We are sure that by now you have heard about the passing of the Employment Equity Amendment Act 4 of 2022 (“Act”) as well as the Draft Employment Equity Regulations 2023 (“Regulations”) which lay open for public comment. If you have not, do not fear, we will briefly unpack the Act and Regulations below as well as the potential impact of these pieces of legislation on employers and employees.
The Act was assented to by the President and became an Act of Parliament on 14 April 2023. However, the President is yet to proclaim the date by which the Act is to come into effect. As per section 1 of the Act, the definition of ‘designated employer’ now excludes employers who employ fewer than fifty (50) employees, regardless of their annual turnover. The definition of ‘people with disabilities’ has also been extended to include people who have a long-term or recurring physical, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with various barriers, may substantially limit their prospects of entry into, or advancement in, employment. Further, the definition of ‘sector’ has been included in the Act to refer to any industry or service or part thereof.
The more controversial aspect of the Act is the inclusion of section 15A, which empowers the Minister of Labour and Employment (“Minister”) to identify national economic sectors and set numerical targets for any national economic sector so identified. These numerical targets may be set for different occupational levels, sub-sectors or regions within a sector. The proposed sectoral numerical targets were published by the Minister on 12 May 2023 and listed approximately eighteen (18) different economic sectors. Per the Act, this function aims to ensure equitable representation of suitably qualified people from designated groups at all occupational levels in the workforce. A copy of the published proposed sectoral numerical targets is transmitted herewith for your ease of reference.
The Act further removes the obligation on designated employers in terms of section 16 to consult with both trade unions and employees or their nominated representatives. This means that where employees are represented by a trade union, the employer is not obliged to consult with both the trade union and the employees themselves regarding, inter alia, the implementation of an employment equity plan. The Act also removes the date by which designated employers are required to submit their employment equity reports. In accordance with section 21 of the Act, the Minister shall prescribe the date and manner in which these reports must be submitted.
In order to remain compliant with the provisions of the Act, when it does come into effect, designated employers in particular are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the contents of the Act and the numerical targets for the relevant economic sectors.