What’s Employment Equity?

What is Employment Equity

What’s Employment Equity?

What is employment equity is a question asked by many organisations and training committees?

Employment Equity consists of 3 elements

1. The Numerical Targets of Government.2. Corporate Governance.3. Employee Equality and management. 

The Numerical Targets.

The numerical targets are presented by the Department of Labour in the form of the Economic Active Population. This represents a snapshot of the 15.2 million economically active employees in South Africa. Note it focuses on employees only. 

It does not include any of the 5.3 million registered self-employed or 5 million unofficially self-employed people, so the data is inherently flawed. It is also inherently biased towards currently employed employees, every year the EAP is adjusted, to match the employed of the country. By excluding more than 10.3 million people, the picture portrayed is getting worse every year.

Corporate Governance

Corporate governance is the exercise of ethical and effective leadership by the governing body towards the achievement of the following governance outcomes:

Ethical culture: Management should lead the business ethically and foster a culture of integrity.Good performance: Management should ensure the performance, sustainable value creation, and accountability of the organisation.Effective control: Management should govern the organisation in a way that is responsible, accountable, and transparent.

The King IV Report emphasises the principles of good governance, which include leadership, performance, and conformance, as well as stakeholder inclusivity and integrated reporting. It provides guidelines for effective corporate governance to enhance the sustainability and performance of organisations in South Africa.

Employee Equality and Management. 

Finally, the Employment Equity Act and the respective Codes of Good Practice attempt to provide a guideline for management, on conduct and behaviour in the organisation. It incorporates remuneration, discipline, the treatment of disabled people and workplace harassment. The Act goes further to provide detailed explanations of how to improve management and performance in the organisation. This information is based on actual tried and tested best practices from around the world. 

It focuses on how jobs should be evaluated and graded to determine the value of the job as well as the salary for the job effort, it provides a grading and objective analysis of the improvement of jobs. The Employee Equality and Management part of the EE Act is controlled by the International Labour Organisation under the control of the United Nations and the World Bank. 

Organisations are therefore ensured that everyone’s best interests have been taken into account.  Overall Corporate Governance and the Employee Equality element of the Act holds more value than the numerical targets.


In South Africa, the employment equity act is about to be changed, again. The 2018 amendment seeks to introduce sector quotas that must be met by organisations.

Enforcement reality by the Government

In South Africa, the Employment Equity Act is enforced by the Department of Labour. As per instruction from the Government, the Department of Labour has one goal, numerical transformation. Thus they force organisations to match the EAP employment ratio for Black, Indian, Asian, Women and disabled people. Failing this the organisation’s subpoenaed with a compliance order and if they don’t comply extremely heavily fined.  

During my 25 years of practice; I have yet to see a Department of Labour inspector perusing the actual policies and procedures to prevent discrimination.  So the intention of the act is lost on the department of labour.

The EAP employment ratio?

To understand the ratio for employment you must first look at where the ratio comes from and how it’s calculated.  When the Act was created it also created the Commission for Employment Equity. All organisations in South Africa are required to submit the EEA2 and the EEA4, annually these documents contain;

EEA2 – The employee breakdown at every level in the organisation.EEA4 – The remuneration of each person. 

The Commission collates all the data into The employment equity annual report.  The purpose of this report is to provide the economic active population ratio.  Using this report ist is possible to provide a ratio of employment across all organisations in South Africa. It breaks down employment in detail, industry, race, gender, and disability amongst other things.

What is the purpose of employment equity?

Section 2 The purpose of the Employment Equity Act; speaks to the fair treatment, equal opportunities and protection of people in the workplace. But then it switches gears to affirmative action and this is where things get a bit hairy. Because although affirmative action has the intention of correcting the organization’s current employment of people it also immediately creates controversy. But more of that later.

In South Africa, employment equity consists of the Employment Equity Act and The Codes of Good Practice. But let’s first look at the Act;

The Employment Equity Act.

The Employment Equity Act is the actual law that governs employment equity in the workplace. The Act has strict regulations that employers must follow to the letter to implement employment equity in the workplace. It also contains the penalties and fines if a company does not comply with the act. 

The Department of Labour uses the act as a guideline to verify that organisations comply with the act.  Many people find it difficult to understand the Employment Equity Act with all its amendments. So if you visit our website we combined all the amendments into one document. You’re welcome.  

The second part of the legislation in South Africa is the codes of good practice.

The codes of good practice.

The codes of good practice form part of the Act and its amendments. It provides guidance and explanations on how to implement and integrate the Act’s requirements into the organisation. They do not contain penalties or fines. There are currently 8 codes of good practice and tags available. 

  1. Code of Good Practice on HIV AND AIDS

  2. EE HIV AIDS TAG_2012

  3. Equal Pay/Remuneration for Work of Equal Value

  4. Employment of persons with disabilities

  5. Revised TAG for persons with disabilities

  6. Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the Workplace.

  7. Integration of Employment Equity into Human Resource Policies and Practices.

  8. Preparation, Implementation and Monitoring of EE Plan

So what is required of the employer?

The act requires that the organisation Appoint a senior executive as the employment equity manager. The manager must implement and monitor the progress of the organisation. The employment equity manager must form an employment equity committee and a workplace forum consisting of employees of the organisation.

The Committee must consult and inform all employees about employment equity. They must explain the transformation process and procedures that will be followed and how it will be implemented. The committee must analyse, do projections and compile all Reports and the Employment Equity Plan. It is also their responsibility to monitor affirmative action and transformation progress and keep administrative records.

It’s the responsibility of the employer to implement the Code of good practice, and policies & procedures required in the organisation. The employer must submit the EEA to EEA4 reports to the Department of Labour and create an EE-Plan. All reports must be submitted on or before the 1 of October until the 15th of January. 

Removing Discrimination and barriers

The purpose of employment equity is to remove discrimination and barriers to employment. The purpose is to ensure that all employees are treated equally, just and fairly.  

The codes of good practice provide lists of 18 items which an employer may not discriminate against. Irrespective of whether the person is employed or a new applicant for a position with the organisation. It also lists 104 different recognised disabilities, that employers may not discriminate against. 

It required that the employer create policies and procedures that will ensure that no discrimination takes place. The policies must also ensure that no barriers to Employment are created.  Meaning that any person will be able to apply for a job at the organisation. This new person and may then be appointed irrespective of race, gender, disability or anything else.


Most problems started once the Act was promulgated and it became law.  The Act started off as a punitive and vindictive law, creating animosity in the private sector. Especially hard hit were small and medium business sectors where employees were “known”. The large corporations and Government sector did not show much resistance to implementation. Most corporate employees were anonymous and considered a designated position, with no real sense of “self ”.

Globally the Act is beset by controversy, and many countries are either revisiting their equality acts or repealing them completely. The main argument is, that its implementation is an act of discrimination against another person or group of people.  Although the Act has noble intentions and purpose. The actual implementation by the Department of Labour creates animosity towards the Act and the Government as a whole. 

Abolishment of Employment Equity and Affirmative Action

With the LGBT movement during the last decade, the Act has become endlessly problematic. More LGBT people apply for traditional jobs of the opposite gender, and biases. In Canada, this has been raised and is currently been evaluated by the Canadian Parlement. It has long been suggested that the entire Act be reviewed or completely redesigned. 

There is a worldwide movement to review the 157-year-old principle as the laws have become discriminatory themselves. Again It seems that Russia is leading, with the abolishment of quotas as discriminatory legislation. Just maybe the world will follow suit. 

Reversing Employment Equity Progress

Thanks to the Government’s handling of the Act the employment of people took a completely wrong turn.  In 2010 the employment ratio in South Africa was: 

4 Black: 2 Coloured: 2 Asian: 1 White 

but in the latest, CEE 2019 report employment changed to

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

Coloured, Indian and White male employment is showing an increasingly sharp decline. Projecting these figures shows that white male employment will reach ZERO in about 10 years. 

Learn more

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


Find more information on how to implement employment equity in my other articles or visit our website to enrol for the next employment equity training course.


Stephan du Toit

Stephan du Toit

Senior Advisor Employment Equity. Specialist in emergency Employment Equity and Labour compliance for organisations. Find more information on implementing employment equity in my other articles or visit our website to enroll for the next employment equity training course.

Are you having difficulty with employment equity? Please don't hesitate to contact me.

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