Employment Equity Act Summary | Western Cape Government

Employment Equity Act Summary

South Africa is one of the most culturally, racially and economically diverse countries in the world. To ensure that everyone enjoys equal opportunity and fair treatment in the workplace, the Employment Equity Act, No 55 of 1998 was enacted into law.

The Employment Equity Act protects you, and your rights, from any form of discrimination by your employer. Here’s all you need to know about this Act.

Employment Equity

What is the Employment Equity Act?

The Employment Equity Act is the law that promotes equity in the workplace, ensures that all employees receive equal opportunities and that employees are treated fairly by their employers.

The law protects you from unfair treatment and any form of discrimination. The law states that your employer can't discriminate against you directly or indirectly through employment policy or practice on the grounds of:

  • race,
  • gender,
  • pregnancy,
  • marital status,
  • family responsibility,
  • ethnic or social origin,
  • colour,
  • sexual orientation,
  • age,
  • disability,
  • religion,
  • HIV status,
  • conscience,
  • belief,
  • political opinion,
  • culture,
  • language, and
  • birth.

The law aims to redress injustices of the past by implementing affirmative action measures. According to the legislation, it isn't unfair discrimination to promote affirmative action consistent with the Act or to prefer or exclude any person on the basis of an inherent job requirement.

Employment EquityThe purpose of the Employment Equity Act

The purpose of the Act is to achieve equity in the workplace, by

  • Promoting equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination of unfair discrimination.
  • Implementing affirmative action measures to redress the disadvantages in employment experienced by designated groups (A designated group means black people, women, or people with disabilities) to ensure their equitable representation in all occupational categories and levels in the workforce.
  • The act applies to all employees and employers, except to the South African National Defence Force, National Intelligence Agency, and South African Secret Services.

The act also protects employees from unfair medical testing and evaluation, it states:

  1. Medical testing of an employee is permissible only when legislation requires testing or when this is justifiable for various reasons.
  2. HIV testing is prohibited unless such testing is determined to be justifiable by the Labour Court.

Psychological testing and similar assessments are prohibited, unless the test is scientifically valid and reliable, can be applied fairly to all employees, and isn't biased against any employee or group.

Application of the Act

According to the legislation the act applies to:

  1. Chapter II (sections 5 – 11) all employers and employees.
  2. Chapter III (sections 12 – 27) applies to designated employers.
  3. A designated employer means an employer who employs 50 or more employees or has a total annual turnover as reflected in Schedule 4 of the Act, municipalities and organs of state. Employers can also volunteer to become designated employers.
  4. A designated group means black people, women, or people with disabilities.
  5. The South African National Defence Force, National Intelligence Agency, and South African Secret Services are excluded from this Act.

What's the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the EEA is being implemented?  

A designated employer must prepare and implement a plan to achieve employment equity, which must:

  • have objectives for each year of the plan,
  • include affirmative action measures,
  • have numerical goals for achieving equitable representation,
  • have a timetable for each year,
  • have internal monitoring and evaluation procedures, including internal dispute resolution mechanisms, and
  • identify persons, including senior managers, to monitor and implement the plan.

Employment Equity

What can you do if you were unfairly dismissed or discriminated against?

  • An employee, or applicant for employment, may refer a dispute concerning alleged unfair discrimination (or medical or psychological testing) to the CCMA for conciliation. This must be done within 6 months of the alleged discrimination (or testing).
  • If a dispute isn't resolved at conciliation, a party may refer it to the Labour Court for adjudication. The parties to a dispute may also agree to refer the dispute to arbitration.
  • Unfair dismissal disputes in which unfair discrimination is alleged must be dealt with in terms of the Labour Relations Act. The dismissal must be referred to the CCMA within 30 days.

More information

For more information contact the National Department of Labour regarding employment equity on 021 441 8000 or via email at wc.customercare@labour.gov.za

If you have a dispute with your employer which you would like to resolve, you can contact the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) at 021- 469-0111 or via email at ctn@ccma.org.za.

The content on this page was last updated on 5 February 2019