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Johan van Deventer – Equity? Let’s get to the bottom of it

Equality means that each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

Employment equity in South Africa is regulated through the Employment Equity Act and was introduced to ensure that employers promote equity in the workplace by ensuring there is equitable representation of employees from designated groups by means of affirmative action measures, eliminating unfair discrimination and ensuring that employees are treated fairly in the workplace. Given the diversity of the people in South Africa, it is imperative that businesses seek to uphold the purpose of employment equity.

Understanding the definition of a designated employer is vital when speaking about employment equity. If you meet one or more of the following criteria, you are deemed a designated employer if you:

· Employ 50 or more employees

· Employ fewer than 50 employees but have an annual turnover equal to or above the turnover threshold as stipulated in Schedule 4 of the Act

· Are an organ of state, and

· Are bound by a collective agreement

Designated employees however refers to Black people (Africans, Indians, Coloureds), all women, and people with disabilities who are citizens of South Africa by birth or decent or through naturalisation.

To achieve the elimination of unfair discrimination in the workplace, all employers must ensure that they comply with Chapter 2 of the Employment Equity Act. This states that no employer may unfairly discriminate against employees directly or indirectly in employment practices based on race, gender, religion, marital status, disability, language, age, or any other arbitrary ground. Furthermore, designated employers must also comply with Chapter 3 of the Employment Equity Act which ensures that they put in place affirmative action measures to safeguard that there is equal representation of designated groups on all occupational levels in the workforce and to identify and eliminate any barriers which may adversely affect people from designated groups.

All designated employers have a duty to:

· Consult on employment equity matters with their employees, trade union representatives or employee representative

· Conduct a qualitative and quantitative analysis in accordance with Section 19 of the Act, by analysing company policies, practices, procedures and work environment to identify barriers that may adversely affect people from designated groups and analysing the workforce to identify underrepresentation of designated groups on all occupational levels.

Designated employers also need to implement and monitor their Employment Equity (EE) Plan and submit a report to the Department of Labour every year on the progress of the implementation of their EE Plan. All manual reports must be submitted on 1 October and should you choose to submit online employment equity reports the deadline is 15 January every year and is done via the Employment Equity Online System.

It Is important to note if designated employers fail to uphold their duties, they can face substantial fines ranging from a minimum of R1.5million or 2% of their annual turnover (whichever is greater) to a maximum of R2.7million or 10% of their annual turnover (whichever is greater).

It’s imperative to understand that employers who comply with employment equity, by ensuring all employees are treated fairly and given equal opportunities tend to attract top talent, increases retention of employees, creates a more diverse workforce, and improves overall employee performance. In addition to avoiding employment equity fines, compliant employers can operate in highly regulated industries where proof is needed of employment equity compliance and will also benefit from B-BBEE points on the management control element.

LabourNet harnesses its client-centric culture and equity expertise to deliver simple, cost-effective solutions to our clients. We partner with our clients to design and deliver employment equity solutions that meet their specific compliance obligations while implementing equity best practice.

T: +27 (0)31 266 6570

C: +27 (0)82 786 7480


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