Amendments to the Employee Equity Act to look at new definitions, targets

The labour minister could set EE targets for companies, under proposed changes to the EE Act.

  • By Advocate Tertius Wessels from Strata-G Labour Solutions

The Department of Employment and Labour has proposed amendments to the Employment Equity Act that seek to give Minister of Labour Thulas Nxesi the authority to set employment equity targets for employers across the economy, among other notable changes.

There are five notable changes for employers to take into account, should the amendment bill pass in its current form. These include new definitions for designated employers and people with disabilities, redefining designated employers, sector-specific numerical targets, psychological testing, unions and consultations as well as sector-specific numerical targets.

Redefining designated employers: Employers who employ fewer than 50 employees, regardless of their turnover, will no longer fall within the definition of the designated employer and will not be required to comply with certain provisions of the Act that specifically deal with affirmative action measures. What will still be required, however, is employment equity reporting, and making voluntary affirmative action obsolete.

Sector-specific numerical targets: The minister will have the power to identify national economic targets and determine numerical goals for specific industries or sectors, following consultation with the Employment Equity Commission and after seeking public commentary.

Redefining people with disabilities: The new definition will be aligned to the United Nations definition and include people who have long-term or recurring, physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments. Currently, under the Employment Equity Act, a disability must be permanent.

Psychological testing: The new amendments propose doing away with requiring psychological testing or similar assessment of employees to be certified by the (HPCSA).
Psychological testing comes into play for pre-employment checks and screening, ensuring employers have an objective tool for pairing up a prospective employee with the relevant duties that come with their role.

Trade unions and consultations proposal: Under the current Act, designated employers must consult with employees concerning the implementation of Employment Equity Plans or Employment Equity Reporting. But the amendments proposed in the bill state that designated employers must now consult with trade unions and not employees. This becomes an issue for unorganised employees who may be left out of Employment Equity committees and this exclusion can constitute discrimination.

The proposed changes are aimed at moving away from the tick box approach, to ensure previously marginalised groups are included in the employment paradigm.