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Basic Guide to Unfair Discrimination

Basic Guide to Unfair Discrimination

Employers must remove unfair discrimination from their policies and practices. It is not unfair to discriminate when you apply affirmative action.


The Employment Equity Act applies to all employers, workers and job applicants, but not members of the –

  • National Defence Force;
  • National Intelligence Agency; and
  • South African Secret Service.

The provisions for affirmative action apply to –

  • employers with 50 or more workers, or whose annual income is more than the amount specified in Schedule 4 of the Act;
  • municipalities;
  • organs of State;
  • employers ordered to comply by a bargaining council agreement;
  • any employers who volunteer to comply.

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Applies to all employers and workers and protects workers and job seekers from unfair discrimination, and also provides a framework for implementing affirmative action.

Policies and Practices

Employers must remove unfair discrimination from all their policies and practices.

Based on Legislation in Section 5of the Employment Equity Act


Nobody may discriminate against workers because of their –

  • race;
  • gender;
  • sex;
  • pregnancy;
  • marital status;
  • family responsibility;
  • ethnic or social origin;
  • colour;
  • sexual orientation;
  • age
  • disability;
  • religion;
  • HIV status;
  • conscience;
  • belief;
  • political opinion;
  • culture;
  • language; or
  • birth.

Based on Legislation in Section 6of the Employment Equity Act

When is Discrimination Not Unfair?

It is not unfair discrimination to –

  • apply affirmative action; or
  • exclude or prefer people because of certain requirements of a job (e.g. to exclude blind workers from driving a bus).

Based on Legislation in Section 6of the Employment Equity Act


Workers must refer disputes about unfair discrimination to the CCMA in writing within 6 months.

Based on Legislation in Section 10of the Employment Equity Act

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Originally appeared on on 14-11-2007. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of estome. estome accepts no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or fairness of the article, nor does the information contained herein constitute advice, legal or otherwise.

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