Putting spotlight on ill-treatment of domestic workers

In May this year, the North Gauteng High Court handed down an order declaring the exclusion of domestic workers from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act as unconstitutional.

Furthermore, in June, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) argued that the declaration of invalidity must be applied retrospectively to provide relief to its client who brought the application and other domestic workers who were injured or died at work prior to the granting of the order.

The North Gauteng High Court in October also ruled that domestic workers those injured in the past while on duty will be able to claim damages.

RELATED: Domestic workers to soon be eligible to claim from Compensation Fund

The court came to this conclusion after the matter was brought to court by Sylvia Mahlangu, the daughter of Maria Mahlangu a domestic worker who fell and drowned at her place of employment.

The daughter challenged the constitutionality of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.

Eusebius McKaiser facilitates a conversation on the ill-treatment of domestic workers in the country with Seri senior attorney Thulani Nkosi, Compensation Fund legal head advocate William Mogoshoa and United Domestic Workers of South Africa co-founder Pinky Mashiane.

Maria Mahlangu was a domestic worker who worked for 22 years for her employer before she fell into a swimming pool while cleaning windows.

Pinky Mashiane, Co-founder - United Domestic Workers of South Africa

Nkosi says the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act states that if an employee gets injured while at work or even die at work, the family of the deceased can go to the Department of Labour and put in a claim for having lost their breadwinner.

The facts of this case were so horrific that one could not look away. Mahlangu worked for this family for more than 20 years and at the time of her death, she was earning R2,500 with which she supported her daughter and grandchild.

Thulani Nkosi, Attorney - Seri

Nkosi says Mahlangu was assigned to wash windows on a particular day where she fell into a pool and drowned.

Mogoshoa adds that the act is set out to help employees who get injured while at work. However, the act excluded domestic workers and the department has made efforts to amend the legislation.

The definition of an employee had to be changed to ensure that domestic workers are factored in, he adds.

That is why even when we were taken to court we didn't oppose this application because we knew we were wrong.

William Mogoshoa, Legal head - Compensation Fund

Listen below to the full conversation:


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