Domestic workers will soon be covered for workplace injuries – and all employers will have to register

The Department of Employment and Labour says that its plans to move forward with amendments to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida) which will include labour rights for domestic workers in South Africa.

In a presentation to parliament on Wednesday (4 November), the department said it plans to amend section 1 of the act to change of the definition of ’employee’ to include these workers.

The Coida compensates employees for disabilities caused by occupational injuries or diseases sustained or contracted in the course of their employment – or for death resulting from such injuries or diseases.

In its current form, the Coida expressly excludes domestic workers for the purposes of the act, but the labour department is pushing strongly for this to change.

“To eliminate such discrimination, the bill removes the express exclusion of domestic workers as employees. This is in conformity with international labour standards,” the department said in its presentation.

“Both the domestic employer and employees will be required to register as such, respectively, in accordance with the provisions of the act.”

Registered employers are currently required to submit a return of earnings form on an annual basis in terms of the act.

The amendment follows a series of court decisions. Last year in May, the High Court in Pretoria ruled that the exclusion of domestic workers from the Act was unconstitutional and invalid, GroundUp reported.

This ruling follows a court case brought by Sylvia Mahlangu, the daughter of a domestic worker, Maria Mahlangu, who drowned in her employers’ home in 2012, and union SADSAWU.

In October last year, the same court ruled that the inclusion of Coida coverage for domestic workers must be applied retrospectively to domestic workers who were injured or died while at work before the granting of the May 2019 order.

The bill also wants to introduce regulations to address “the tendency of some employers to dismiss employees on the basis of occupational injuries or diseases”.

“Chapter VII(A) seeks to introduce the concept of a multi-disciplinary employee-based process of rehabilitation and reintegration of injured employees or employees who contracted occupational diseases,” the explanatory memorandum states.

This means an employer will have to exhaust all rehabilitation and reintegration processes before laying off an employee

Read: A major court ruling has gone against BEE in South Africa – but it won’t change existing rules, say authorities

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Domestic workers will soon be covered for workplace injuries – and all employers will have to register