South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2020 into law yesterday, a policy that trade union Solidarity has warned it will challenge in court.
During a media briefing on Wednesday, Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya confirmed this.
According to Magwenya, the bill aims to further South Africa’s workforce transformation by “setting equity targets for economic sectors and geographical regions and requiring enterprises to develop transformation plans,” as well as additional steps to encourage workplace diversity and equality.
The law 2020 was passed by Parliament on May 17, 2022. The Bill changes the Employment Equity Act of 1998 (Act No. 55 of 1998) to include new measures to encourage workplace diversity and equality.
The Amendment Bill, among other things, gives the Minister of Employment and Labour the authority to set employment-equity targets for economic sectors as well as regions where transformation is lagging.
The amending Bill also authorises the Minister of Employment and Labour to establish compliance criteria for the issuance of Compliance Certificates in accordance with Section 53 of the Employment Equity Act.
“The amended Act allows the Minister of Employment and Labour to set regional targets given that racial diversity in South Africa often has regional differences,” Magwenya said.
Employers with more than 50 employees are required by law to file employment equality plans outlining how they intend to meet these standards. Employers must then file annual reports with the Department of Employment and Labor.
The legislation mandates employers to pay workers equal compensation for equivalent labour in the area of payment.
The Bill now defines discrimination and outlines what workers can do if they are subjected to it, including filing grievances with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration or the Labour Courts.
Magwenya said, “Companies seeking to do business with the state will be required to submit a certificate from the Department confirming that they are in compliance with the Employment Equity Act and its objectives and that they do not pay their employees less than the national minimum wage.”
To ensure that the employment fairness objectives are met, the law now requires labour inspectors to inspect workplaces and issue compliance orders to companies.
The Department of Labor has pledged to expand the number of labour inspectors and health and safety inspectors who would enforce compliance.
The government previously announced the creation of a new EE online evaluation system to evaluate sector target implementation.
The evaluation will be carried out on a yearly basis. Employers would be able to report on their projected targets and how they intend to attain them using the system.
Solidarity said in a statement that it had already written to the president on August 23, 2022, pointing out that the revisions were unlawful. Solidarity stated that it had also got a legal opinion that corroborated this, and that it had made comments to Parliament to that effect.
Solidarity CEO Dr Dirk Hermann said, “The president is, therefore, aware of the fact that Solidarity would go to court should he sign this Act into law. This is precisely what he has now done, and we are now preparing for court.”
Hermann said, “This Act which imposes race targets on all sectors will have dire consequences for our economy. New definitions of designated employers will force small businesses to remain small and will cost thousands of jobs.
“Any promotion opportunities for those fortunate enough to keep their jobs will be completely stopped.
“This will mean that the skills exodus would merely be accelerated and South Africa’s economy – like its public service – will become increasingly trapped in a spiral of inefficiency, contraction and imminent collapse. The state’s obsession with race must be opposed at all costs. We simply cannot afford it not to do so”.