Hiding behind the veil: On whom does liability for discriminatory practices by recruitment agencies fall

Authors: Davy Rammila & Ernest Manamela

ISSN: 1996-2185
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, University of South Africa; Professor, University of South Africa
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 35 Issue 2, 2023, p. 162 – 189


The Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 (EEA) provides that applicants for employment are employees for purposes of its unfair discrimination provisions. The EEA is, however, silent in respect of applicants who seek employment through recruitment agencies. In this article, we argue that this silence has the potential to handicap these applicants and deprive them of the statutory procedure they would have enjoyed had they otherwise applied directly to employers. We further contend that the relationship between recruitment agencies and applicants for employment is not capable of being construed to fall within the provisions of s 4 of the EEA. We also posit that it would be unreasonable to expect these applicants to follow an onerous process under the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000; this, despite there being a clear employment nexus informing the foundation and execution of the juristic act between the respective parties. Instead, we propose that recruitment agencies are agents in the ordinary sense, that their engagements with applicants enjoy prior authorisation from the potential employer, and that any consequences of such engagements are attributable to the potential employer.