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Equal Opportunities and Affirmative Action

The elimination of unfair discrimination has been a policy of the democratic Government ever since 1994, particularly in the work place. To balance out disadvantage in employment previously experienced by Africans, Coloureds, Indians, women, and people with disabilities, a central feature of this policy has been affirmative action.

The Employment Equity Act 19981 is the statute which aims at establishing and maintaining these policies. It applies, in particular, to so-called ‘designated employers’ – national government, municipalities, companies with more than 49 employees, and companies with less than 50 employees but with a total turnover that meets thresholds set out in a schedule to the Act.

These thresholds are different according to the particular trade or industry – for example: for an agricultural concern, the turnover at which the obligations of the Act apply is R2 million; for manufacturing it is R10 million; in the hotel and catering business it is R5 million, and so on.

  1. No person, including an employer, may obstruct or try to influence any official of the Department of Labour in the exercise of his duties, or functions, and it is a criminal offence to do so.2

  2. It is a criminal offence to give false information (in any way) to a labour inspector or to the Department of Labour.3

  3. It is also an offence to try and avoid being a ‘designated employer’ for the purposes of the Employment Equity Act.4

  4. Any person who discloses any confidential information acquired in the performance of a function in terms of the Act, commits an offence.5

  1. As amended; the latest amendments are effected by Act 47 of 2013. 

  2. Section 61(3) read with section 61(1)(a). 

  3. Section 61(3) read with section 61(1)(b). 

  4. Section 61(3) read with section 61(2). 

  5. Section 59(1).