It is a widely held myth that the Employment Equity Act sets quotas that require employers to employ people who are black, regardless of whether they have the qualifications for the job. This inaccurate perception is reflected in a letter by Dr Anthea Jeffrey (Unworkable red tape, July 17) in which she refers to the "ambitious racial quotas set down in the Employment Equity Act".

There are no such quotas in the Employment Equity Act. Section 15(3) of the act states that the affirmative action measures required of employers "include preferential treatment and numerical goals, but exclude quotas". It could not be clearer.

The a ct's thrust is very different to that of rigid externally imposed quotas. Designated employers (in essence, those with more than 50 employees) are required to carefully analyse their employment policies, practices and procedures. They need to identify barriers preventing the advancement of employees who are black, women or have a disability. They must then, after consulting trade unions or other employee representatives, prepare and implement an employment equity plan. These plans must identify the affirmative measures that the employer will implement. Numerical goals and time-tables must be set for achieving "equitable representation of suitably qualified employees" in all occupational categories and levels.

When evaluating whether an employee is suitably qualified, the employer may take into account formal qualifications, prior learning, relevant experience as well as the ability to do the job within a reasonable period.

Serial commentators such as Dr Jeffrey would do well to read the statutes they critique. The misperceptions spread by uninformed critics perpetuate the widespread myths about the Employment Equity Act and other labour laws.

Paul Benjamin

University of Cape Town