The amendments to the Employment Equity Act will finally come into operation this Friday, 1 August 2014.

On Friday, the law regulating employment equity and discrimination as we know it will change considerably.  We previously alerted you to these changes:

The beneficiaries of affirmative action (designated groups) will be limited to black people, women and people with disabilities who are citizens of South Africa by birth or descent;

  • Employees will be able to launch unfair discrimination claims if employers pay employees different wages, salaries or benefits or if employers impose different terms and conditions of employment on employees who perform the same or substantially the same work (or work of equal value) and where the differential treatment is based on the employees’ race, gender, religion or any of the other listed grounds of discrimination in the Act;
  • Previously employees had to refer their discrimination claims to the Labour Court.  From Friday onwards, employees earning less than R205 433.30 may refer their discrimination disputes to the CCMA for arbitration.  Similarly, employees may also refer claims of sexual harassment to the CCMA for arbitration;
  • The fines for contraventions of the Act will increase substantially, ranging from R1.5 million or 2% of the employer’s turnover to a maximum of R2.7 million or 10% of the employer’s turnover whichever is the greater.

These changes are significant and you are urged to carefully scrutinise the terms and conditions of employment offered to your employees to identify any unjustified payment differentiations.  It will now be much easier for employees to make discrimination claims against their employers.

To avoid hefty fines, it will also be well worth each employer’s while to ensure that it is complying with all aspects of the Employment Equity Act, ensuring that you have the necessary consultative forums and equity plans in place and that the employment equity reports are submitted correctly and timeously.