EMPLOYMENT EQUITY COMMISSION – THE PERSPECTIVE

By BY VILBARD T. USIKU, EMPLOYMENT EQUITY COMMISSIONER
March 2011
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THE members of the Employment Equity Commission (EEC) are appointed by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare with the approval of the National Assembly. Appointments are for a 3 year period except for the Chairperson whose appointment is for a 5 year term.

The Minister is also empowered to designate a Deputy Chairperson from amongst the members as he is the overseer of all activities within Commission and receives annual reports for tabling in the National Assembly.

The 15 member Commission is constituted as follows:

● The chairperson (referred to in the Act as the Commissioner);
● 4 persons representing the State;
● 2 persons representing employers’ organization and 2 persons representing trade unions; and
● 2 persons for each designated group, i.e. for previously racially disadvantaged, women and persons with disabilities, respectively.

The Act also provides for the appointment of alternate members to stand in for full members if the need should arise.

The first Employment Equity Commission was inaugurated in 1999.

The Employment Equity Commission is accorded overall responsibility to achieve the objects of the Act. Included amongst its main powers and functions are to –

Issue guidelines to employers;
● Facilitate training programmes and other technical assistance;
● Appoint review officers;
● Approve, disapprove or conditionally approve affirmative action reports;
● Appoint review panel;
● Issue affirmative action compliance certificates;
● Refer disputes to the Labour Commissioner, and
● To establish awards recognizing affirmative action achievements.

The Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, 29 of 1998 was passed by the Namibian Parliament with a view to redressing the imbalances at the workplace. This was in view of the discriminatory socio-economic dispensation which had previously existed in the country.

The legislation is intended to foster fair employment practices with regard to recruitment, selection, appointment, training, promotion and equitable remuneration for the previously disadvantaged persons. Thus more particularly previously racially disadvantaged persons, which include women and persons with disabilities referred to as designated groups in this Act.

The core objective of the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, 29 of 1998, is to achieve equity and equality in the workplace. It also seeks to eliminate employment barriers in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities for reasons not related to ability. Furthermore, the Act seeks to ensure progress towards a more representative workforce that is reflective of the demographics of Namibia at all levels of employment.

The Affirmative Action (Employment) Act requires all relevant employers, employing 25 or more employees to develop and implement affirmative action plans in order to achieve a fair and representative workforce.

This Act, is specific on requirements, that are to be met by employers to whom its provisions apply. Chief amongst the requirements is the preparation of a three year affirmative action plan in close consultation with employees, which is submitted in the form of an affirmative action plan and report to the Employment Equity Commission at prescribed intervals.

The first report by the Public Sector employers was due on 4th February 2000 while the first report by the private sector relevant employers had to be submitted on 6 February 2001. Further progress reports on the affirmative action plan implementation have to be submitted annually thereafter until the next affirmative action plan is due.

This process is repeated on a three year basis until such time when Parliament and the Namibian public in general are happy that employment inequities have been satisfactorily remedied.

Failure by any relevant employer to comply with the provisions of the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, is a criminal offence. The Employment Equity Commission has pressed charges in the past against a number of relevant employers over (200) for failure to comply with the provisions of the Act. These employers in question appeared before the courts and were convicted.

Encouraging progress towards equity in employment has been made since the affirmative action act came into law. Workforce profile figures submitted by relevant employers at the initial implementation stage, showed that persons in designated groups, the previously racially disadvantaged, women and persons with disabilities were seriously under represented at the management and skilled levels of employment.

However, representation of the previously marginalized at the management level has been steadily improving over the years. The latest statistical figures showed that persons in designated groups now comprise 63 percent of the employees at the management level. Proportionally, White employees continue to enjoy more than their fair share of the positions at the highest echelon of employment, while persons with disabilities are under-represented at almost every level of employment.

In conclusion, I need to state that affirmative action as a remedial measure was not meant, to be an event, but an evolutionary process that would take some time to address the inequities left behind by the apartheid policies of racial and gender discrimination. I have every reason to believe that our national programme of affirmative action is well on course. PF