Don’t Go Without Solid Policies in Your Organisation

Part I: Gender and BEE

Devan Moonsamy


A sound policy structure in the workplace is an insurance blanket against many common problems. It protects both employer and employee. But having a great policy will make no difference if personnel are not aware of it. They should be expected to know, understand and follow its guidelines and rules.

Not all employees have the time to go through policy documents, however, and it can be tedious reading. The best thing to do is to give employees a summary of the policy. They can be asked to sign in agreement with the policy, which will encourage them to get to know its provisions well.

What works even better is to train employees on the policy, for example, by putting them through a workshop. This need not be a dreary affair. In fact, it can be really fun if approached in the right way and if it focusses on how the policy benefits the employee. The right facilitator can ensure staff understand but don’t feel overburdened by the new policy provisions.

This is a very effective preventative measure which ensures employees know exactly what is expected of them and what their rights are.

People often focus a lot on what went wrong, especially reactively after a problem arises, such as a nasty incident between co-workers. But telling staff what they can and should be doing at work beforehand is more effective than just giving them a long list of what they can’t do. This helps them focus on being productive and getting along rather than worrying about how they might slip up.

Teaching and emulating good behaviour is also vital. Management sets the standard of behaviour. Employees never know everything they need to when starting a new job. There’s always things to learn, and it is extremely effective when one is taught the right behaviour as early on as possible.

The policy document itself is a critical backup. Staff members trained on key organisational policies can more firmly be held to account. If it’s in writing and it’s the company’s official stance on the matter, it makes it easier to handle problems in a mature, organised way. Risk Management planning has already been conducted and communicated by means of drafting and disseminating the policy, and training staff on it.

When staff are properly educated and trained, it greatly eases management’s concerns over their behaviour. What kinds of policies are important to have in place for South African businesses? In this first article we will look at two critical policies to create and train your employees and co-workers on.

Gender Equity Policy

The plight of women and girls in South African is an open secret. Everyone knows it is happening, but it remains well hidden. Nevertheless, the facts speak for themselves: women and girls are often in a difficult and subordinate position. They may have little say over their salaries, which jobs are open to them, and even over their very bodies.

Google recently got into serious trouble over pay inequities between male and female employees. The problem is severe enough that the US Department of Labour filed a lawsuit. Google tried to gloss over the problem, but experts quickly identified weaknesses in its approach, particularly in that it left out 11% of employees in an official gender-pay analysis.

PR Risk Management must not wait for disaster to strike. It can happen now by having good provisions in place which prevent these kinds of injustices. South African companies likewise must practice equal pay and benefits for equal work to redress the wrongs of the past.

Women also need to have an equal chance of being hired, promoted and trained. Women should not be seen as only fit for and kept in positions of ‘admin lady’ or ‘maid’. They must be invested in because they make great workers and very strong, effective and just leaders.

Women need to be heard in meetings, and they shouldn’t be expected to work harder than men just to be noticed or stuck under a glass ceiling. All this must be addressed in a gender equity policy document which HR and other staff members are well versed in and follow closely.

BEE Policy

This one goes without saying in South Africa, but staff do still need to understand what the company stance is with regard to BEE and why, and they must be monitored in following it. As Brand South Africa explains, ‘Black economic empowerment (BEE) is not simply a moral imperative… It is a pragmatic growth strategy to realise the country’s full potential by bringing the black majority into the economic mainstream.’

Various BEE provisions should be contained in the HR and recruitment policy, and the procurement policy. These include prioritising people of colour as much as possible in hiring, promotions, and buying decisions. A whole lot of black workers and a few white managers is still seen in some businesses. This must be addressed in binding policy to commit the company to equity measures. What specific BEE provisions do South African organisations have in place? A few helpful examples are given below.

Ithala Development Finance Corporation has in its BEE policy the provision that some contracts be sub-divided. This opens opportunities for black-owned SMMEs which may not yet have sufficient resources and staff to offer the most comprehensive services.

The Department of Trade and Industry emphasises that there must be active participation by black people in an enterprise for it to be considered as really following BEE principles.

Barclays Africa explains that it actively invites black-owned suppliers to participate in sourcing procedures. This has successfully helped the company to engage in business with more BEE companies.

NMMU’s policy makes BEE a key function of all managers. The University also measures the successful implementation of BEE in its employee performance assessments.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi from Bowman Gilfillan notes that there is ‘No empowerment without skills.’ Skills development for all staff should be included in policy to meet BEE requirements.

The Shoprite Group/Checkers takes a very proactive approach by assisting new suppliers with creating barcodes and packaging so their products can be sold in stores. Every five years the employment equity plan is reviewed, and new targets are set to guide progress.

As a public company, Murray & Roberts has worked on its shareholder diversity, which now includes 59.53% black shareholders and 17.13% black women shareholders.

Besides these two key policies, companies should draft a disability policy, harassment and abuse policy, and have a training policy in place as well. We will look at these policies in detail in my next article on this topic. The organisational values, mission and goals are also commonly found in the first policy documents drafted, but don’t stop there. Draft additional policies with management input so as to protect the company and its employees. Proactively disseminate the most important policy messages using posters, emails, awareness drives, workshops, and training.

ICHAF is a training provider with years of experience in upskilling staff. We are ideally placed to conduct workshops and educate your staff on policies that will benefit all involved and protect the company from many PR and labour-related risks. Let us show your staff the way to boost their career and the company’s image through best practice policies.