DA to push for amendments to Employment Equity Amendment Bill
In the light of recent commentary on the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, I would like to clarify the DA's position on this piece of legislation currently before Parliament.
The DA supports employment equity that redresses the legacy of apartheid and expands job opportunities for all. But this cannot be done at the cost of economic growth and job creation. Ultimately, a growing economy with increasing employment is the surest and most sustainable way to redress the legacy of apartheid.
This has always been the DA's position. It can be found as far back as the early 1960s when the South African Liberal Party noted in its policy handbook that: "...the state must not shrink from such measures of intervention as may be necessary to ensure the creation of non-racial economy with fair distribution and opportunity for all."
Furthermore, we do not view employment equity as a "bean-counting" quota-based numbers game. We support a qualitative approach to employment equity that prioritises skills development and empowerment of South Africans.
The DA voted in favour of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill in the National Assembly because we believe in the need to create an inclusive economy. This does not mean that we agree with all the clauses in the Bill.
To be clear, our position on various aspects of the Bill is as follows:
- We oppose the amendment to section 42 of the 1998 Act that will leave it up to the Director-General to decide whether or not to take into account the size of the pool of suitably qualified candidates.
- We oppose giving the Minister discretionary powers over the code of good practice on the grounds that it will be open to political manipulation.
- We oppose the repeal of sections 39 and 40 because it effectively removes the right of employers to appeal or object against a compliance order.
- The amended Bill trebles the minimum amount that a company may be fined for non-compliance with Employment Equity. We oppose this on the grounds that such fines would sink many vulnerable and small businesses at the cost of jobs.
- Under the 1998 Act, businesses with 50 or more employees had to submit employment equity reports to the Director-General once every two years. The amended Bill requires these businesses to submit a report once a year. We oppose this on the grounds that this creates an additional administrative burden for small businesses and is a deterrent to business growth and jobs.
- Under the 1998 Act, as soon as an employee or job applicant alleges unfair discrimination the onus to disprove the allegation rests with the employer, increasing the likelihood of vexatious allegations that cost businesses money, time and productivity. The amended Bill retains this problematic clause of the legislation but goes even further in that it narrowly defines the criteria for how an employer must disprove an allegation of discrimination. We do not support this.
- The amended Bill retains the need for the Director-General to take into consideration regional demographics when determining compliance with the Employment Equity Act. We support this.
- The amended Bill excludes foreign nationals from qualifying as employment equity beneficiaries and expands the definition of designated groups. We support this on the grounds that redress measures must be aimed at those who were disadvantaged by apartheid in the past and remain disadvantaged by its legacy today.
- The amended Bill allows for unresolved disputes to go to the CCMA. This means that people who cannot afford legal representation are given a judicial avenue to have their grievances redressed. We support this on the grounds that it improves access to justice.
The Employment Equity Amendment Bill will now go to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for consideration and deliberation. The DA will use this opportunity to push for various amendments to the Bill, including:
- The re-instatement of the key aspects of section 42 that have been removed
- An addition to Section 55 of the Act requiring the Minister to table all regulations in Parliament for approval
- A substantial reduction in the fines levied for non-compliance
- The retention of biennial reporting on employment equity as opposed to the proposed annual reporting
- Insulating businesses from frivolous and vexatious allegations of unfair discrimination
The DA will continue to support measures that put right the wrongs of the past, while at all times remaining mindful of what must be South Africa's top priority: economic growth that creates jobs. So, while we support the principle of employment equity, we do not support every aspect of this Bill. We will continue to voice our disagreement on these aspects - and seek amendments to them - when the Bill is deliberated in the NCOP. Should these amendments not be made we will vote against the Bill in the NCOP and if it comes back to the National Assembly.
Lindiwe Mazibuko MP is DA Parliamentary Leader
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