Amendments to the Employment Equity Act (“EEA”) were published on 16 January 2014 and came to effect on 1 August 2014. Two significant amendments relate to penalties and the prohibition of unfair discrimination.

The Amendment introduces a heavier sanction for non-compliance with the provisions of the EEA, linked in many instances to the annual turnover of the employer. By way of an example, a contravention of section 20, which regulates the preparation and implementation of employment equity plans, may attract a penalty, for a first offence, of the greater of R1 500 000.00 or 2% of the employer’s turnover.

The EEA Amendment Bill further extends the scope of section 6(1) of the EEA by providing that discrimination is not only prohibited on a ground listed in that section, but also on any other ‘arbitrary ground’. This in effect makes non-compliance with the EEA a potentially expensive exercise for an employer.

The Amendment further seeks to provide that a difference in terms and conditions of employment between employees of the same employer performing the same or substantially the same work or work of equal value which is directly or indirectly based on any one or more of the grounds in section 6(1) of the EEA, will amount to unfair discrimination, unless the employer can show the differences in earnings or other conditions of employment are in fact based on fair criteria, for example, experience, skill, and responsibility.