Using Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) To Address Employment Equity Issues


South Africa's new Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2020 has been approved for submission to Parliament. SA's Cabinet says that “The Bill promotes equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination of unfair discrimination”. 

This bill re-emphasizes how important it is for companies to actively transform their workplace but this begs the question - which companies are at risk of non-compliance?



The Employment Equity Amendment Bill was approved for submission to Parliament at a Cabinet Meeting held in February 2020. The Commissioner of Employment Equity (CEE) released the bill for consideration in October 2019.

The bill aims to regulate sector-specific Employment Equity (EE) targets and make an EE compliance certificate a prerequisite for accessing state contracts.

According to Cabinet; “The Bill promotes equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination of unfair discrimination”.


This bill re-emphasizes how important it is for companies to actively transform their workplace thorough:

  • Implementing a dedicated and active EE committee;
  • Developing an EE plan and commitment to transformation; and
  • Ensuring compliance to all EE regulations.

Slow workplace transformation means harsh measures to enforce Employment Equity compliance should we fail to take active steps to bring about transformation. 

A lack of transformation in the workplace could result in your company being deemed non-compliant.

One of the ways often overlooked to assist in bringing about transformation and doing away with discriminatory practices is Recognition of Prior Learning.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the time and effort to fit an entire course into our lives and the lives of our employees, especially for those already working and juggling other commitments. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right candidate for a position due to a lack of educational qualifications. Sometimes we cannot find the right candidate for a promotion and/or leadership position due to a shortage of educated employees. In fact, sometimes we fail to see the pot of gold sitting on our doorsteps.

In order to ensure compliance with the EE Act, we need to consider -

  • RPL for formal qualifications
  • RPL for skills programmes or unit standards
  • RPL for recruitment and selection, promotions and career advancement

Why Recognition of Prior Learning?

Gaining recognition for previous skills, experience and/or qualifications can shorten the time it takes to gain a qualification or skills programme and allows you or your employees to become eligible for qualifications you may not otherwise be able to attain.

Additionally, those employees wanting to advance in their careers can benefit if their prior knowledge and experience is taken into consideration. When education becomes a pre-requisite for an appointment or a promotion then this may well be discrimination.

The advantages to be gained by those undertaking RPL and the benefits to be gained by companies who introduce RPL for recruiting, selection, promotion, and career development. Historically this has been overlooked resulting in potentially good employees leaving our employ due to lack of career advancement opportunities.

Chapter two of the Employment Equity Act (EEA) deals with Unfair Discrimination and has a significant impact on the nature and extent of recruitment and selection from a statutory point of view.

In Section 5 of the EEA all employers are obliged to take affirmative action or positive steps in order to promote equal opportunity in the workplace and must eliminate unfair discrimination in their employment policies or practices.

Also, employers are required to address any barriers to affirmative action that might exist. This means that recruitment policies and procedures, as well as all selection criteria and advertising policies (both internal and external), must be fair and based on the inherent requirements of the job. In all instances, such policies and procedures must be justifiable and defensible.

In Section 6 of the EEA unfair discrimination is prohibited in recruitment, selection, promotion, transfer, and related employment practices and decisions. Specifically, the EEA outlaws unfair discrimination, directly or indirectly, in any employment policy or practice.




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