Employment Equity 102 - Consulting with your employees

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Employment equity plans and reports are not documents that are simply drawn up by management. The Employment Equity Act requires that designated employers establish committees and consult with employees. We explore the issues that these committees should be involved with.


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How should an employer consult with employees?
Most companies have meetings with employees and with representatives of employees, such as training committees or shop steward committees. If there is an existing committee, it may not be necessary to create an additional committee

However, the membership may need to be expanded as it is critical to ensure that the members of the committee do represent the interests of all employees, that is all categories, and all levels of the hierarchy, and taking into account designated groups, that is all races, both genders and employees with disabilities.

Where there are union members, or shop stewards, they must be included in the committee. . (A small number of employers have workplace forums set up under the Labour Relations Act, and their obligations are not changed by this Act.)

The composition of an employment equity consultative forum is identical to that of a skills development consultative committee and there is significant benefit to dealing with both employment equity and skills development together. Both processes are consultative and should be distinguished from a negotiation forum, such as with a recognised union.

What is consultation and what are the activities which the committee needs to deal with?
The employer must take "reasonable steps' to consult and "attempt to reach consensus'; the final decision on what is actually implemented will still rest with management, but the decision will be informed by what representative employees propose.

What matters are dealt with by the consultative forum?
Firstly, an analysis of the company policies and procedures; do they lead to a discrimination against a particular group? For example, are some departments entirely one gender or another and are all the facilities and change-rooms for that gender only?

This would be identified as a barrier to the employment of the other gender. What steps can the company take, and what can they afford? The plan may include the commitment of future capital expenditure to redress this situation.

The revised documents issued by the Department of Labour - contain headings which will guide the analysis of the company policies procedures and practices. The forms make provision for the input of the activities which will be implemented to redress the situation, with timing and review dates.

When the report on progress is submitted in a year?s time, this will contain a report on the progress against the planned activities.

Secondly, the consultative forum will be consulted on the drawing up of the plan. What actions will be taken to address barriers which have been identified? What areas of the companies have been identified as under-representative - for example there are only women in an area - or only men. What are the goals which the company intends to achieve and what will the time period be for reaching these goals?

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