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The State Of Transformation: 23 Years After The Employment Equity Act

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By Thembi Chagonda | Joint CEO: Global Business Solutions


The Employment Equity Act (EEA) has been in place for the last 23 years. This piece of legislation aims to promote equal opportunities for all South African citizens, by eliminating unfair discrimination that prevents historically disadvantaged individuals from accessing employment opportunities. This law aims to protect currently employed individuals and those seeking employment. Employers are encouraged to have policies and procedures that will promote and accelerate employment of designated groups (Black people, women and persons with disabilities).

Despite all efforts provided by the legislation since its inception, the pace of transformation continues to be slow particularly the employment of Black Africans and women in general at the top 4 levels of occupations. According to the 20th Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) Report, there was a slight increase of female representation, at top management level, as opposed to the period reported on in the 19th report.  At middle management level, 53.1% of all positions are made up of men and female representation accounts for just below half (46.9%).

Statistics of the unemployment among youth – as per the statistics released in Q4 of 2020, in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey is sitting at 63.2%, most of this are predominantly among the disadvantaged individuals of our society. Youth unemployment is a concern for transformation, transfer of skills and economic sustainability required by any country. Having untrained and disengaged youth is not ideal for the growth stability of our economy.

CEE Annual Report continues to reflect the statistics that indicate lack of transformation.  As part of our staff engagement and promotion of diversity and inclusion awareness and meaning of transformation, we asked the female consultants working at Global Business Solutions (well qualified in Labour law and HR) to weigh in on their understanding or perspective on the progress of transformation – the following questions:

  • What do they feel are the largest obstacles to transformation?
  • Why do they feel this way?
  • What would they do to change this?

Obstacle To Transformation

Generally, there seem that there is little camaraderie among women in the workplace. Everyone seems to ‘only be looking out for themselves’ and, on top of this, there still seems to be a bias towards hiring men for top positions.

COVID-19 has put a huge burden on women as they are forced to juggle home responsibilities with work responsibilities as the majority of the workforce is still working from home. This has led, in some cases, to women (who are in stable relationships) either drastically scaling back, or giving up on, work so that they are able to be the main caregiver to their children.

In terms of obstacles to youth transformation, employers do not employ the youth as they don’t have any experience behind them. However, these employers don’t know about incentives, such as the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) which would make it worth their while to employ young job seekers.

The Possible Reason

When asked about why they felt that this was the transformation status quo, the consultants came up with a number of answers.

Firstly, they pointed women’s lack of awareness about their rights in the workplace. Even though they are not men, it does not mean that they are automatically disadvantaged. It was highlighted that the EEA has not been given enough time to properly effect transformation. The fact that the state of transformation has been lacking is very apparent, but 23 years is not enough time to accomplish all that the EEA sets out to. There needs to be a complete mindset change ad awareness of subconscious biases and stereotypes that tend to be barriers experienced by designated groups.

The compliance requirements, which the EEA sets out, can be extremely onerous for small companies to adhere to – while this is not an issue for larger organisations who have the required manpower. Simpler requirements – such as those tax requirements which are applicable to small businesses – should be introduced to SMMEs so that they have the opportunity to be EE compliant.

The Solution?

It was unanimous that more awareness needs to be generated about transformation, both at a macro-level and a micro-level. Companies need to be made aware of mechanisms – such as the ETI (Employee Tax Incentives)– which they can access to assist with facilitating transformation. Management control should also be made a priority element on the B-BBEE scorecard. The proposed EEA amendments and certificate of EE Compliance (section 53) might, if properly implemented, provide a renewed action toward appointments, promotions of people from the designated.