Historic victory hailed as domestic workers now covered if they get injured at work
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Cape Town - Resources and information for domestic workers now need to be distributed widely to empower them to know their rights, with their inclusion in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida).
This is the call from unions, lawyers and industry following the gazetting of domestic workers being covered under Coida, meaning employees will now be entitled for compensation in the event they are injured or contract diseases while on duty.
The SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (Sadsawu) general secretary Myrtle Witbooi welcomed the move.
“This will make sure that domestic workers are now covered when they get injured at work, however, workers need to understand this bill, hence we are calling on the Department of Labour to ensure that they make informative pamphlets to educate. The union will also educate workers and we urge employers to register workers,” said Witbooi.
The process to get the bill gazetted comes eight years after it was legally initiated, when the daughter of a late domestic worker, Maria Mhlangu, who drowned in her employer’s pool in 2012, and was informed that she could neither get compensation nor unemployment insurance benefits for her loss.
The Constitutional Court in November last year confirmed an order declaring the exclusion of domestic workers from the Coida unconstitutional.
Pinky Mashiane who was the organiser of Sadsawu at the time, but is now the president of the United Domestic Workers of South Africa, said: “This historical victory has started another journey for us as unions to reach out to workers and educate them irrespective of whether they are members or not.”
Department of Labour spokesperson Musa Zondi said the department was in the process of embarking on an educational campaign.
“We kick-started this with the notice which was published on the government gazette giving domestic worker employers full information on the Coida and its processes,” he said.
Labour lawyer Michael Bagraim said the gazette outlines that all domestic workers and their employers must register with the Compensation Fund as soon as possible, and it also contains the registration forms which can be filled online.
“This is a huge milestone for domestic workers and I would support the department in educating them about it, even if it’s roadshows, where both the employer and employees can be informed,” Bagraim said.
The Cape Labour and Industrial Consultants spokesperson Bernard Reisner said: “After approximately 27 years of struggling to be covered by Coida, domestic workers have finally been included in terms of this Act and shall be entitled to all claims as set out therein.”
The gazette can be accessed at https://www.greengazette.co.za/documents/national-gazette-44250-of-10-march-2021-vol-669_20210310-GGN-44250