Pretoria – Unions representing domestic workers are planning to march to the offices of the Department of Labour in August, on Women’s Day.
They are calling on the Compensation Fund to grant domestic workers more time to lodge claims for injuries on duty.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, earlier ruled that those injured in the past (since 1994) while on duty would be able to claim damages.
The court at the time ruled that the exclusion of domestic workers in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act was unconstitutional. It was confirmed that the section of legislation which excluded domestic workers employed in private households was invalid and unconstitutional and had retrospective effect. This ruling was later endorsed by the Constitutional Court.
Domestic workers have been included in the Act since November 19 last year.
The court also ruled that the order of constitutional invalidity was to have immediate and retrospective effect from April 27, 1994, which meant that domestic workers who experienced work-related injuries, diseases or death as far back as that date, or their dependants, were able to submit claims.
This brought those domestic workers who were in the past injured while on duty a step closer to receiving compensation and justice, including the family of Maria Mahlangu, who died while on duty. She fell into her employer’s pool while she was cleaning windows and drowned. Her family’s plight sparked the order.
The cut-off date for submitting retrospective claims is November, as published by the compensation commissioner in the Government Gazette.
Pinky Mashiane, the founder of the United Domestic Workers of South Africa, said this was unacceptable as it took time for those who had been injured in the past to register their claims.
“The time is simply too short. Domestic workers were denied the right to lodge these claims for 27 years.
“We want the November time frame extended to between 24 and 36 months. The cut-off date must be November 2023, not this year,” Mashiane said.
According to her, both domestic workers as well as employers must be educated on the issues involving the Act, and the department must first host roadshows and other informative sessions.
“We will face the department on Women’s Day, when we will march to their offices and demand that they extend the time in which to lodge these claims,” said Mashiane.
The Socio Economic Rights Institute of South Africa last month addressed a letter to the compensation commissioner, voicing its concerns over the pending cut-off date.
Domestic workers who have not submitted their claims by then, face their claim lapsing.
In the letter, the institute asserts that the cut-off date was unreasonably short considering that it is to apply to a historically marginalised and disadvantaged category of workers.