Still a long way to go towards employment equity

Foreword to CEE Report by Mpho Nkeli

On behalf of the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) it is with great honour and privilege that I present to the honourable Minister of Labour, Ms Oliphant, in terms of section 33 of the Employment Equity Act, No. 55 of 1998, the 12th Annual Report of the Commission for Employment Equity.

What is evident is the amount of work that still remains in order to improve on creating equitable workplaces that are free from unfair discrimination. One key objective the CEE embarked upon was to introduce amendments to strengthen its compliance and enforcement provisions for improved implementation. Most of the proposed amendments were informed by information gathered from Director-General Review assessments conducted over the past few years, where employers are assessed mainly on their substantive compliance to the Act. The amendment process has been in the pipeline for quite a while and its time consuming negotiations at NEDLAC could further delay the much needed action required, particularly by business, to transform the South African economy.

South Africa, being a signatory to a number of ILO Conventions, including the convention on discrimination, and being one of the key contributors to the ILO Recommendation on HIV and AIDS in the World of Work of June 2010, have now finalised the review process of its Code on HIV and AIDS in the world of work to bring it fully in line with the Recommendation.  This effort is in addition to the headway being made by the country on accessibility to prevention, counselling, testing, treatment and wellness programmes for the poor, unemployed and employed.  However, the stigma is not totally gone and we must continuously remind ourselves that employees spend most of their awake-time at work and many of them are breadwinners and therefore their jobs are a lifeline for many immediate extended family members.

The growth in the number of fully and accurately employment equity reports received from employers have been largely due to push factors that include tighter regulations and more employers opting for online reporting.  The data contained in these reports were both promising and disappointing at the same time.  Government is largely progressing very well in eliminating unfair discrimination and in achieving more equitable workplaces; however the CEE is very disappointed with the lack of progress being made in the Western Cape at Government and the Private Sector as well. Government’s relatively good progress is also reflected by its inclusion in Community/Social/Personal Services Sector, the best performing sector across most levels.

It is the pace of transformation pertaining to the equitable representation of Africans, Coloureds, Black women and people with disabilities that continue to concern the CEE the most, as the allocation, recruitment and promotion opportunities still favour Whites according to the reports received from employers in the 2011 reporting period.  I therefore take this opportunity to stress that the Employment Equity Act (EEA) is working, which is evident by the progress made by White women and Indians in work places, and if the same vigour and commitment is applied, similar results will be achieved for other designated groups as well. The amendments to the Act, largely informed by the information received from the Director-General Review process conducted over the past few years to strengthen the compliance and enforcement mechanisms, must reach finality as soon as possible in order to effectively implement the Act.

A critical strategy to promote the implementation of the Act, is stakeholder engagement in order to build and maintain relationships for continued engagement. Engagement on the BBBEE Codes, particularly on the employment equity element, still continues as these Codes are currently undergoing a review process.

Transformation will not advance enough to benefit the majority of the populace adequately, unless individuals from the designated groups are largely employed in positions with authority and with real decision-making powers. Whites and males will continue to dominate in the middle-to-upper levels for the next 127 years as long as employers are caught up with the vicious cycle of continuing to employ people with mainly the same race and gender profile that just exited their organisations.  Therefore, it is critical for employers to align their employment equity interventions, including skills and succession planning, with its employment equity objectives. Commitment by employers to effectively implement the Act in substance and spirit is likely to assist transformation by creating work places that are equitable in nature and free from discrimination.

On behalf of the members of the CEE, I hereby take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Minister of Labour for her valued support and to officials of the Department of Labour, particularly the Secretariat, for their continued administrative and technical assistance.

This foreword by CEE chaoirperson Mpho Nkeli was taken out of the CEE report. The full report is accessible at: https://www.labour.gov.za/downloads/documents/annual-reports/employment-equity/2011-2012/12th%20CEE%20Report.2012.pdf

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