Employment Equity 101 - Your guide to the basics

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The Department of Labour has started inspections to ensure compliance with Employment Equity legislation by designated employers. Your company could be a designated employer either by having more than 50 employees or by having a turnover considered above the limit for SMEs in your sector. If you are a designated employer for the first time we've outlined the first steps to take to ensure compliance.


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Employers and Employment Equity Responsible Managers will have noticed the latest press releases from the Department of Labour, to visit companies inspecting employment equity implementation and compliance. What will they be looking for?

The Employment Equity Act aims to ensure that companies with more than 50 employees, that is "designated employers' take steps to achieve a workplace which is free from discrimination and implements measures which assist employees to overcome the disadvantages of past discrimination. The intended outcome is a workplace in which all occupational categories and levels within the hierarchy have an "equitable representation'.

As well as having 50 employees, companies can become designated employers if their turnover surpasses a particular amount. This ranges from R2m per annum to R25 million per annum depending on your sector.

The recent economic good times may well have placed some employers in the category of "designated employer' for the first time. Where does one start?

There are a number of easy to implement, practical steps with which to start.

First, purchase a wall-chart of the Employment Equity Act - or a number of charts - and ensure that they are displayed it in an area used by all staff. Security entrances and canteens or change-rooms are ideal places to catch everyone. Wall charts are available from the Government Printer for a few Rands, alternatively there are a number of commercially available wall-charts.

As the owner, CEO or Director of the organisation, prepare a statement for distribution to all employees (attaching it to the payslips reaches everyone) and display it along with the Act, declaring your intention to implement the requirements of the Act and to ensure that any unfair discrimination is removed from the company policies and procedures. The statement should also call for the commitment of all employees to assist you in this endeavour.

It is important for all companies, irrespective of size, to take these steps and the following requirements are also applicable to all companies - irrespective of size.

What sorts of polices cause problems in terms of unfair discrimination?
Recruitment and promotion is one of the major areas of concern. Check all recruitment advertisements for requirements such as age, gender, or racial classification.

Ensure that the recruitment agencies, and labour brokers you use, and your own internal management, are aware of the questions they should not ask, such as HIV/Aids status, or pregnancy or marital status, or sexual orientation - only the inherent requirements of the job are relevant.

Examine all your other policies which may contain discriminatory clauses or procedures, such as retirement funding schemes or other employee benefit schemes. Contact your broker to ensure that they are aware of the legal requirements and can confirm to you that they comply.

As an employer, you are responsible to ensure that no employee is sexually harassed and you have the responsibility to ensure a safe workplace in this regard.

Either use the standard Code of Good Practice issued by the Department of Labour - have it available to all employees and conduct workshops to ensure that supervisors and managers know how to react to any complaints, and that employees know how to lodge a complaint.

If there is an existing grievance procedure, consider developing an annexure to cover this.

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