A recent ruling by the Pretoria High Court found that excluding domestic workers, because they weren’t seen as “employees”, from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) is unconstitutional. This means that domestic workers can now claim for compensation if they are hurt, get a disease or pass away on the premises where they work.
This comes after a daughter of a domestic worker approached the Department of Labour to find out if she can get compensation for the death of her mother, who was a domestic worker and tragically drowned in her employers’ swimming pool.
The Department of Labour then told the daughter that her mother, under COIDA, isn’t considered an “employee” and cannot claim for compensation or unemployment insurance benefits.
This prompted The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) to take the case to court on the behalf of the family, and they were ultimately successful.
In a statement, SERI’s spokesperson said: “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’”.
Along with discussion about needing to be paid more, this was seen as a major victory for domestic workers and their rights.
But, as the co-founder of the United Domestic Workers of South Africa (UDWOSA) Pinky Langa, points out to IOL:
“Whilst we celebrate the inclusion of domestic workers in COIDA, the journey is still long as we look toward a positive ruling on retrospectivity. Which is to ensure that past and present cases of injuries including that of Mahlangu would be able to claim over and above future cases. The Constitutional Court of South Africa will hand down the final ruling on the matter of retrospectivity”.