Domestic workers can now claim for injuries dating back to 1994

SweepSouth’s report indicates that low-income households are forced to take on further debt.

  • Domestic workers, including chauffeurs and gardeners, are entitled to claim if they are injured or contract a disease at work, according to an amendment in law.
  • Government has encouraged domestic workers to claim from the Compensation Fund.
  • Legal experts have also urged employers of private domestic workers to register their domestic workers for the Compensation Fund.
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Government is urging domestic workers to apply for compensation if they have been injured, disabled or contracted an occupational disease while at work, following a recent amendment in law that allows for them to claim benefits.

In a statement last week, Department of Labour deputy director Jan Madiega encouraged qualifying domestic workers, including chauffeurs and gardeners, to apply directly to the Compensation Fund.

The call follows an amendment to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, no. 130, to include domestic employees, in line with an earlier Constitutional Court ruling. These workers can also claim benefits retrospectively for occupational diseases, disabilities, or injuries dating from 27 April 1994 onwards.

Families of deceased domestic workers, who have died from occupational injury or disease since 27 April 1994, are also entitled to compensation, Madiega said.

Compensation Fund Legal Services’ Irish Lephoto said: “The changes in the amendment act will affect everyone and change how we do business.

“All workers have a right to social security, which is our priority. The inclusion of domestic employees in the act is very crucial to all of us; hence, we are taking steps to enforce compliance.”

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According to the act, employers must register their private domestic workers with the Compensation Fund and submit a declaration of the annual earnings of the domestic worker via a Return of Earnings (ROE).

ROEs are calculated based on how much the domestic worker or employee earns per year and includes any compensation for the worker’s overtime, bonuses, and the cash value of any benefits given to the domestic worker, such as free accommodation or reduced rates.

Any employer who fails to register their domestic worker, submit the ROEs, and pay the fee, will be liable for a penalty and fine amounting to 10% of the annual earnings of the domestic worker.

Cape Labour consultant Bernard Reisner said the amendment came into law in April this year and applies to domestic workers, including chauffeurs and gardeners.

Reisner said employers need to pay an annual fee to the Compensation Fund – which is calculated on the average earnings of the domestic worker – and must register their domestic worker for the fund within seven days of their employment.

“I would encourage employers to register their domestic workers and pay the fee. Failure to do so would mean they become liable for penalties and fees,” he said.

According to Reisner, few businesses and homes have registered their domestic workers.

“I would say that 0.05% of businesses and people registered domestic workers. Not many people know about the law, and I would encourage the Department of Employment and Labour to educate people about it,” he said.

Meanwhile, South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union assistant general secretary Eunice Dhladhla said the union welcomed the amendment.

“We started advocating for the compensation and protection of domestic workers long ago. Before, workers would work while they were sick, and no one would care about it. They would have to pay for themselves if they went to hospital,” Dhladhla said.

However, according to Dhladhla, urgent intervention is needed from government to protect the rights of these workers.

“Most of the law does not recognize domestic workers. There is still a lot we need to advocate for, including UIF (Unemployed Insurance Fund) for domestic workers,” she said.