Equality bill’s 50% proviso ‘impossible’

Linda Ensor

BUSINESS looks likely to face more onerous employment targets after the Department of Women‚ Children and People with Disabilities rejected its objections to a provision in the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill that eventually 50% of staff in decision-making positions must be women.

South Africa is already poorly placed in international surveys in terms of ease of doing business‚ red tape and over-regulation of its labour market.

Ministerial adviser Joyce Maluleke briefed parliament’s portfolio committee on women‚ children and people with disabilities on the government’s response to stakeholders’ submissions on the bill last week. A number of suggestions – particularly on definitions – were accepted by the department but not those of Business Unity SA (Busa).

Busa argued that there were already a panoply of laws promoting empowerment – such as the Employment Equity Act and the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (BBBEE) – on the statute books and there was no need for another overlapping one dedicated to women.

In terms of the bill‚ the 50% target for women would override all of the targets in other laws.

Busa director for social and transformation policy Vanessa Phala told the committee that Busa did not support the bill because the 50% target was “unrealistic and unattainable” and would criminalise employers for being unable to achieve “the impossible”. She warned the proposals would add to “an already onerous regulatory environment and further deter investment by local as well as international investors”.

Phala said the bill was withdrawn from the National Economic Development and Labour Council last year with the agreement of all social partners due to vagueness and ambiguity.

Women Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana said the bill was necessary because existing laws had failed to empower women. According to the Commission for Employment Equity’s 2012-13 annual report‚ only 20% of top management posts were filled by women and women made up only 30% of senior management. – BDfm

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