Every year the Employment Equity Commission (EEC) report reflects poor transformation statistics, especially across management levels, in respect of the representation of black people, women and people with disabilities. This has largely been attributed to the fact that the current Act allows organisations to set their own targets to the extent that they make “reasonable progress”. The amendments to the Act turn this on its head by promulgating s15A which gives the Minister the power to publish sectoral employment equity targets that employers must meet within what appears to be a 5 year period, failing which they will not be issued with compliance certificates under s53 of the same Act. The consequence of the latter is that State contracts will be out of reach of such non-compliant organisations which will have a material impact on revenue streams of businesses. It is also likely that some private organisations will align their procurement protocols to this approach.
An additional feature of the amendments is that if an organisation has been found, in the 12 months preceding the submission of the employment equity report, to have committed any form of unfair discrimination at the CCMA or Labour Court, the compliance certificate will also not be issued. Organisations must start conducting an analysis of the gap between what their black, women and persons with disabilities representation is now and then compare these levels of representation to the targets set in the Management Control element of the BBBEE Codes as it seems that the Ministerial targets will be similar to these. As a consequence, organisations will have to plan their workforce needs over the next 5 years carefully and then out the necessary employment policies and procedures in place to drive progress. In addition, they should be ensuring that they live out their values in respect of diversity and inclusion as well as ethical conduct as any form of sexual or racial harassment as well as bullying and unfair discriminatory remuneration may result in a compliance certificate not being issued to that organisation. Awareness sessions, re-capacitation of employment equity committees and refreshing of employment equity plans will be essential in driving an integrated, meaningful and compliant approach to the amendments.