Commission on Employment Equity Annual Report &Gender Pilot Study & Department Progress: briefings

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Employment and Labour

30 May 2005
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Meeting report

LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
31 May 2005
COMMISSION ON EMPLOYMENT EQUITY ANNUAL REPORT AND GENDER PILOT STUDY, AND DEPARTMENT PROGRESS: BRIEFINGS

Chairperson: Ms O Kasienyane (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Implementation of the Employment Equity Act: Department PowerPoint Presentation
Fourth Commission on Employment Equity Annual Report 2003/2004: PowerPoint Presentation
Commission for Employment Equity Annual Report 2003/2004 (available shortly at www.labour.gov.za)
Executive Summary of the Gender Analysis of Employment Equity Reports: Commission for Gender Equality draft report (final version to be published soon)

SUMMARY
The Department of Labour provided a progress report on the implementation of the Employment Equity Act. Various challenges had been experienced around employers implementing employment equity (EE). These challenges included poor reporting by employers and difficulties with enforcing the Act. The Department had undertaken various initiatives to address these problems, which included: enhancing its Information and Technology (IT) capabilities, establishing a roving team of specialised inspectors, and strengthening its advocacy programme. The Department also provided an overview of the Commission of Employment Equity’s (CEE) annual report for 2003/2004. Some of the CEE’s achievements during 2003/2004 included undertaking six workplace site visits and developing the EE Awards. Through its site visits, and analysis of EE reports, the CEE made the following findings: designated groups were under-represented in management positions; the advancement of women in the workplace had been limited; and the advancement of disabled people in the workplace had been very limited.

During the ensuing discussion, Members enquired whether the CEE had plans to address the high rate of unemployment amongst the youth; whether inspectors were trained to handle EE inspections; why there was a lack of consultation between employers and employees around EE; why there had been a decline in the number of coloured people in management positions; why there had been a problem with data collection on disabled workers; how the CEE and the Department planned to address the slow progress made by employers in implementing EE; and how the enforcement of EE targets could be strengthened.

The Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) presented the findings of a pilot study, which they had conducted among 20 companies on gender equality in the workplace. This draft report (final report to be published very soon) found that few women occupied top management positions. Indeed, most female employees were employed in semi-skilled positions. The CGE had formulated various suggestions on how gender equality could be furthered in the workplace. These included the need for a stronger focus on gender as an aspect of EE; the need for employers to improve their EE reporting; the need for collaboration between the CEE and CGE; and the need for the CGE to work closely with trade unions around gender issues.

Members raised various concerns and questions during the discussion. They were concerned about the lack of gender equality in the workplace, growing casualisation in the labour market, the lack of skills development programmes for women, and gender inequality within the process of black economic empowerment (BEE).

MINUTES

Commission on Employment Equity Annual Report and Department progress
Ms N Kahn (Department Senior Executive Manager, Labour Relations) discussed the progress that had been made in implementing the Employment Equity Act. It was noted that the Department’s Employment Equity Directorate was responsible for the Act’s implementation. Ms Kahn provided a brief overview of the structure of the Employment Equity Directorate. She then discussed some of the challenges that the Department had experienced in implementing the Act.

One of the main challenges was that the quality of employer’s reports on EE tended to be poor. Many employers were either not fully completing the required form or were completing it inaccurately. Some employers were even failing to report to the Department. The data collection process for disabled employees was also poor. The Department was addressing these problems by enhancing its Information Technology (IT) capabilities. This included rolling out a new Employment Equity Registry system, which would allow for online reporting.

Ms Kahn noted that the Department had faced challenges in enforcing the Act. In order to strengthen the enforcement of the Act, the Department had established a roving team of specialists. A Director-General Review System would also be implemented, which would further enable the Department to establish whether employers were complying with the Act. The Department would be tightening up regulations in order to strengthen enforcement.

The Department was also experiencing challenges with its advocacy programme. The Codes of Good Conduct were not available in all the official languages. There was still ignorance amongst many employers regarding the requirements of and methods for implementing the Act. The Department was addressing these issues in various ways. This included translating the Codes of Good Conduct into all the official languages. The National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) had also established an employment equity task team and road show to increase the number of employers that reported on EE.

Mr L Kettledas, Deputy Director-General: Labour Policy presented an overview of the CEE Annual Report 2003/2004. Some of the CEE’s achievements included the development of technical assistance guidelines for the employment of people with disabilities; the development of a code of good practice for the integration of EE into human resource practices; the development of the Employment Equity Awards; and visits to six workplace sites.

During the CEE’s workplace site visits, various observations had been made. These included that some employers struggled to distinguish between social responsibility and EE; some employers raised concerns about the reporting forms; employers were not linking skills development with EE; some employers had a narrow understanding of affirmative action; black workers tended to be in lower and middle management rather than top management; males still dominated senior positions; employers had a limited understanding of disabilities; some employers felt that providing facilities for disabled employees would be a cost burden; and few employers had HIV/AIDS programmes.

Mr Kettledas presented the analysis of the EE reports from 2003. This included a comparison with the 2001 EE reports. It was found that African people occupied 14.9% of top management positions in 2003, which was an increase from 8% in 2001. The number of White people in top management positions had also increased from 74.9% to 76.3 %. However, Coloured people in top management positions had declined from 13.2% in 2001, to 4% in 2003. Mr Kettledas also provided figures and comparisons for senior and mid-level management.

The overall observations of the CEE regarding EE targets included that there had been a limited increase in the number of people from designated groups in top and middle management positions; there was slow progress in the advancement of women, especially black women in the workplace; and there was limited advancement of persons with disabilities in the workplace. The CEE maintained that representation of designated groups could be increased significantly if workplaces created an affirming environment which harnessed diversity.

Discussion
Mr L Maduna (ANC) noted that the high unemployment rate amongst the youth was concerning. In the light of this, he enquired why the youth had not been included in the CEE annual report. He asked whether the CEE had plans to focus on the youth in the future.

Ms Kahn replied that the youth were not covered in the CEE annual report because they were not addressed in the EE legislation. Similarly, the EE reports provided by employers did not cover the youth. Nonetheless, the high rate of unemployment amongst the youth was a problem, which the Department needed to address. Mr S Morotoba (Acting Deputy Director-General, Human Resource Development: Department of Labour) added that the National Skills Development Strategy had learnership programmes for the youth. There were also initiatives underway to increase the number of bursaries and internships available to the youth.

Mr G Anthony (ANC) asked what the difference was between the definitions of top management and senior management.

Mr Kettledas responded that the definitions of top and senior management were outlined in the index of the annual report. Similarly, definitions of the certain levels of management were also provided in the legislation.

Mr B Mkongi (ANC) asked whether the CEE and Department had taken steps to further empower, educate and train inspectors to deal with EE issues.

Mr S Morotoba responded that the Department had a training programme for inspectors. Added to this, a national team of roving inspectors had been established, which comprised of the four top inspectors in each province. These inspectors would be undergoing extensive training on substantive compliance with the Employment Equity Act.

Mr Mkongi noted that the CEE report had highlighted that there was a lack of consultation between employers and employees over EE. Even in government there seemed to be a lack of consultation. He asked why there was a problem with consultation.

Mr Kettledas responded that advocacy was required to promote and strengthen consultation between employers and employees around EE. It was critical that employers consulted with workers for several reasons. Specifically, employees needed to be involved in establishing the details of EE plans, setting the targets of the EE plans, and establishing time frames for the EE plans. The need for consultation was also outlined in legislation and it applied to both the private and the public sector. It was not just the designated groups that needed to be consulted, but all staff. Employees and trade unions needed to ensure that they were involved in the consultation process.

Mr Mkongi and Mr W Spies (FF+) enquired why there had been a decline in the employment of Coloured people in management positions.

Ms Kahn replied that the CEE and Department had not analysed why there had been this decline. The Department would examine the possible reasons and would make these findings available to the Committee.

Mr Mkongi noted that there had been a decline in the number of black people in middle management positions from 50.2% in 2001 to 50% in 2003. He enquired why there had been this decline.

Mr Spies commented that the Employment Equity Act defined people with disabilities as a designated group, despite their race. He felt that many employers were ignoring this by defining disabled people according to race. He felt that this was unfair to White disabled people.

Prince N Zulu (IFP) commented that any employer that defined disabled peoples on a racial basis was doing so on their own initiative. The Act did not define disabled people along racial lines.

Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) commented that to view all disabled peoples in non-racial terms ignored the history of the country. Disabled people of colour had not received the same standard of education as many White disabled people had received under apartheid. A similar situation existed in terms of access to work. It was, therefore, necessary to address these past imbalances. However, no disabled person should be discriminated against.

Prince Zulu noted that the Act had established a target, which stipulated that five percent of all employees should be people with disabilities. Currently, only 1.35 % of the work force was composed of disabled people. This was not sufficient.

Ms Kahn acknowledged that this was insufficient. The Department was concerned about the low figures. The EE task team would be focusing on the issue of disability. The Department had also implemented advocacy programmes to encourage employers and government departments to comply with disability targets.

Mr Mzondeki asked why there was a problem with data collection on disabled employees.

Mr Kahn responded that certain employers regularly failed to report whether they were complying with the disability targets. However, many of these employers would still claim that they were compliant with the Act, because they employed sufficient people from other designated categories. This was a problem that needed to be addressed.

Mr Mzondeki commented that the CEE had reported that certain employers were ignorant of how to implement EE, as it applied to disabled people. He enquired whether employers were ignorant or whether they were deliberately not implementing this aspect of EE.

Mr Kettledas acknowledged that some employers were unwilling to comply.

Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) and the Chairperson asked whether the CEE or Department had strategies or recommendations on how to address the slow progress made by employers in implementing EE.

Ms Kahn responded that NEDLAC’s task team and social partners were working towards increasing the awareness of EE implementation. The Department also had long-term programmes to address EE implementation, which included education. There was also a perception that the capacity of labour to support the implementation of EE, needed to be strengthened. Similarly, small and medium sized enterprises also needed help with the implementation of EE. The Department had established the Employment Equity Awards for companies that complied with the Act. Added to this, the Director-General Review System would allow the Department to strengthen its enforcement capacity.

Mr Rasmeni stated that it would be useful if the CEE could provide progress reports on EE in the various sectors of the economy. A similar undertaking, which examined EE within the various government departments, would be valuable. This would allow for the implementation of corrective measures.

Ms Kahn responded that the Department would be examining EE within different sectors. The Department had already conducted a study on the retail sector, which would be released in due course. Mr Kettledas added that it was important to establish the progress of EE at a sectoral level. If certain companies within a sector were able to reach EE targets, then other companies in the sector could not claim that reaching EE targets was not viable.

Mr Rasmeni enquired what specific regulatory mechanism the Department intended to strengthen.

Ms Khan responded that certain regulations needed to be addressed, which included issues around the employer reporting forms.

Mr Rasmeni asked whether employers or the Department had designed the EE report forms that were completed by employers

Mr Kettledas answered that the forms were set out in the legislation. They were not designed by employers.

Prince Zulu noted that the skills development of employees, employed by sub-contractors, was poor. This was problematic and could even be dangerous if underskilled workers were performing complicated and potentially hazardous work.

Ms Kahn stated that the issue of sub-contracting highlighted the changing nature of work from permanent employment to casualisation. Most of the contract workers and casuals were not fully covered by labour legislation. The Department was working towards addressing this to ensure that such employees benefited from labour legislation. Mr Morotoba added that companies sub-contracted in order to reduce their costs. Small contractors also had to reduce costs in order to compete for contracts. The Department was engaging with National Treasury to ensure that these small companies benefited from the skills development programme.

Gender Analysis of Employment Equity Reports
Mr B Khumalo (Deputy Chairperson: Commission on Gender Equality) noted that the CGE had conducted a pilot study on gender equity and its relationship to EE. Ms T Kgasi (Commissioner: Commission on Gender Equality) outlined the reasons why CGE had conducted its pilot study. These reasons included previous findings that most women were still confined to jobs that were traditionally defined as 'feminine'; sexual harassment was widespread in the workplace, only 14.7% of executive managers in South Africa were women, and only 7.1% of all directors in the country were women.

The CGE pilot study was conducted amongst twenty companies from various sectors in the economy. It was found that amongst the 365 top management positions in these 20 companies, white women filled only 19 jobs and black women filled only 11. Most of the women employed in these companies tended to be in semiskilled positions. Companies from the mining and building sectors tended to be male dominated. Indeed, there were no women in any of the top management positions at De Beers.

As a result of the pilot study, the CGE had formulated various recommendations on how to further gender equality in workplace. These recommendations included a stronger gender focus in the implementation of BEE; EE reporting needed to include information on whether gender-mainstreaming had been achieved; companies should be strongly encouraged to implement the Gender Policy Framework; EE reporting forms should be amended to reflect the demographics of companies’ non-permanent employees, as women were disproportionately affected by causalisation; support programmes needed to accompany the promotion of disadvantaged people; there was a need for stronger collaboration between the CGE and the CEE; the CGE needed to collaborate with trade unions around gender issues; and there needed to be frequent awards for companies that had successfully implemented EE.

Discussion
The Chairperson enquired about the initiatives that CGE had undertaken to educate rural women on gender issues.

Ms Kgasi responded that CGE had programmes to educate women about gender equality, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence and EE. The CGE’s seven offices around the country were responsible for implementing these programmes. In fact, the seven offices were expected to run 27 educational workshops per year. However, some difficulties with resources had been experienced. The CGE had, therefore, taken the decision to cooperate with local government around the educational programmes.

Ms Moss noted that not enough progress had been made towards achieving gender equality. This was especially true when one considered rural women. Mr Mkongi and Mr N Godi (PAC) added that the extent of gender inequality in the workplace was concerning.

Ms N Ngcengwane (ANC) noted that the CGE had recommended that companies should be strongly encouraged to implement the Gender Policy Framework. Ms Ngcengwane, Mr Rasmeni, Mr Mkongi and Mr Godi felt that there needed to be enforcement and monitoring of EE and gender equality targets, and not merely encouragement. Mr Godi, Mr Rasmeni and Mr Mkongi felt that companies were resisting change and were failing to implement EE.

Mr Kettledas replied that companies could be fined for non-compliance with EE legislation. Currently there was a case in KwaZulu-Natal where an employer had been taken to court by the Department for non-compliance with labour legislation. It was hoped that this case would serve as a warning to other employers that failed to comply with legislation. Ms Kgasi added that the CGE was meeting with gender activists from various law firms around the issue of legislation. This included examining various cases, which mainly dealt with sexual harassment. Mr Khumalo added that unless there was a sufficient budget to ensure implementation of EE targets, policy and legislation would be ineffective.

Mr Khumalo stated that even certain government departments were unaware that a gender policy existed. In fact, there had recently been a decline in the number of women employed in top positions in government departments. Although government had achieved much in implementing gender targets, there was still room for improvement. Government needed to lead by example. This would also justify any possible government intervention to enforce gender equity targets in the private sector.

Ms Ngcengwane felt that companies needed to implement skills development programmes for young women. This could include bursary schemes. Mr Mkongi asked whether there were any programmes to ensure that young women were being trained for future management positions. Ms L Moss (ANC) added that employers needed to offer skills development to unskilled women employees. Ms Ngcengwane also enquired whether CGE had any programmes to assist women who were already in management positions.

Ms Kgasi responded that the CGE did not have specific details on companies’ skills development programmes. Certainly skills development for women needed to be promoted. Mr Khumalo added that mentoring programmes needed to be established for women who had been promoted to management level positions. Most men in management positions received some form of mentoring. Unfortunately, this was currently not the case for most women. Ms Kgasi then noted that the CGE had not included age as a criterion in its pilot study. Therefore, the CGE lacked information regarding the situation of young women in the workplace. In the future, CGE studies could include age as a criterion. In fact, youth issues were being factored into the CGE’s programmes.

The Chairperson asked whether the Department would encourage stronger collaboration between the CEE and CGE.

Mr Kettledas responded that the Department would encourage greater collaboration between the CGE and the CEE.

Mr Rasmeni stated that gender equality was a central aspect of nation-building. The challenge for the CGE and the Department was to ensure that gender equality became a reality in the workplace.

Mr Rasmeni commented that BEE, and the promotion of small and medium sized enterprises, needed to include a gender component.

Mr Khumalo acknowledged that the gender imbalances in BEE were concerning. There was a danger that women could become further marginalised if BEE deals continued to mainly benefit men. There needed to be mechanisms to ensure that women also benefited from BEE.

Ms Moss observed that there was a gender imbalance in the mining sector. She asked whether mining companies could place women from small and medium sized enterprises on their boards. This would allow for the gender imbalance to be addressed.

Mr Maduna stated that the Chamber of Mines could correct the gender imbalance in the mining sector if they wished to do so. The Chamber of Mines needed to take gender equality seriously.

Mr Mzondeki enquired whether NEDLAC was attempting to address the problem of growing casualisation. Mr Maduna added that a lot of employees worked for many years as casuals, which meant that they lost out on benefits such as pensions. Mr Maduna asked whether the CGE had considered the possibility of formulating legislation to address casualisation.

Mr Kettledas responded that the issue of casualisation was being discussed in NEDLAC. Indeed, NEDLAC was examining potential mechanisms to deal with the problem of casualisation. This would avoid the need to immediately alter legislation. Research was also being conducted on casualisation, which would be available to the Committee. Ms Kgasi added that the CGE did not have any recommendations on how to eradicate casualisation. Nonetheless, casualisation needed to be addressed as women were being disproportionately affected by its impact.

Mr Khumalo added that casualisation of the work force had the potential to cause social problems. For example, in the future, when casual workers retired, they would have to depend on the state for pensions and healthcare. This would negatively impact on the social security system. There had been a recent debate on whether labour legislation should be relaxed. Mr Khumalo felt that if legislation was relaxed it could result in even greater casualisation.

Mr Mzondeki stated that there needed to be support for initiatives such as ‘Take a Girl Child to Work’.

Mr Godi felt that regulations around gender issues needed to be tightened. The Committee needed to formulate steps that could be taken to address gender inequality in the workplace. He felt that the Department also needed draft proposals on how to address the situation. He added that if workplaces were not democratised then the fruits of political liberation would not be realised.

Mr Kettledas responded that legislation on its own could not address gender inequality. There also needed to be advocacy work and education amongst employers.

Mr Maduna noted that the construction sector remained male dominated. Even BEE construction companies were mainly owned by men. These companies also tended to employ mainly men. Women needed be trained so that they could be employed in the construction sector. Mr Maduna enquired how gender equality could be achieved in the construction sector.

Ms Kgasi acknowledged that the construction sector was mainly male dominated. Mr Khumalo noted that government had initiated various programmes to train women in various aspects of construction work. For example, in the Limpopo province a group of women had been trained to build roads. If these programmes were successful, they could provide models for future initiatives.

The Chairperson noted that more work needed to be done in order to address the problem of gender inequality in the workplace. Men and women needed to work together in order to achieve the necessary transformation.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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