The Department of Employment and Labour has welcomed the judgment by the Constitutional Court affirming the right of domestic work to be covered for injuries sustained in employment. The judgment by the apex court affirmed the earlier decision last year by the High Court which found the exclusion unconstitutional. In the judgement, the court found that excluding domestic workers from the definition of employee excluded them from the “social security benefits provided for under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act”.

The court called domestic workers “unsung heroines in this country and globally” whose “profession enables economically active members of society to prosper and pursue their careers”

The Director-General of the Department of Employment and Labour, Mr Thobile Lamati said that even before the high court’s judgment, the Department had already started a process of amending the act to include domestic workers under the definition of employee which would enable them to receive the benefits under COID.  He said the High Court and the Constitutional Court judgements have, by operation of the law, fast tracked the inclusion of domestic workers in the current COID Act.

“This is also the reason why the department agreed to the initial agreement that was presented in the high court and subsequently made order of the court that has now been affirmed by the Constitutional Court. The Bill amending the act was launched in September and central to the changes is the inclusion of domestic workers under COIDA. On the order that the inclusion be retrospective to April 27, 1994, the   Department anticipated this judgement and has already looked at the ways of implementing this aspect.” said Lamati.

Lamati said that the department recognises that this aspect has far reaching implications and therefore it is imperative for the department to work out the best way to address the judgment and to do so in a way that addresses all the other issues raised by the courts.

“We agree entirely with the court that domestic workers face a multitude of challenges including racism, sexism, gender inequality and class stratification. It is one of the reasons that the department has been a driver to other interventions to improve the lives of domestic workers like the sectoral determination that seek to set minimum wages for domestic workers. Even with the payment of workers during the pandemic, we have called on employers of domestic workers to ensure that they apply on their behalf so that they were not left behind,” said Lamati.

He added that given the fact that the employers of domestic workers need to contribute to the Fund, the department will issue a directive to this effect and also on how the Department will deal with the retrospective aspect in as far as contributions are concerned.

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