Affirmative Action Definition

Affirmative Action Definition

What does Affirmative Action Mean?

Affirmative Action refers to the methods used to try and acheive Employment Equity. It is an attempt to redress the imbalances caused by our history of Colonialism and Apartheid, and ensure that all people have equal employment opportunities and are equitably represented in all categories and levels of employment.

The History of Affirmative Action

The term ‘Affirmative Action’ was first used in the USA in 1961, when president John F Kennedy signed an order (Executive Order No 10925) including a provision that government contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.”

In South Africa, Affirmative Action started with the Employment Equity Act and the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act which together aim to achieve workplace equality through advancing people from designated groups (defined as ‘black people’, women and those with disabilities).

How does Affirmative Action work?

Employment Equity legislation requires companies with over 50 employees (or who exceed a certain turnover based on their industry) to do the following:

  • Consult with their employees (or their representatives) from all levels and categories within the company, including designated groups and non-designated groups
  • Conduct an analysis of current workplace policies, practices, procedures and the working environment, in order to identify barriers which adversely affect those from designated groups
  • Design and implement plans to improve their workplace equity and to report on such plans to the Department of Labour annually or every two years, depending on the number of employees in the organisation.