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New bill empowers Labour Minister to speed up workplace transformation

Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi

Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi

Published Jul 28, 2020


Cape Town - Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi could soon be empowered to accelerate transformation at workplaces and also come down hard on non-compliance with employment equity legislation requirements.

This emerged in the newly gazetted Employment Equity Amendment Bill that was published in the Government Gazette.

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The bill intends to empower the minister to determine sectoral numerical targets for the purposes of ensuring equitable targets of suitably qualified people from designated groups at all occupational levels in the workplace.

The bill also seeks to provide for the issuing of certificates by the minister confirming an employer’s compliance in relation to the conclusion of state contracts.

“The amendments have the purpose of removing a provision empowering non-designated employers to notify the director-general of the Department Labour that they intend to voluntarily comply with Chapter 3 of the act if they are a designated employer,” reads a summary of the bill.

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The act also does away with a clause that classified employers with fewer than 50 employees as designated employers upon meeting a specified turnover threshold.

“This is to reduce the regulatory burden on small employers in implementing Chapter 3 of the act because all employers will obtain a certificate of compliance without having to submit an employment equity report.”

The bill states that the minister may by notice in a Government Gazette identify national economic sectors.

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“The minister may prescribe criteria that must be taken into account in identifying sectors and sub-sectors,” reads the bill.

The bill has removed the October deadline provided for in the existing legislation for the submission of an employment equity report to the director-general.

Instead, it states that the report should be submitted once every year.

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“An employer that is not able to submit a report to the director-general within the period prescribed must notify the director-general in the prescribed manner and period giving reasons for its inability to do so,” it said.

The bill has also empowered labour inspectors to request and obtain written undertaking from a designated employer to prepare an employment equity plan.

According to the proposed amendments, the minister could issue a certificate of compliance if he was satisfied that certain conditions were met by the employer.

These include complying with numerical targets and providing reasonable grounds to justify failure to comply, as well as no award or finding by the CCMA for failing to pay the minimum wage and breaching unfair discrimination.

DA MP Michael Cardo said his party would oppose the bill.

Cardo said the bill conferred to the minister a degree of coercive racial control that was completely incompatible with the principles of a market-based economy.

“These numerical targets imposed by the minister are quotas in all but name, and the minister has no business in ramming them down employers' throats.

“Instead of focusing on racial bean counting, the government should worry more about growing the pool of skilled black professionals and developing a pipeline of promotion in the workplace,” he said.

Nxesi has previously said the self-regulated employment equity targets had not yielded positive results since the Employment Equity Act was enacted.

Last August, the Commission for Employment Equity released a report showing that 65% of top management positions in the private sector were occupied by whites, Africans held 15.1%, Indians 9.7% coloureds 5.3% and foreign nationals 3.4%.

The report said males occupied 76.5% of the positions and females 23%, while Africans occupied 76% of the positions in the government and whites occupied 69.6% of the positions in the private sector.

Political Bureau

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