Unfair discrimination: the ghost of actions past 9


The Employment Equity Amendment Act (2012), recently signed by the President, affects all of us. We cannot pretend that the workplace is representative of the population, particularly at senior levels. We have not done enough to bring black people, women and people with disabilities into meaningful, decision-making positions. 

We might ignore for a time the rising anger of affected people, but the fines attached to failure to comply should make business pay attention (up from R500,000 to R1,500,000 or a percentage of turnover). And if the Department of Labour (DoL) gets more labour inspectors to enforce the law in the workplace, as suggested by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s Johan Botes, there will be no place to hide.

The amended Act requires careful scrutiny, but here we focus on one aspect of unfair discrimination.

Read more of this post at Simply Communicate

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About Ian Webster

I have been running my own consultancy (Simply Communicate) for nearly five years – training and consulting in all things people management and development. Prior to that I was 16 years in corporate HR in a unionised environment becoming Training Manager and Human Resources Manager. Before that I was seven years in customer service, and 13 years an ordained minister. I have a Degree in Theology and a post-graduate diploma in Human Resources Management.


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9 thoughts on “Unfair discrimination: the ghost of actions past

  • Ian Webster Post author

    The comments are interesting and helpful, but don’t forget that if you want to do the right thing and clarify who is ready for greater challenges and who is not (who are ‘equal’ and who are not), make sure you have valid and objective evidence, and that it is documented.

  • Unre Visagie

    Glenda, you are right. The discrimination of calling people who are not equal in competencies equal has terrible consequences. 

    Only issue remains to get people ready for work into the labour market.

    The grass roots of community and schools where young people are prepared for a productive life is where the challenge and gaps reside?

  • Glenda Osborn

    Hannes – I get your ‘tongue in cheek’ comments.  I believe that enough time has passed and that legislation should no longer be relied upon to enhance employment based on only a few factors.  

    In the same instance Ian, I agree that there is much evidence that some employers and employees do hide behind legislation or misuse it.  I have a good example – there are SOME organisations running learnerships where there are promises of future employment, particularly of disabled individuals.  Organisations receive extra “points” however, many of the learners still remain unemployed after their families, who relied on their disability grant and were hopeful that the learner could obtain employment, are left almost back where they started: empowered but no employment.  This is a sensitive topic that could be discussed for months so I will leave it alone for now.

    It needs to be taken into consideration that placing an individual in the workplace only for the sake of fulfilling legislative requirements may in fact put the new employee in a situation where he or she may be set up for failure.  Having done a little research on stress levels of late, there is strong indication that more and more employees that are placed in positions beyond their level of education and experience, suffer severely from stress and develop other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and so on.  Numerous medical aid companies report that there is a huge increase in members developing stress-related illnesses and that visits to psychologists are excessive on some fronts.  I am not advertising here but there is one large organisation that has done much to monitor and encourage physical and mental well-being of their members.  Review: https://www.discovery.co.za/portal/individual/vitality-mental-wellbeing.  

    Sadly, there is always a “bite you in the butt” analogy as the very organisations that use the legislation ONLY for benefits offered, pay the price when those same employees take more and more sick leave, become demotivated and depressed.  

    I understand the need to empower those that has been dis-empowered over decades, it needs to be borne in mind that we are not only working with systems and processes but human beings that play a vital role in the labour market.

  • Unre Visagie

    All that is required iare competent people WANTING to work and learn with no nonsense like all of us started. It was tough at HP and Escom of old to not speak much English. The problem starts right at home where kids are not adequately developed and supported. bridging the gaps in competence in later life is almost impossible

  • Ian Webster Post author

    Yes, I do understand where you are coming from, and I agree. Legislation is required because not enough has been done, but then it is too easy for employer and employee alike to hide behind the legislation, or do the minimum required.

  • Hannes Nel

    Jip, the shoe size issue is especially problematic. (I am trying to be funny, not sarcastic – you know how cyberspace can warp the meaning of what we write.) Thank you for your mature response to my notes. I would like to be clear about this – I would love to have ten times as many Black facilitators in my training company if only I could find them. Sadly the really good ones are either grabbed by large industries who pay them fantastic salaries which I cannot afford, or they start their own businesses and they succeed as well. That does not mean that the ones that I have are not good, only that I don’t have enough of them. I am more concerned with the large number of people who just hide behind legislation in stead of pulling up their socks and working really hard.

  • Ian Webster Post author

    I agree with your theory, Hannes, but the reality is that the old-boy network still applies, and we are still suspicious of those who are different from us: gender, race, culture, disabilities (shoe size?). Its the discrimination we need to deal with, not to appoint for the sake of numbers (which, admittedly, BEE encourages).

  • Hannes Nel

    I see absolutely no reason why people with the necessary knowledge, skills and potential will not be appointed, and if they are all previously disadvantaged so much the better. Why, I ask you, need this be enforced by law? It has been twenty years in which people had ample opportunity to show their mettle, and it has become time for them to stop relying on legislation to obtain jobs for which they should be qualified to begin with. Even more, once they are appointed they should show that they can actually do the work and they should work hard. South Africa is not an island and if we continue appointing people because of colour and not based on merit, the world will punish us. If you cannot understand this, you have a serious problem. I have no objection to previously disadvantaged people being appointed in any position, but I do have a problem when people are appointed in jobs with which they cannot cope.