Facing Transformation Boldly – Integrating Disability in the Workplace: Meeting Requirements of the Revised BBBEE Codes of Good Practice

They have been a long time coming – now they are here, the Revised Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Codes of Good Practice*. These revised codes change the game in many ways including putting a different spin on human resources management strategies and practices. Organisations hoping to meet the more stringent requirements of the revised BBBEE Codes, which came into effect on 1 May 2015 by embarking on frantic unstructured recruitment campaigns, are likely to have to repeat the exercise every year.

As per the Employment Equity Act, any organisation that employs more than 50 people has to ensure that it meets the designated employer injunction of the Act. It must thus have in its employment people with disabilities. The revised Codes go further and stipulate that Black people (African, Coloured and Indian) with disabilities must constitute at least two percent of a business’ workforce.

These measures are designed to drive transformation in organisations. These stipulations seek to compel organisations to start to seriously and practically address the whole question regarding employment of people with disabilities.

The fact of the matter is that if you don’t have employees with disabilities in your staff complement, you will suffer a double whammy – first you will forfeit the points under the Equity Employment line and then again under the Skills Development line. These are precious points to lose.

Of course it’s not just about the points, it’s about being a good corporate citizen – it’s about doing the right thing and observing the human rights of all citizens as per the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

It is when organisations start thinking about it in these terms, that they will start being innovative and look for breakthrough solutions. This can only be good for them, our country and most importantly for people with disabilities who will have a shot at being economically active.

The hope is that for people with disabilities, the amended Codes mean that they will start finding more opportunities for employment or income generation. The question, however, is whether employers will fully integrate them into the very fabric of their organisations – or whether they will be given a job just to make up the numbers. If this were to be the case, we now know that “token” employees do not last, they soon move on – and a company that subscribes to the “tokenism school of thought” soon finds itself facing an endless vicious circle time after time. It’s just not sustainable. Whenever tokenism raises its ugly head, it is regrettably.

However, having to recruit people with disabilities – even wanting to recruit people with disabilities – and successfully doing so are two very different things. Members of the South African Employers for Disability (SAE4D) do report some difficulties in finding and recruiting suitably qualified people with disabilities, especially in highly professional and technical jobs. However, due to collaborative efforts and leveraging their collective experiences, learning and wisdom members are able to mitigate against many of the common mistakes in managing disability in the workplace.

So over the years we have learnt how an organisation can go about finding, recruiting and integrating people with disabilities.

Promoting Collaboration and Maximising Learning Opportunities.

The SAE4D is a non-profit employers’ organisation that was set up to promote the recruitment, retention and development of people with disabilities in the workplace.

Through utilising various platforms members are able to share experiences, develop best practices, and develop ways of effectively confronting and tackling prejudices that act as barriers to the integration of people with disabilities in the workplace. Members do not have to re-invent the wheel over and over again when launching initiatives but learn how others have done it successful and simply build on that experience to make things better.

To accelerate education and training we hold workshops during which we enable robust discussions in a safe environment and share knowledge and solve problems facing member organisations. Collaboration leads to developing better solutions. Members work together and are able to share information on reputable and effective suppliers and experts working in the field of disability management in the workplace, including such areas as recruitment and integration of people with disabilities.

*After the Revised Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Codes came into effect because of some “loose ends” and “items that required clarity or correction” the dti (department of trade and industry) issues a flurry of gazettes aimed at providing this clarity during May 2015. However, it would appear that this had other unintended consequences and fuelled the confusion. It is anticipated that with time the picture will become clearer as entities and BEE / Transformation practitioners work with the revised Codes and additional clarification notes are issued.