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Employment Equity Act (EEA)

The Employment Equity Act No 55 of 1998 aims to create an environment of equality and non-discrimination in the workplace. It states grounds for non- discrimination in the workplace including:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Marital Status
  • Ethnic Origin
  • Social Origin
  • Colour
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Conscience
  • Belief
  • Culture
  • Language
  • Birth
  • Family Responsibility
  • HIV Status
  • Political Opinion

The EEA is important because it includes three grounds for non-discrimination that are not included in the Constitution or the Equality Act: family responsibility, HIV status and political opinion. A case can be referred to the Labour Court if an employee believes that an employer is discriminating against him or her on any of these grounds in order to:

  • Demote or not promote the employee
  • Block the employee from having access to training and development
  • Make an unfair distribution of employee benefits to the employee

The EEA also sets out regulations on affirmative action in the workplace to create equal opportunities for all employees and for people applying for jobs. It says that an employer who employs over 50 people or has a turnover of over a certain threshold, must take steps to include and advance previously disadvantaged groups (black people, women and the disabled) in their workforce. This involves setting up an Employment Equity Committee which works to improve equal opportunity in the company, promote equal opportunity and remove unfair discrimination,

So, when a company makes new appointments or promotes staff, it must give ‘preferential treatment’ to properly qualified people who are from one of these previously disadvantaged groups, (female, black of disability). In other words, formal qualifications or relevant experience are not the only reasons for deciding whether a person is suitable for a job or not.

The EEA covers everyone except the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Secret Services.

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