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Employment equity compliance: have employment equity committees been correctly set up?

By: Ivan Isrealstam.

Ivan Isrealstam is senior consultant at The Labour Law Group, and can be contacted on labour@global.co.za. This is the first in a series of articles that focuses on employment equity (EE) compliance issues that employers need to be aware of

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1. Introduction

It is one year since the first Employment Equity Report had to be submitted by employers to the Department of Labour. Nevertheless, many employers are now liable for heavy fines because their reports have not been submitted. Some employers have submitted their reports and have breathed a sigh of relief. However, this is often a false feeling of relief because there are many other even more important requirements of the Employment Equity Act (EEA) that may not have been complied with.

An alarming number of employers are, for example, implementing key sections 15,16, 17 and 20 incorrectly if at all! These core sections affect:

# The affirmative action (AA) measures which the employer is required to implement;

# With whom the employer must consult;

# On what issues the employer must consult with its employees;

# The employer’s employment equity (EE) policy, procedures and practices;

# The content and purpose of the EE Plan;

# The design of the EE Plan

2. Establishing a representative committee

The big question is therefore, "HOW does the employer establish whether the employee representative committees (ERC) are being set up and involved correctly and whether the employer’s employment equity policies, procedures, practices and targets are workable, realistic and compliant with the far reaching requirements of the EEA?"

It is crucial that employers and employee representatives are able to answer this question in order that:

# The employer does not fall foul of the law.

# Trade unions and other employee representatives are properly involved in and have full trust in the process.

3. Checklist in respect of the employee representative committee

The stakeholders can most effectively evaluate the level of the employer’s compliance with the statutory and practical requirements of EE implementation by using three EE checklists that will clearly show the extent of compliance and will highlight areas requiring attention.

These audit checklists deal with the employee representative committee [ERC], the employer’s EE policy, procedures and practices and the employer’s EE targets and plans. In future articles we will deal with the latter two issues. In this article we will look at the first checklist.

# Has the ERC been democratically elected via free and fair elections? Yes/No?

# Were all employees at all levels and in all job categories given the opportunity to vote? Yes/No?

# If the workplace is geographically spread over more than one location have ERC sub-committees been properly elected? Yes/No?

# Are all employees at all levels and in all job categories represented on the ERC and sub-committees? Yes/No?

# Are trade unions properly represented on the ERC committee(s)? Yes/No?

# Are employees from non-designated groups properly represented?

Yes/No?

# Do the representatives properly understand their roles in the EE implementation process? Yes/No?

# Have the members of the ERC been properly trained in the requirements of the EEA, the meaning of EE, the potential obstacles to EE implementation, the frequent misperceptions about EE, and the process to be followed? Yes/No?

# Do the ERC and management have a common understanding of the issues for consultation and of the meaning of the concept of consultation?

Yes/No?

# Is the content of the ERC’s training consistent with the EE training received by management? Yes/No?

# Have all employees been briefed as to the role of the ERC and the limits of its authority? Yes/No?

3. Conclusion

If the answer to any of these questions is "No" then there are issues for the employer to address in order to ensure compliance with the requirements of the EEA and/or in order to ensure effective practical implementation of the EE process.

TIP FOR EMPLOYERS: In order to ensure that your company's EE Committee members and managers continue to contribute fruitfully and constructively to employment equity and continue to work in a

Cooperative manner on this task the committee members and line managers should attend regular review and development workshops (at least 3 or 4 each year).

These workshops are an ideal forum to openly evaluate and discuss problems and progress. Someone who is an expert in participative management, labour law and EE implementation should facilitate these meetings.

 

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