Many opinions have been voiced over the Dis-Chem issue, most of which have devolved into a binary acceptance or rejection of the offending memorandum issued by the company’s CEO, and later mercifully retracted (“Dis-Chem is on the right path with transformation”, October 18).
Unfortunately, little attention has been devoted to what exactly the CEO’s memorandum contemplated, or what the law has to say about the instructions to his top management. While being lauded by many on social media as a “necessary step” or “long overdue”, the moratorium espoused in the memo is likely to fall foul of the Employment Equity Act.
While the law advocates for affirmative action measures, it does not support either the introduction of quotas, or permit the introduction of an absolute barrier to the employment of any race (even if it is not one of the “designated groups”). The notion of excluding anybody from the opportunity of being employed simply on the basis of their race should be repugnant.
There are many employers that have not given sufficient attention to their obligations under the Employment Equity Act, and this is reflected by the current statistics. Even anecdotally, many workplaces are still managed by whites, while the shop floor continues to be organised by black workers.
This speaks to a far bigger social issue that employers unfortunately cannot fix on their own. The amendments to the act that are set to be pencilled into the statute books during 2023 will add further administrative headaches, permit further government interference in their businesses, and essentially take the power away from them to determine the pace of transformation in their businesses.
Dis-Chem is not the only employer sweating over these amendments (and the associated fines), but the now infamous memorandum has likely served only to alert the department of employment & labour to the company’s noncompliance with the Employment Equity Act.
Partner, Cowan-Harper-Madikizela Attorneys
JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Send us an email with your comments to email@example.com. Letters of more than 300 words will be edited for length. Anonymous correspondence will not be published. Writers should include a daytime telephone number.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.