Understanding the Employment Equity Act and Recent Amendments

Explore the Employment Equity Act and recent amendments…

The Employment Equity Act (EEA) is designed to promote equity in the workplace.

To redress the historic legacy of workplace disadvantages, thereby ensuring that all employees receive equal opportunities, and that employees are treated fairly by their employers. The law protects the employee in all occupational categories and levels from unfair treatment and any form of discrimination.

What are some business actions that can be regarded as discriminatory by the EEA?

  • Refusing to employ a person because he/she has strong religious beliefs/has a disability
  • Doing HIV testing unless justified by the Labour Court.
  • Denying people access to the workforce, and treating them unfairly, based on their:
  • gender
  • pregnancy
  • marital status
  • family responsibility
  • ethnic or social origin
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • age
  • disability
  • religion
  • HIV status
  • conscience
  • belief
  • political opinion
  • culture
  • language and
  • birth

Diversity Ethnicity World Global Community Concept

Disadvantages of the EE act:

  • Increased administration burden, as businesses must compile/submit employment equity reports every two years.
  • Expensive to train/employ someone who knows about the Act.
  • Other groups may not respect the knowledge/skills/experience of an E appointment which may lead to conflict.

Proposed Act Amendments

Proposed Sector EE targets

In April this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the Employment Equity Amendment Act 4 of 2022. The Act amends the Employment Equity Act of 1998 (Act 55 of 1998) , the effective date is still to be announced.

One of the changes is the definition of a “designated employer”, which has been amended to exclude companies with fewer than 50 employees (irrespective of their annual company turnover). This means smaller businesses are not required to comply with the obligations of a designated employer regarding affirmative action (including the development and implementation of EE plans, and reporting and submitting EE reports to the Department of Employment and Labour). This lifts a huge administrative burden from small businesses.

These smaller businesses will still be entitled to obtain a Certificate of Compliance (under Section 53 of the EE Act), which is necessary to apply for government tenders.

But there have been some controversial changes as well. The new Section 15A introduces sectoral numerical targets. This is designed to ensure the equitable representation of people from historically disadvantaged groups (based on gender, race and disability etc, ) at all levels in the workplace.

The Minister of Employment and Labour (in consultation with the Employment Equity Commission) will identify, and set sector-specific EE numerical TARGETS (not quotas) for each national economic sector, for the administration of the EEA. (He will also be able to regulate compliance criteria, and issue a certificate of compliance.) This is a big shift, as the government has always stressed that there are no targets in this space. It will be interesting to see which demographics will be used in setting these targets. What role will REGIONAL demographics versus NATIONAL demographics play?

A new online assessment system to monitor employers’ implementation of these sector targets will be launched by the Minister, to track whether employers are achieving their targets.

These sector-specific targets have caused great consternation. The trade union Solidarity has sent the President a letter, asking him not to sign the Bill into law, but to refer it back to Parliament. They contend that this law is unconstitutional and immoral. This amendment will definitely be challenged in court.

So what can you do?

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR BEE AND EE STRATEGY?

If you wish to comment on this amendment, as a company, then join forces with others in your economic sector or industry, and send comments to the minister (department of labour). Consolidated comments will hold more sway, and force the government to take notice. You have until 12 June to do this.

Find details on where to send your comments in the Proposed Sector EE targets document. Proposed Sector EE targets