Employees

The health and safety of our employees, their families, and the surrounding communities is our primary objective. We promote safety, equality and diversity at every level of our business, and we support our employees’ continued development – including their physical and psychological well-being.

We passionately believe that every employee should be able to come to work and return home safely. We are continually improving our safety systems and processes to ensure this is achieved.

Related sustainability principles

  • Creating a safe and healthy working environment
  • Prioritising the development and well-being of
    our employees
  • Optimising socio-economic benefit

A snapshot of our performance

  • Zero fatalities
    (2019: one)
  • One lost time injury (LTI)
    (2019: seven)
  • Lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) over 0.04
    (2019: 0.28)
  • US$1.1 million invested at Letšeng towards COVID-19 mitigation measures
  • All injury frequency rate (AIFR) is 0.76
    (2019: 0.93)
  • US$31.8 million spent on employee remuneration and benefits
    (2019: US$37.1)
  • 6.1% voluntary staff turnover
    (2019: 14.9%)
  • More than 13 000 COVID-19 tests conducted at Letšeng.
  • 55 547 proactive safety management actions implemented
    (2019: 60 848)
  • Following an extensive audit, the ISO 45001 certification was retained at Letšeng

Related UN SDGs

We launched the first rolling three-year cycle to embed the SDGs into our systems, processes, and decision-making during the year. We have committed to the following six goals:



For more information on our approach to integrating these six SDGs into our business operations, please see our UN SDG framework (working towards global goals).

Our challenges

Our values of care, trust, respect and flexibility set the direction for our ethical and agile responses to the operational and financial challenges that we faced as a business. Our challenges during the year included:

  • To continue operations in a responsible manner, at all time keeping employees, contractors and local communities safe (physically and psychologically) during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Extreme weather conditions, requiring a consistent focus on aspects of employee health, safety and well-being;
  • Maintaining a culture of safe working practices by implementing a safety turnaround strategy, while also managing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • Contractor alignment to safety practices.

Our future

Our immediate focus will be on ensuring that our workforce remains safe and healthy during the continuing pandemic.  We will also continue to support surrounding local communities and assist the Government of Lesotho in its efforts to manage the impact of the pandemic, including doing what we can to facilitate access to effective vaccination programmes.

Following the successful implementation of the safety turnaround strategy, we continue to build upon the progress made in safety during 2020; this was achieved through proactively managing all safety risks at our operations.

Material issues

Providing a safe working environment

Our context

The Letšeng mine is one of the highest and most remote diamond mines in the world. These extreme operating conditions pose unique operational challenges that require specialised knowledge, rigorous planning and exceptional leadership to embed a culture of zero harm.

After experiencing one fatality and seven LTIs at Letšeng in 2019, we adopted a safety turnaround strategy to improve our safety record. Our extensive safety work has yielded zero fatalities and one LTI (an employee twisted his ankle while pushing a wheelbarrow). We are immensely proud of our improved safety record in 2020, achieving our lowest AIFR in a decade. For more information, please see our new safety turnaround strategy case study.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our primary objective has been to ensure the safety and health of our workforce. A Group-wide COVID-19 Detection and Management Protocol was implemented to ensure the physical and psychological welfare of all people on-site and curb the spread of COVID-19. For more information, please see our COVID-19 case study.

Our approach

We believe that all injuries are preventable and in line with our goal of `zero harm’, we adopt a culture of care and accountability to drive safety awareness. We mandate that every safety incident and near-miss be reported and appropriately investigated to implement effective corrective actions that will prevent future safety incidents.

We frequently analyse our safety practices, and through the implementation of our turnaround strategy in 2020 we actioned additional measures and procedures to address mine safety. This resulted in a significant improvement in our injury categories in 2020, achieving our lowest AIFR in a decade. A critical risk approach was undertaken to identify significant safety risk activities. Once identified, roles and responsibilities were redefined to ensure that such risks are mitigated by responsible employees. In addition, every employee is encouraged to champion and drive safety practices on-site, as we continue to integrate safety into our core business processes, thereby ensuring that safety is considered at every level.

We take a firm stand against non-compliance to our high safety standards by employees, contractors and sub-contractors. Non-compliance has resulted in disciplinary action against employees (including dismissal) and the blacklisting of contractors who are then banned from any further work with Gem Diamonds.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we enhanced our health and safety protocols to ensure that all precautions, measures and actions were implemented to curb the spread of the virus, and guarantee safe and responsible operations. Our safety measures included health worker training and workforce awareness, continuous testing of our workforce and visitors (antigen, antibody and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) virus testing), as well as compulsory mask-wearing, hand sanitising and enforced social distancing. For more information, please see our employer of choice case study.

Our performance

  • Lowest AIFR in a decade of 0.76 (2019: 0.93);
  • Zero fatalities (2019: one);
  • One LTI occurred across the Group during 2020 (2019: seven), resulting in a Group-wide LTIFR of 0.04 (2019: 0.28);
  • Four restricted work injuries (RWIs) occurred across the Group during 2020 (2019: zero);
  • US$1.1 million spent on ongoing COVID-19 protocols to protect our employees and contractors; and
  • ISO 45001 certification was retained at Letšeng.

Our context

In a constrained business environment, the need to remain competitive and differentiate oneself is more important than ever. For this reason, Gem Diamonds invests considerable resources into attracting and retaining talent, skills, expertise and experience. Skills shortages in the mining sector, coupled with our operations' remote location, intensifies our need to attract and retain high-calibre employees.

Our approach

Our strength lies in the quality of the people who work for the Group. To attract and retain talented individuals, we must address employee needs, offer market-related salaries, cultivate a supportive working environment and offer career development opportunities.

We understand that frequent engagement is critical to cultivating a collaborative working environment that facilitates the development and retention of employees. During the uncertainty of COVID-19 lockdowns, job security was an essential concern for staff. To address this concern, we frequently engaged with our employees, and transparently communicated measures taken to ensure business continuity and job security. By implementing the necessary COVID-19 protocols and preventative measures, we were able to quickly recommence operations in a safe and responsible way; this meant that we could ensure business continuity, prevent retrenchments and guarantee job security for our employees.

We recognise that remuneration plays a significant role in the attraction and retention of qualified individuals. We remunerate all employees in line with market-related rates, and male and female employees in the same occupational grade are rewarded at the same level. We also ensure that our lowest-graded employees are remunerated above the minimum wage standards of the host country. While Lesotho and Botswana do not prescribe a minimum wage in the mining sector, we use the construction industry wage guidelines as the standard. We also ensure that minimum requirements regarding remuneration are contractually stipulated with all our labour contractors.

In total, 3.4% of the workforce at Letšeng was compensated at the operation’s minimum wage (2019: 13.5%). In 2020, the lowest-graded permanent employees at our Letšeng mine were remunerated at 54% above the construction sector’s minimum wage (2019: 46%). The remainder of Gem Diamonds’ workforce is remunerated above the minimum wage, in line with market-related rates.

We provide benefits and incentives over and above basic remuneration to attract and retain top talent. Incentives are in place to retain key individuals through performance-based bonuses and long-term share awards – with committees set up at a Group and subsidiary level to review current remuneration policies, skills, and succession planning.

93% of our Letšeng employees, constituting our permanent workforce at the mine, subscribe to the mandatory government retirement provision scheme. Letšeng contributes 7.5% of the annual salary per employee to this scheme, together with the employee contributing 7.5%. The remaining 7% are fixed-term contract employees and therefore not eligible for this benefit but are paid a fixed-term contract allowance at 20%. Employees at Ghaghoo mine receive a statutory payment upon completing their contract, equal to 15% of their basic monthly salary for each month of employment.

Except for our Belgian operations, all other employees are remunerated on a cost-to-company basis, allowing employees to elect their retirement schemes and contributions. At our Belgian operations, employees contribute 32% of their salary to a mandatory government retirement scheme (2019: 32%).

Care is at all times taken to ensure our employees' well-being and health. The Letšeng mine operates continuously, with shift configurations determined by local legislative requirements and operational and market demands, we make every effort to ensure the safety of our workforce during shift rotations and strive to minimise shift disruptions. Despite Ghaghoo mine being on care and maintenance, we still strive to ensure our Ghaghoo employees' well-being. We manage our employee ageing appropriately through continued monitoring of our workforce’s average age.

Our performance

  • 357 employees (2019: 496) and 1 535 contractor employees (2019: 1 490) at year-end;
  • The average number of employees was 377 (2019: 428), and the average number of contractor employees was 1 466 (2019: 1 428);
  • US$31.8 million was spent on employee wages, benefits and incentives (2019: US$37.1 million);
  • Group-wide absenteeism rate was 1.8 days per person (2019: 1.6 days);
  • 6.1% Group-wide voluntary staff turnover (2019: 14.9%);
  • Zero cases of discrimination were recorded in 2020 (2019: zero);
  • 20% of our workforce consisted of female employees (2019: 20%);
  • 14% of Gem Diamonds Board members are female (2019: 14%); and
  • 33% of the Group’s senior management are female (2019: 36%).

Staff demographics

2020 Male Female Local <30 31-50 >50
Board 86 14 29 0 29 71
Senior management 67 33 78 0 67 33
Middle management 81 19 85 7 85 8
Total 80 20 98 10 77 13
2019 Male Female Local <30 31-50 >50
Board 86 14 29 0 43 57
Senior management 64 36 91 0 73 27
Middle management 84 16 98 8 72 20
Total 80 20 98 10 76 14

Our context

Skills retention and CI training initiatives have contributed to building our human capital in 2020, to ensure that we maintain our competitive advantage in our industry. While we appropriately invest in recruiting specialist skills when required, we prefer to upskill and empower our employees by providing learning and career development opportunities.

Our approach

Our human resources practices are designed to identify skills shortages and implement development programmes and succession planning for employees. We train and develop our employees through various internal and external programmes and our well-established mentorship culture. Performance reviews are conducted annually to ensure that key personnel are engaged and developed to meet our business requirements.

Our BT initiatives have been rolled out throughout the business, and the CI programme is currently being implemented at Letšeng. Multiple training and mentorship sessions have been conducted to ensure the CI is effectively implemented and integrated throughout the business. The goal of the CI is to optimise all aspects of the business and to ensure that our culture of continues improvement is embedded in the day-to-day operations and employee behaviours. The sustainability of our BT and CI programmes is dependent on our organisational health, which is built upon core our business principles; ethical leadership, practical problem solving at all management levels, our visual and change management systems, and a culture of continuous self-improvement.

Our performance

Total hours of training provided to employees:

  • Senior management: 176 hours (2019: 96 hours);
  • Middle management: 1 136 hours (2019: 6 268 hours);
  • Non-management: 5 092 hours (2019: 24 453 hours);
  • 16% of employee career reviews performed (2019: 17%);
  • 17% of female employees received reviews (2019: 31%); and
  • 19% of male employees received reviews (2019: 22%).

Our context

Our mines are located in extreme locations with limited public infrastructure, because of this, we rely on our own on-site clinics and medical stations to provide the necessary emergency, occupational and primary healthcare to our employees.

Our approach

Promoting employee health and well-being is a critical focus area – we, therefore, provide an environment that actively encourages and supports employee well-being and healthy living. Improving employee health and wellness can increase morale, reduce absenteeism and improve productivity. Ensuring that effective safety policies and processes are in place reduces risk to our workforce, strengthens our relationships with employees and regulators, and safeguards the Group’s reputation.

All new employees complete a full medical examination during their induction programme. Equally, when an employee departs, an exit medical examination is performed. Our primary health cases and total occupational cases were lower than in previous years. No cases of malaria or cholera were reported at our operations for the fourth consecutive year.

With the onset of COVID-19, we put in place and continue to take all necessary precautions as part of our COVID-19 response to ensure the welfare of our workforce. Strict COVID-19 protocols and prevention measures were implemented, including the compulsory wearing of face masks, social distancing, hand sanitising and restrictions on gatherings. We implemented active COVID-19 testing at Letšeng to screen and monitor all individuals who came onto site. In addition, anyone showing symptoms associated with the virus were immediately isolated, assessed and safely transported for quarantining at home or regulated medical facility. An enhanced physical and mental health programme was also implemented to support and assist our workforce in coping with the added pressures during this period.

To ensure our sustainability, we understand the importance of protecting our surrounding communities too. Many of our employees and their families reside in our local communities. In partnership with the Government of Lesotho, we ensured maximum social benefit by contributing to national priorities and efforts to combat COVID-19. We supplied our project affected communities (PACs) with PPE, hand sanitisers, food and seed donations parcels. A community testing station (a repurposed park home) was also donated to assist with Government’s government’s efforts. We were informed by the Health Department that our efforts have shielded our PACs from the full impact of the virus, resulting in lower infection rates versus other communities where we were not involved.

Our performance

  • Fully equipped clinic at Letšeng to deal with all on-site and occupational medical needs;
  • Ghaghoo clinic offers primary healthcare with back-up medical emergency services provided through a third-party supplier;
  • 100% pre-employment medical examination rate at Letšeng (2019: 100%);
  • 100% exit medical examination rate at Letšeng (2019: 100%);
  • Decrease in the number of occupational health cases to 503 (2019: 629); and
  • 3 611 serious disease prevention and management interventions (2019: 6 273).

Our context

We seek to maintain and consistently improve employee engagement, both with our employees directly as well as with their representatives, to enhance our employee relations. Our Letšeng operation remains non-unionised, while Ghaghoo mine became unionised in 2016.

Our approach

Workplace culture is measured through an annual culture and engagement survey that provides information on the organisation's collective experience and prevalent patterns of behaviour. Metrics link the outcomes of the survey to our values and determine areas for future focus. Using this feedback, we can conclude the desired culture within Gem Diamonds and how it might be achieved. For more information read our leading with purpose case study.

We maintain a policy of freedom of association, and our employees are free to join unions and other collective-bargaining organisations. We aim to swiftly address employee grievances whenever possible. To facilitate this, we proactively engage with our employees and their elected representatives. We have established policies and procedures to guide how we operate. The provisions in our policies are based on our detailed change management system, as well as the host country’s legislation. We ensure that our employees are notified of any significant or material changes to the operations or their working environments through these established policies and procedures. Our management team also ensures frequent engagement with our workforce through multiple forums, including daily toolbox talks, weekly visible felt leadership visits, town hall meetings when permitted and weekly newsletters.

Non-Executive Director, Mazvi Maharasoa, leads employee engagement and consultation at Board level. In July 2020, Mazvi held a virtual workforce engagement session with a representative group of staff at Letšeng mine to understand critical workforce concerns. The received responses indicate an appetite for increased engagement between the executive team and our workforce, and certain operational concerns were raised, which as a matter of course are being dealt with during daily toolbox talks with our employees.

Considering the above, we are satisfied that adequate mechanisms are in place to record and address employees' grievances; and we maintain good relationships with our employees and relevant bodies.

Our performance

  • Zero strikes or lockouts were recorded in 2020 (2019: zero); and
  • Constructive engagement with employee representatives continued in 2020.