is ‘good, sound and reasonable commercial rationale.'

Yes, you can take still claim unfair legal practice if they make the change even after you’ve voiced your disagreement. But if it turns out that it in fact is ‘good, sound and reasonable commercial rationale’ to implement the proposed changes, then you could lose the claim.

So to summarise:

- If you haven’t received a bonus, you cannot demand it;

- Make sure you know what your employee contract says about bonuses;

- If you have always received a bonus, your employer has to talk to you before making changes to the pay out;

- Your employer can still change your bonus pay out even if you disagree with the changes;

- You can then only claim unfair practices if your employer makes unreasonable changes to your bonus structure.

Also read: Are you being paid enough?

According to labourguide.co.za, the employment contract holds all the answers. The terms and conditions applicable to the payment of bonuses must be specifically and clearly stated, even to the extent that if it is a company policy not to pay bonuses of any sort, this fact must also be stipulated in the employment contract.

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