Domestic workers battle with workplace compensation

GroundUp reports that nearly three years since the Constitutional Court ordered that domestic workers be included in legislation aimed at giving them better protection in the workplace, domestic workers say they still struggle to get compensation, and they suffer widespread abuse and unfair treatment by employers. A hundred domestic workers gathered at the Union Buildings in Tshwane at the weekend to hand over a memorandum to the Presidency. “The rights of domestic workers are still being violated. They are suffering from sexual abuse by employers, they are being attacked by dogs, and are being exploited without any compensation. And nothing is being done about it,” said Pinky Mashiane, a domestic worker and founder of United Domestic Workers of South Africa (UDWOSA). In the landmark ruling in November 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that domestic workers be covered by the provisions of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) and that damages can be claimed for work-related injuries, illnesses and death.

Despite this ruling, the domestic workers’ union says it is still inundated with calls for help from workers. Many of their complaints relate to being mauled by their employer’s dogs or experiences of racism, physical and sexual assault and harassment by employers. UDWOSA leaders say that many of these cases are almost never prosecuted or are not reported as the workers fear they will lose their jobs. The union said it found that many domestic workers across South Africa are still not registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) or for Compensation for Occupational Injuries and they earn well below the national minimum wage.

Other demands included that the government ban the breeding and ownership of pit bulls. They also want employers to face attempted murder charges if a domestic worker is attacked. Eunice Dladla of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union said, “Employers do not want to comply with labour laws. We have found that it’s only a few who give their domestic workers the stipulated minimum wage. They are ill-treated, undermined and discriminated against by employers. “We have cases where domestic workers are impregnated by employers who refuse to take responsibility. We will keep protesting until the government intervenes.”

by Kimberly Mutandiro

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