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What is Employment Equity?

What is Employment Equity?

In the intricate realm of organisational structure, the term "employment equity" often echoes, sparking queries and discussions among corporate echelons and training committees.

Employment Equity Unveiled:

At its core, employment equity encapsulates an array of governmental guidelines, legal instruments, and strategies to engineer a homogeneous private sector. This metamorphosis champions the cause of organisational transformation and diversity, echoing the nation's demographic fabric. The prime objective of this orchestration is to champion the cause of equal opportunities, instil fairness, and dispel any shadows of discrimination in the corporate labyrinth.

Historical Roots:

To fully comprehend the concept of employment equity, we must delve into its genesis and evolution. Tracing its roots back to 1863 in the USA, during the reconstruction period, this concept has its imprint on the sands of time. Lenin's confidante and aide, Inessa Armand, a beacon of this movement, initiated "The International Equity and Affirmative Action Movement" in Russia in 1918. Her vision revolved around cultivating a sphere of equal opportunities and fairness while exterminating discrimination.

Yet, the version of employment equity as we discern it today was officially encapsulated in 1958 in France's constitution. Unfortunately, it was only post-1960, under the leadership of John F Kennedy, that the USA witnessed the introduction of its first punitive legislation. Thus, it is essential to understand that this principle is neither novel nor the brainchild of a single nation but a product of global momentum.

Modifications on the Horizon:

In South Africa, the winds of change are blowing over the Employment Equity Act. The 2018 revision aims to introduce sector-specific quotas, posing fresh challenges to organisations.

Governmental Execution:

The Department of Labour shoulders the responsibility of implementing the Employment Equity Act in South Africa, single-mindedly driving the agenda of numerical transformation. Consequently, organisations are impelled to adhere to the EAP employment ratios for various demographic groups, ranging from Black, Indian, and Asian women to disabled individuals. Defiance of these stipulations invites a cascade of consequences, including compliance orders and hefty fines.

Over my quarter-century practice, the Department of Labour's lacklustre interest in thoroughly examining policies and procedures to obliterate discrimination has become evident. This attitude undermines the fundamental objective of the Act.

Decoding the EAP Employment Ratio:

To grasp the essence of the employment ratio, we must unravel its genesis and calculation. The Act's inception simultaneously brought forth the Commission for Employment Equity. The annual submission of the EEA2 and EEA4 documents by all South African organisations is mandatory.

The EEA2 document provides a granular breakdown of the employee distribution across organisational levels, whilst the EEA4 discloses the remuneration details. The data amassed from these documents aids in formulating the Employment Equity Annual Report. This comprehensive report is a reflection of the economically active population ratio. Through this report, one can gain insights into the employment distribution across various parameters such as industry, race, gender, and disability.

What is the objective of employment equity?

Article 2 of the employment equity act emphasises the principles of fair treatment, equal opportunities, and protection of individuals in the workplace. However, it later segues into the topic of affirmative action, which can stir up some controversy. While affirmative action aims to redress the current employment imbalances within an organisation, it also incites immediate debate - we'll delve into this later.

In South Africa, the structure of employment equity consists of the Employment Equity Act and The Codes of Good Practice. But first, let's delve into the Act:

The employment equity act.

The employment equity act is the actual legislation that dictates employment equity in a work setting. This Act outlines stringent rules that employers must meticulously follow to incorporate employment equity in the workplace. It also details the repercussions and penalties for companies failing to comply with the Act.

To ensure organisations' adherence to the Act, the Department of Labour utilises it as a reference. Many individuals struggle to comprehend the complex employment equity act and its amendments. For easier understanding, we have consolidated all the amendments into a single document on our website for your convenience.

Next, let's explore the second part of South African legislation - the codes of good practice.

The codes of good practice.

The codes of good practice, integral to the Act and its amendments, offer guidance and clarifications on implementing and incorporating the Act's stipulations within an organisation. They don't prescribe penalties or fines. Currently, eight codes of good practice and tags are at your disposal.

  • Code of Good Practice on HIV AND AIDS
  • EE HIV AIDS TAG_2012
  • Equal Pay/Remuneration for Work of Equal Value
  • Employment of persons with disabilities
  • Revised TAG for persons with disabilities
  • Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the Workplace.
  • Integration of Employment Equity into Human Resource Policies and Practices.
  • Preparation, Implementation and Monitoring of EE Plan

So, what does the Act demand of the employer?

The Act stipulates that organisations appoint a high-ranking executive as the employment equity manager. The manager is tasked with overseeing the implementation and progress within the organisation. The employment equity manager must establish an employment equity committee and a workplace forum comprising the organisation's employees.

The Committee is responsible for educating and updating all employees about employment equity. They must elucidate the transformation process, procedures to be adopted, and the implementation strategy. The Committee is also expected to analyse, forecast, and compile all reports and the Employment Equity Plan. Additionally, they are tasked with monitoring the progress of affirmative action and transformation and maintaining administrative records.

The employer's responsibility extends to implementing the Code of good practice and organisational policies & procedures. The employer must submit the EEA to EEA4 reports to the Department of Labour and formulate an EE-Plan. All reports must be turned in from October 1st to January 15th.

Eliminating Discrimination and Barriers.

The main objective of employment equity is to eliminate discrimination and obstacles to employment. It ensures all employees' fairness, justice, and equal treatment.

The codes of good practice highlight 18 factors against which an employer cannot discriminate. This holds true regardless of whether the individual is a current employee or a new job applicant. It also identifies 104 different recognised disabilities that employers cannot discriminate against.

Employers must devise policies and procedures that will guarantee a discrimination-free environment. These policies must also ensure the absence of barriers to employment, implying that any individual can apply for a job at the organisation. This new recruit may be hired irrespective of race, gender, disability, or any other attribute.


Many problems began after the Act was legislated and became law. Initially, the Act was viewed as punitive and vengeful, inciting hostility in the private sector. The small and medium business sectors, where employees were personally known, bore the brunt of this. On the other hand, large corporations and the Government sector demonstrated lesser resistance to the implementation. Most corporate employees were anonymous and considered a designated position with no pronounced individuality.

The Act has sparked controversy worldwide, and many countries are reconsidering their equality acts or doing away with them altogether. The key contention is that its execution constitutes discrimination against another individual or group. Although the Act was founded on noble intentions and objectives, its actual execution by the Department of Labour has sparked resentment towards both the Act and the Government.

Abolition of Employment Equity and Affirmative Action.

The rise of the LGBTQCQFNIPDOVXGR2SAWEPAHKM+ movement over the past decade has led to complications with the Act. There are currently more than 200 gender identities.

More and more LGBTQCQFNIPDOVXGR2SAWEPAHKM+  individuals are applying for traditional jobs of the opposite gender, and biases. This issue is currently under examination by the Canadian Parliament. It has long been proposed that the entire Act undergo a thorough review or a complete overhaul.

There is a global movement to reevaluate the principle, which has been in place for 157 years, as the laws have started to discriminate. The International Labour Organisation is leading the world movement, abolishing specific race and gender quotas as discriminatory legislation. The rest of the world will have to follow in its footsteps.

Reversing the Employment Equity Progress.

The government's handling of the Act has made the employment scenario entirely adverse. In 2010, the employment ratio in South Africa was:

4 Black: 2 Coloured: 2 Asian: 1 White

However, according to the latest CEE 2023 report, the employment status has shifted to

8 Black: <1 Coloured: <1 Asian: <1 White,

The employment rate for Coloured, Indian, and White males is steeply declining. Projections suggest that male employment will hit ZERO in roughly a decade.

Learn more

Find more in-depth information on compliance from my other blogs: 


Are you having difficulty? Please don’t hesitate to contact me by clicking any of the links below? 

Stephan du Toit.

#employmentequity #eea #employmentequitysa

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