New Job Equity Laws Coming: Minister Nxesi Braces for Battle

Thulasi Nxesi
  1. Employment and Labour Minister, Thulas Nxesi, is set to publish regulations on Employment Equity (EE) targets this week. The amended EE Act allows the Minister to set employment equity targets for various sectors and prescribes demographic goals for larger employers.
  2. There’s anticipation of legal challenges against the Act, with opponents threatening court action. Despite this, the Department plans to implement the EE Act by September 1, 2023, and sees these legal challenges as opportunities to clarify issues of doubt.
  3. The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases (COID) Act, also recently assented, is on track for implementation within two maonths. The amendments aim to improve worker access to benefits, simplify governance, facilitate rehabilitation and return to work of injured employees, and enhance employer compliance.

Minister of Employment and Labour, T.W Nxesi, is set to publish the long-awaited regulations on Employment Equity targets this Friday, even as the department gears up for potential legal disputes.

These regulations come as part of the recently amended Employment Equity (EE) Act, which was signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa alongside the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases (COID) Act. The announcement was made at a stakeholder session in Cape Town, where Thembinkosi Mkalipi, the Chief Director of Collective Bargaining at the Department of Employment and Labour, addressed attendees.

The revised EE Act of 1998 grants the Labour Minister the authority to establish employment equity targets for various economic sectors. It also sets demographic targets for employers with a workforce exceeding 50 individuals. Furthermore, to conduct business with the government, companies will need to obtain a Certificate of Compliance from the Department.

Additionally, the Act mandates that employers submit employment equity plans and annual reports outlining their progress towards meeting these targets.

Mkalipi explained that a key aim of the amendments was to ease the process for small businesses. Nevertheless, this has aroused opposition from other interests. He further defended Section 53 of the Act, which mandates the issuance of the Certificate of Compliance, stating that it was always a part of the Act. However, it was not enacted when the Act was introduced as the country was undergoing a transformation, and the Department “did not want to kill the economy.”

He said, “The opponents of the EE Act are saying they are going to court. We have also been taken to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and we have responded to the ILO. We are eagerly waiting for a legal challenge. Legal challenges help clarify issues of doubt.”

The Department aims to implement the EE Act by September 1, 2023, and subsequently commence a new reporting period.

Minister Nxesi emphasized the need for a broad educational initiative to inform stakeholders and workers about the new labour laws. However, he warned that the government cannot act as shop stewards on behalf of unions.

He further stated that any dishonesty in adhering to the amended labour laws would not be tolerated and would face severe repercussions. He called upon shop stewards and workers to be vigilant and serve as the ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground due to the impracticality of inspecting every workplace.

Farzana Fakir, the Acting Commissioner of the Compensation Fund, confirmed that the recently approved COID Act is on track for enactment within the next two months. This Act, whose amendment process started in 2014, aims to simplify access to benefits for workers, streamline governance, facilitate the rehabilitation and return to work of injured employees, and foster improved compliance by employers.

The proposed changes are expected to generate wide-ranging discussions and potential legal challenges as stakeholders adjust to the new legislative landscape.

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