President Zuma signed the bill in January 2014. The proclamation notice was published in Government Gazette 37871.

The act aims to implement affirmative action measures and to eliminate unfair discrimination.

The act also gives effect to fundamental constitutional rights and ensures that South Africa complies with International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards.

Some of the central amendments include:

  • Amendment of the definition of “designated groups” so that beneficiaries of affirmative action are now limited to persons who were citizens of South Africa before 1994 and to their descendants or to those who would have been entitled to citizenship if apartheid policies had not been enacted.
  • A new clause on “equal pay for work of equal value” which deals with unfair discrimination by employers in respect of terms and conditions of employment of employees doing the same work, similar work or work of equal value.
  • Contract workers whether employed by the temporary employment agency or directly by the company are also protected by the above clause.
  • Strengthening compliance and enforcement mechanisms so that labour inspectors may issue compliance orders that may result in non-complying employers being referred directly to the labour court for a fine.
  • Introduction of increased arbitration powers at the Council of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) which will allow employees an option of referring unfair discrimination cases for CCMA arbitration in the following two circumstances; where there are allegations of sexual harassment on a prescribed ground or where employees earn less than the earnings threshold.
  • Amendment of fines and penalties have been increased and linked to turnover for non-compliance in order to avoid any circumvention of the act.

The act also schedules turnover thresholds which are applicable to designated employer sectors including the following:

  • Agriculture – R6 million.
  • Mining and quarrying – R22.5 million.
  • Construction – R15 million.
  • Transport, storage and communications – R30 million.
  • Finance and business services – R30 million.
  • Retail and motor trade and repair services – R45 million.

Designated employers are required to submit employment equity plans and reports to the Department of Labour and will receive an assessment of compliance report following a labour inspection.

In terms of the amendment a designated employer that employs fewer than 150 employees must submit its first report to the director general within 12 months after the commencement of the act or on the date on which the employer becomes a designated employer.

The act includes a schedule of maximum permissible fines to be imposed for contravention of the act including:

  • R1.5 million for no previous contravention.
  • R2.7 million for the fifth contravention in respect of the same provision within three years.