Equity bill: Employers need to set targets

What will probably be one of the most far-reaching labour statutes in the recent past, the Employment Equity Amendment Bill (EEAB), has been assented to by the President and is expected to be implemented in September 2023.

Jonathan Goldberg – Chairman, Global Business Solutions.

The major amendment in the EEAB is that the Minister of Employment and Labour is mandated by law to set race, gender and persons with disabilities targets that must be achieved over a five-year period.

These 18 sectors have been consulted with over the past months and must be near to finalisation for Gazetting. There are only seven justifiable reasons for designated employers to raise in defence of not meeting the targets. These include the absence of recruitment and promotion opportunities, a lack of suitably qualified persons as well as business acquisitions and mergers.

This is probably the most significant change since democracy. Designated employers who fail to obtain a certificate and comply with the EEAB will face disqualification from public sector tenders, fines and litigation, as well as other penalties.

The private sector is also expected to follow suit with similar procurement protocols.

In addition, if a designated employer is found guilty at the CCMA or Labour Court of any form of unfair discrimination, including harassment, a certificate of compliance will not be issued.

Organisations will have to address issues around organisational culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. A factor that many employers have been dragging their feet on. In fact, it has been widely publicised that 94% of designated employers that have been audited fall short of the legal requirements.

The EEAB must, however, be seen against the backdrop of the slow progress that has been made since the original EEA was promulgated in December 1998. In addition, South Africa, as a member of the ILO, is accountable for the implementation of various Conventions.

Designated employers will have to do at least three things well in order to pass the muster of the EEAB:

– Ensure that its culture, which drives stakeholder behaviour, addresses diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, as well as a leadership that sets the tone in this regard.

– Develop a detailed workforce plan that is aligned to the organisational strategy and that specifies employment decisions on race, gender and persons with disabilities across the employment life cycle.

– Set up a well-functioning employment equity committee that is competent to consult on, analyse and plan in this regard.

The EEAB comes at a time of major disruption in South Africa, including natural disasters, load shedding, poor economic growth, sporadic social unrest and protests, cyber-attacks and the like,’’ said Goldberg. ‘’However, designated employers can approach this as an opportunity to attract, develop and retain the best talent by having a meaningful employee value proposition.



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