The Department of Employment and Labour has gazetted the draft sectoral employment equity targets for designated businesses in South Africa for public comment.
The employment and labour minister has set targets in terms of the country’s new Employment Equity Amendment Act, which was recently assented to by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Under the new laws, the employment minister is empowered to set sector-specific numerical targets for the racial and gender makeup of designated businesses, which must be achieved over five years.
The targets are expressed as a percentage of the population, either nationally or provincially, and it is up to businesses to choose one or the other in executing their transformation plans, the department said.
Designated businesses are all businesses in South Africa that employ more than 50 people.
Failure to comply with the laws can result in penalties, such as fines.
Companies seeking to do business with the government will also need a Certificate of Compliance from the department.
Furthermore, the EE Act requires employers to submit employment equity plans and annual reports on their progress in meeting the targets.
The laws apply to all designated businesses – even those that have no intention of doing business with the state.
Broadly, the proposed targets appear to push companies to be more demographically representative, especially in top and senior management positions.
The department did not publish an explanatory note with the gazette explaining how the targets are to be read. The tables instead show a barrage of percentages split across:
- 18 industries/sectors
- 4 skill levels per industry (Top management; Senior management; Professional; Skilled)
- 4 racial groups per skill level (plus a total for “Black” which includes Indian, Coloured and African)
- 2 genders (Male; Female)
- 10 regional breakdowns for all of the above (9 provinces and national).
Each sector breakdown features a workforce profile for 2022, which is ostensibly what the targets are set against, although this is not explicitly stated.
The targets look at 18 sectors overall. The full breakdown of the targets can be seen in the file below.
The proposed targets are open for public comment for 30 days.
Notably, the 2022 profiles show a wide over-representation of white South Africans in the workforce, particularly in top and senior management.
However, the purported targets do not account for the shifts away from these figures. Simply put – the numbers don’t add up, which has already raised flags among commentators.
Business interest group Sakeliga has, through its attorneys, written to the employment minister demanding that the gazette be withdrawn.
Sakeliga said that the targets are incoherent and incomprehensible, adding that if the regulations are promulgated, they will be susceptible to judicial review.
“The draft regulations… seek to determine race and gender quotas per industry per province. However, the regulations have been so incoherently and incomprehensibly constructed that it is impossible to formulate meaningful comments on the proposed targets.
“Furthermore, no explanation was provided to assist in making sense of the numbers,” the group said.
Sakeliga said is totally opposed to state interference in private enterprises.
“The draft regulations and the enabling legislation for them provide for intrusive race and gender quotas which the minister can ostensibly impose on any business with more than 50 employees.
“Sakeliga is already busy preparing court papers to have the amended Act reviewed and the most objectionable parts of it set aside. The fact that the draft regulations in terms of the Act are unintelligible and incoherent is an aggravating circumstance,” it said.
Sakeliga said that, as it currently stands, the group cannot comment on the draft regulations, “and the rest of the public probably won’t be able to either”.
Trade union Solidarity is also in the midst of a court process challenging the new BEE laws, saying they place excessive focus on racial categorisation and ultimately give an afterlife to ‘apartheid-style’ classifications.