27/04/2011 President Jacob Zuma at the Union Building during the freedom day celebration. Picture : Sizwe Ndingane

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has declared that the Employment Equity Amendment Act, 2013 will come into effect on Friday, the presidency said.

“In January 2014, President Zuma assented to the Act and it was later published in the Government Gazette on 16 January 2014,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

Minister Mildred Oliphant said no one could deny that the labour market still suffered from the impact of the apartheid race exclusion legislation.

It had been 16 years after the passing of the Employment Equity Act, 1998, which was a turning point in history as the first equality legislation passed by a democratically elected Parliament.

“Despite the good intentions of this legislation to address the imbalances and inequalities in our labour market, there was resistance to embrace transformation,” Oliphant said in a statement.

“The failure to embrace transformation necessitated the amendments to this Act in order to expedite the transformation of the labour market and to ensure full participation of all South Africans in the economy of this country.”

She said the amendments were meant to contribute towards the restoration of human dignity and would address the “persisting inequalities” experienced by the majority of South Africans as a result of apartheid laws.

The negotiations for the adoption of these amendments were as a result of robust engagements by all social partners, including organised business, organised labour, government and the broader society through the parliamentary public hearings processes, she said.

“The salient feature of these amendments is the innovation introduced to address discrimination in salaries,” she said.

“It is the concept of 'equal pay for work of equal value' to ensure that there is parity in remuneration of workers of the same employer doing work of equal value when all terms and conditions of employment are the same.”

Differentiation in pay that could not be justified would become unfair discrimination.

The amendments also make provision for better dispute resolution mechanisms and would strengthen compliance mechanisms in the Act.

“Strengthening enforcement mechanisms alone, including increasing fines, will not be sufficient to address issues of equality and affirmative action in the workplace and society as whole,” Oliphant said.

“I therefore urge employees and their representatives, employers and their representatives, to engage on employment equity matters and embrace transformation in their workplaces.”