Home South African Domestic workers head to ConCourt over exclusion from compensation act

Domestic workers head to ConCourt over exclusion from compensation act

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SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union seeks confirmation of high court ruling declaring their exclusion from compensation act unconstitutional.

SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union seeks confirmation of high court ruling declaring their exclusion from compensation act unconstitutional. File image.

Cape Town – The SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (Sadsawu) has filed an application to the Constitutional Court to confirm that the exclusion of domestic workers from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) is unconstitutional.

Sadsawu, together with Sylvia Mahlangu, the daughter of a deceased domestic worker, wants the apex court to confirm a landmark North Gauteng High Court ruling in May declaring the exclusion unconstitutional.

Mahlangu is represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (Seri). Her mother, Maria, died at her employer’s home in 2016.

Mahlangu said in an affidavit that her mother was washing the outside top windows of a bedroom located next to a pool when she slipped off a step ladder, fell into the pool and drowned. 

According to Mahlangu, her mother had earned R2 500 a month at the time of her death, and her mother’s employers allegedly gave the family less than R5 000 after her death.

Under COIDA, Mahlangu was excluded from claiming from the Compensation Fund, which compensates employees, or their survivors, for work-related injuries, illnesses or death.

At the time, rights group Domestic Workers Rising said that COIDA, enacted in 1993, was the final piece of legislation passed by the apartheid National Party government.

“The impact of this is that while other workers can claim on a ‘no fault’ basis from the Compensation Fund when they are injured or become ill at their workplace – domestic workers could not,” the group said. 

“The exclusion of domestic workers from COIDA was essentially about the exclusion of, and disregard for the value of, domestic labour and the dignity and rights of the workers, who are predominantly women.” 

Statistics SA said this year that around 1 million domestic workers were employed in South African households. 

In the fourth quarter of last year, 45 000 domestic workers were hired. After the North Gauteng High Court handed down an order declaring the exclusion of domestic workers from COIDA unconstitutional, it went further last month when it ordered that the ruling must be applied retrospectively to provide relief to domestic workers who were injured at work or died at work prior to the ruling. 

Seri on Wednesday approached the Constitutional Court to confirm the orders. 

If the Constitutional Court upholds the orders, then the Department of Labour would need to force employers to register domestic workers under COIDA and pay a percentage of their employees’ wages into the fund.

A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

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Cape Times