Business Day ( South Africa)
February 13, 2008
By Linda Ensor
CAPE TOWN – Additional mechanisms were needed to ensure greater compliance by business with employment equity legislation, a draft parliamentary report on workplace discrimination has concluded.
The report was drawn up for Parliament’s labour committee at the conclusion of public hearings on workplace discrimination which revealed that 10 years after the enactment of the Employment Equity Act much still needed to be done.
Government departments and a range of business, labour and civil society organisations made submissions at the hearings. Different approaches were suggested to achieve greater compliance, with Business Unity SA proposing consultation and consensus and other bodies proposing more punitive measures.
"There is a need to review the current enforcement framework," noted the draft report which has not yet been adopted by the committee. During discussions however, several MPs endorsed the need for stricter enforcement.
"Businesses that see enforcement measures and noncompliance fines as part of a cost structure should be discouraged from such practices. The enforcement mechanisms and non-compliance fines should be set at a level whereby it deters businesses from avoiding the requirements of the act."
The draft report recommended a review of fines and a simplification of the enforcement framework to make it more user friendly and to shorten time frames.
The Commission for Employment Equity proposed that the powers of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration should be extended to include enforcement to avoid the high cost of the Labour Court.
The draft report also urged that the capacity of the labour inspectorate be improved, as it played an important role in giving effect to the Employment Equity Act and should not be a "paper tiger".
It noted that levels of abuse and violence at the workplace were "totally unacceptable". Awareness campaigns about employment equity were also necessary as there was much ignorance about the legislation.
The committee will have to decide whether white women should remain one of the designated groups that benefit from affirmative action. The Black Management Forum, for instance, asserted that white women had bene- fited disproportionately from the employment equity regime.
Democratic Alliance labour spokes-woman Anchen Dreyer questioned some of the findings of the draft report insofar as they were based on the questionable statistics of the commission, which she said were the subject of an audit.
She rejected any conclusions drawn from anonymous complaints.