Employment Services Bill to promote jobs, free employment services

Labour broking debate continues

A new Bill has been tabled in Parliament called the Employment Services Bill which aims to regulate in the area of employment services, regulating and providing for registration of private employment agencies. One of the aims of the Bill is to provide “comprehensive and integrated free public employment services” and to “establish schemes to promote the employment of young job seekers and other vulnerable persons”.

The government gazette, in describing the Bill’s purpose, says the legislation has been designed to regulate for and facilitate the employment of foreign nationals into areas “where they are needed ….and does not impact adversely on existing labour standards or the rights and expectations of South African workers”.  The Bill has been tabled by the minister of labour.

An “employment services board” is to be established to “promote employment, growth and workplace productivity” and “give effect to the right to fair labour practices contemplated in section 23 of the Constitution.”

Constitutional concerns

In terms of the Bill, schemes to assist employees in enterprises in distress and therefore to retain employment, will be undertaken and efforts made to “improve the employment and re-employment prospects of employees facing retrenchments.”

The Bill comes at a time when the furore over “labour broking”, whatever that might mean to different parties, is slowly subsiding and a more pragmatic approach appears to be the route rather than outright banning of short term work opportunities through agencies or “brokers”.

Nevertheless, the proposed legislation covers many more aspects than simply that issue. Hearings will take place once Parliament re-assembles in the New Year.

The new proposed legislation states that private employment agencies will be prohibited from “charging work seekers any fees for services rendered, unless the minister permits such fees for specific categories or specialised services” and they will be prohibited from “making deductions from employees’ remuneration”.

Private employment agencies must keep and safeguard the confidentiality of information relating to work seekers, the Bill warns, and “the labour court will be empowered to impose fines for breaches of the act”.

In the preamble, the Bill states that its purpose is to improve access to the labour market for work seekers and “facilitate access to training for work seekers, in particular, vulnerable work seekers.”

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