Unions, experts welcome changes to Employment Equity Act

Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.

Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.

Published Feb 5, 2024


Changes the Employment Equity Act’s (EEA) draft regulations on proposed sectoral numerical targets for the implementation of the Employment Equity Amendment Act have been welcomed as unions and experts agree the legacies of apartheid cannot “remain prevalent in many workplaces”.

The regulations republished by Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi on Thursday, state that the “purpose of affirmative action is a coherent packet of measures, of a temporary nature in line with the Constitution, aimed specifically at correcting the position of members of a target group as defined in the Employment Equity Act in the workplace, in order to obtain effective equality”.

This as the country’s Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) 23d report last year showed top management was still occupied mostly by white people at 62.9 percent.

However, the initial draft of the proposed 5-year sectoral numerical targets received backlash for its alleged unfair representation of some previously disadvantaged racial groups in certain provinces, among others.

The minister has since amended the regulations. This included the removal of the differentiation among designated racial groups (African, coloured, and Indian). Instead, the focus is on “designated groups”, encompassing black people (Africans, coloured, and Indians), women and people living with disabilities. It also sets a goal for each gender within the designated group and provides guidance for employers to implement the targets.

In agriculture, forestry and fishing, the target is 35% designated groups, with 20% male and 15% female in top management. In the financial and insurance industry, the target is 46% designated groups in top management, 26% male, 20% female.

Labour lawyer Elton Rochert said it appeared the minister attempted to address concerns that were being raised in terms of the initial draft.

“If you look at the purpose of the act, it is about recognising the imbalances created by apartheid, the act aims to address these historic imbalances and there has been some progress. There is, however, still a need for it, it’s just how one goes about the implementation,” he said.

Trade union federation Cosatu’s Matthew Parks said they welcomed the amendments and said they seek to consolidate the initial proposals and to simplify processes to help ensure employers are able to comply.

“Cosatu supports the principles of employment equity. We cannot remain a society where the legacies of apartheid remain prevalent in many workplaces. The most recent employment equity report highlighted ... senior management posts held by white men. That should be a wake-up call for the entire nation. Employment equity is a fair and rational response to our legacies of discrimination and to ensure that all workers are able to reach their full potential. All South Africans are included in employment equity, all the law requires is for workplaces to make progress towards ensuring our workplaces reflect our demographic diversity.”

General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (Giwusa) president Mametlwe Sebei said the economic foundations of the country continued to “reproduce and perpetuate the legacy of apartheid, which these measures are designed to overcome”.

“Control over the economy remains in the hands of the same people that owned it 30 years ago. The levels of unemployed among black working class are extremely disproportionately high compared among white people.

For us as the workers movement, key industries must be under democratic control for the position of quality public services, which allows for the advancement of everybody equally,” he said.

The DA said it remained in opposition to the act and said they were waiting for a date to have the matter heard in court where they seek to declare it unconstitutional and unlawful in its entirety.

The public has 90 days to comment on the regulations, which can be submitted to christina.lehlokoa@labour. gov.za, [email protected] and [email protected].

Cape Times