Wondering whether the Employment Equity Act applies to you? Confused about how to implement employment equity in your company? Concerned about how to classify your employees in racial terms? Read on.
Employment equity requirements are giving me sleepless nights. How do I as an employer begin to address it?
Don’t panic. It’s all on the Department of Labour’s website. But first read this summary of the basic information and the steps you need to take.
What is affirmative action?
Affirmative action ensures that qualified people from designated groups have equal opportunities in the workplace. Designated groups are blacks (Africans, Coloureds and Indians), women and people with disabilities.
Who is affected by the Employment Equity Act?
All employers, workers and job applicants (except for members of the National Defence Force, National Intelligence Agency and South African Secret Service). Affirmative action provisions apply to employers who employ 50 or more staff members or whose annual turnover is more than that set down in Schedule 4 of the Act (the figures vary according to the type of industry).
How do employers go about achieving employment equity?
Employers must draw up an employment equity plan, setting out the steps they intend taking to achieve employment equity, over the next one to five years. To do this, they need to analyse their workforce profile as well as their employment practices and policies.
In drawing up the plan they must consult with unions and employees to get agreement around it. Employers need to report their equity plans regularly to the Department of Labour, which monitors implementation.
What has to be included in the plan?
Employment equity plans must show:
- objectives for every year;
- affirmative action measures that will be implemented;
- where black people, women and people with disabilities are not represented:
- numerical goals to reach this;
- timetables; and
- timetables for annual objectives;
- the duration of the plan (not shorter than a year or longer than 5 years);
- procedures that will be used to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the plan;
- ways to solve disputes about the plan; and
- people responsible for implementing the plan.
The Department of Labour recommends this is achieved in three phases: preparation (assign responsibility, set up consultative forum, analysis of employment practices and environment, draw up workforce profile); implementation (proactive steps to improve the company’s diversity profile); and monitoring.
- Employment equity helpline – 0860 101 018
- The Department of Labour has a series of basic guides to help you through this process.
Do I have to submit reports?
The Department of Labour is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of affirmative action. To do this, it needs to receive regular reports from companies on their progress. Regular reporting to the department is a legal requirement.
These can be submitted electronically or by hand to any labour centre. They can also be posted to:
Employment Equity Registry
The Department of Labour
Private Bag X117
How often must employers submit reports? Employers with more than 150 employees must report every year by the first working day of October, whie employers with fewer than 150 employees must report every year ending with an even number (ie every second year).
Copies of the reports must be kept for at least three years for large employers, or two years for smaller employers.
What happens if I don’t report to the Department of Labour?
Employers who do not comply with legislation will be excluded from the department’s public register. Government and other companies are encouraged to do business with those on the register.
Employees can report employers who do not comply with the equity legislation to the department.
What if I cannot submit my report?
Employers who are unable to report must let the Department of Labour know in writing, giving reasons.
The Director General
Department of Labour
Private Bag X117
I thought racial classification was an outdated practice, yet the Department of Labour requires this information. How do I as a company employer go about finding out the “race” of my employees in a tactful manner?
The EEA1 form calls for voluntary self-classification on the part of the employee. If an employee refuses to fill this in the employer must rely on existing records of the employee, but must make sure that this information is made available to him/her. If an employee is “mixed race”, the designation he/she volunteers must be used. If the employer must make the choice, he/she is advised to put the employee in the “designated group” category – in other words, black.
How can I assess whether my employee falls into the disability category?
Once again, the EEA1 form calls for voluntary self-classification on the part of the employee. According to the Act, people with disabilities are defined as “people who have long-term or recurring physical or mental impairment which substantially limits their prospects of entering into, or advancement in, employment”.
Are all organisations regarded as designated employers if they employ the minimum number of employees?
Yes, as long as they employ more than 50 people or meet the annual turnover requirement (see Schedule Four of the Act for this). These include: NGOs, trade unions, trusts, co-operatives, professional practices, sport codes and churches.
SAinfo reporter, with information from the Department of Labour
Reviewed: 17 April 2013
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