Domestic workers are now eligible to claim from the compensation fund

Domestic workers are the breadwinners for many families, yet have often been undervalued and even exploited by their employers.

Following a case in which a domestic worker died at her employer’s home during the course of her employment and her daughter could not claim compensation due to the fact that domestic workers are not considered employees under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), the Pretoria High Court last week found that the exclusion of domestic workers under the Act is unconstitutional.

Thanks to the decision, domestic workers may become eligible to claim from the compensation fund if they are injured, contract a disease, or die at their place of work reports Business Tech.

According to the publication, it is alleged that the domestic worker, who was partially blind, was washing the top windows outside a bedroom located next to the pool when she slipped from the step ladder on which she was standing and fell into the pool – which was unfenced and uncovered at the time. The employee could not swim and drowned. Her body was discovered hours later by her employer, who had been present in the home at the time of the incident.

The helper’s daughter later approached the department of labour in an effort to lodge an application for compensation for the death of her mother.

She was then informed by the department that domestic workers were not considered “employees” under the act and were therefore not entitled to compensation and unemployment insurance benefits.

Business Tech reports that the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri) brought an application on behalf of the worker to compel the department of labour to amend section 1 of COIDA to include domestic workers and to put effective enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure that employers comply with COIDA and other relevant labour legislation.

“In its ruling, the Pretoria High Court declared section 1 of COIDA unconstitutional for intentionally excluding domestic workers working in the home from its definition of ’employees’,” said Seri in a statement.

“Seri will further be arguing that the declaration of invalidity must be applied retrospectively to provide relief to our client who brought the application, or other domestic workers who were injured or died at work prior to the granting of the order.”

Coincidentally, the department of labour has also been pushing for changes to COIDA.

To that effect, proposed amendments were published at the end of 2018.

Speaking to the publication, partner at Baker Mckenzie Johan Botes explained that said amendments aim to further protect domestic workers who are injured at work.

Compiled by Kaunda Selisho / The Citizen