In my previous article Mere Compliance with EE Act defeats its Objectives , I pointed out that the EE Act is silent about how an employer should go about its Section 19 (1) Barriers Analysis and monitor and evaluate the implementation of its EE Plan, leading to most companies who merely comply with the EE Act not achieving significant transformation. This article deals with what an employer needs to do about the aspects on which the EE Act is silent.
The thinking behind the Barrier Analysis requirement of the EE Act
Underlying the requirement of an analysis of an organisation’s policies, procedures, practices and working environment to identify barriers that adversely affect persons from Designated Groups is the recognition that HR policies and procedures, their application in practice and the working environment have a direct impact on the advancement, development and retention of the employees the EE Act is trying to benefit i.e. Designated Groups.
The authors of the EE Act recognised that policies and procedures in categories such as recruitment and selection, job classification and grading, performance and evaluation systems, training and development and succession and experience planning and the working environment, effect employees’ performance, development, advancement and retention. Hence the inclusion of these and other related aspects in the 18 Categories in the EEA2 that need to be analysed for the existence of barriers.
They also recognised that policies, procedures and their application in practice, as well as the working environment often contain barriers, that prevent the advancement or retention of persons from designated groups.
The identification of all barriers in policies, procedures, practices and working environment in the 18 Categories and their resultant removal is therefore critical to the advancement of persons from designated groups and the achievement of Employment Equity. This is intended to be achieved through:
1. The barriers analysis and identification process.
2. The development of effective AA measures intended to address or remove the identified barriers for inclusion in the employer’s EE Plan.
3. The implementation of the EE Plan’s AA measures during the period of the EE Plan.
How should an employer go about the conducting of a Barriers Analysis
An employer that is serious about EE transformation should change its approach to EE from one of just ‘tick the boxes’, to an approach that ensures effective EE Transformation.
This can be done, by inter alia, firstly accepting as a basis to its approach that HR practices that are in line with ‘Best HR Practices’ and an accommodating working environment, create the most enabling environment for the recruitment, training and development, management, advancement and retention of employees i.e. the achievement of employment equity and transformation in the organisation.
Research has shown that most employers do not have Best HR Practices or an optimal working environment in place. To create the enabling environment in which persons from designated groups can develop, gaps between existing and Best HR Practices need to be identified (through the barriers analysis process) and removed (through the development of effective AA measures and effective implementation of the EE Plan). The same applies to gaps between its working environment and one that is fully accommodating.
The identification of barriers in policies, procedures, practices and working environment should therefore be facilitated in consultation with the EECF by a high-level independent HR and Diversity Inclusion consultants with in-depth understanding and knowledge of Best HR Practice and what constitutes an optimal working environment. The basis of the analysis should be that any gap between Best HR and existing practice, and between the existing working environment and an inclusive one, constitutes a barrier. Each relevant policy, procedure and practice or working environment of each category should be tackled systematically to identify all these barriers and ensure legal compliance.
As there is always costs involved in the facilitation by a third party, and it takes time, an employer that is serious about Employment Equity transformation will have to be prepared to invest in this exercise and to budget for it, as well as for the development of the resultant AA measures.