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Employment Equity in Real Terms

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is re-printed with permission from IMFAMA, the bi-monthly magazine of the South Africa National Council for the Blind, Volume 42, Number 5, October 2002.

August 19, 2002 was a great day for the disability sector, and for the SANCB in particular. On that day Membatisi Mdladlana, Minister of Labour, launched a code of good practices on the employment of people with disabilities. The launch was held at Gallagher Estate, Midrand. The code is available in Braille, print and on audio-tape and is aimed at assisting and guiding employers on dealing with the employment of disabled people in a fair and just manner. In that way employers will meet an equity quota of two percent and more.

The Code deals with all aspects of employment starting from recruitment and selection, employment and reasonable accommodation, promotion, alternative employment and termination of services.

The Code also clarifies some issues that are not clear in the Employment Equity Act. For example, the Act gives a narrow definition of people with disabilities "as people who have a long-term or recurring physical or mental impairment which substantially limits their prospects of entry into, or advancement in, employment." The code gives a broader definition, which includes other disabilities that are not included in the Act. For example, 5.1.1 (II) defines physical impairment as "a partial or total loss of a bodily function or part of the body. It includes sensory impairments such as being deaf, hearing impaired, or visually impaired."

Article 6 elaborates on reasonable accommodation. It is important to note that "the aim of the accommodation is to reduce the impact of the impairment of the person's capacity to fulfill the essential functions of a job." (6.1)

Reasonable accommodation requirements apply to applicant and employees with disabilities who are suitably qualified for the job (6.3). Examples of reasonable accommodation measures are stated in 6.9 and include facility and equipment (i.e. computer) adaptations, restructuring a job so that non-essential functions are re-assigned and the provision of specialized support.

Article 7 deals with recruitment and selection. 7.1.7 empowers us when it states that request notices and advertisements should be provided in accessible formats such as large print, braille or audiotape. The Code encourages employers and the selection panel to concentrate on a person's ability to perform job functions rather than on a person's disabilities.

Article 8 prohibits unnecessary medical and psychological testing. Such tests and assessments should be carried out only under extreme circumstances and should guard against unfairly discriminating against a person with disabilities. One of the extra-ordinary reasons for testing may be after the employee has been ill or disabled and it is proved that some adjustments are needed.

Article 10 is also important as it gives disabled employees the opportunity for training and career advancement.

Article 11 on retaining people with disabilities and article 12 on the termination of employment provides safeguard measures so that people who become disabled during their work life may not be unfairly dismissed. 11.1 states that employees who become disabled during employment should, where reasonable, be re-integrated into work. 11.3 provides for time for the rehabilitation of a newly disabled employee.