Coronavirus: What about domestic workers' rights?
Pretoria - While domestic workers are still waiting for the judgment of the Constitutional Court to confirm a high court ruling regarding their rights to claim for damages while on duty, they are not yet covered if they are infected with Coronavirus while on duty.
Pinky Mashiane, president of United Domestic Workers of South Africa (UDWOSA) said as we are treading new waters with the lockdown and with most domestic workers who will not be able to work, they remain extremely vulnerable as there are no official measures in place to protect domestic workers at this stage.
“Some employers will pay their domestic workers’ medical bills if they get infected, but others are expected to dispute that they had contracted the virus while on duty. This is especially in light of them having to travel on public transport to work.”
She urged employers to place their domestic workers on paid leave during the lockdown period.
“Workers depend on their jobs to provide for their families. They obviously cannot work from home and many are experiencing uncertainty about their jobs.”
Those whose employees have registered them for UIF benefits will be able to claim if they lose out on their salaries. But Mashiane said the problem is that many employers have not yet registered their workers.
While President Cyril Ramaphose has announced the establishment of a fund to assist the vulnerable during this time, Mashiane said he did not specifically address the plight of people such as the domestic workers, who are extremely vulnerable at this time.
UDWOSA and other minions meanwhile approached the department of labour to ask that a special fund be made available to financially assist
these people if they are not paid during this time.
A petition, endorsed by Mashiane, set up by coalition unions and other interested parties, has been sent to the government, in which they are asking that the most vulnerable, which include domestic workers, also be covered during this time by the UIF.
Government is urged not to only cover contributors to the UIF fund during these times, but to also include people such as domestic workers who have not been registered or contributing to the fund because of no fault of their own.
These include unregistered domestic workers and workers in the no work no pay categories. Mashiane said if this is not possible, they call on government to set up an emergency fund for this category of workers.
She said this is the only way many of them will be able to survive the lockdown.