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Formalising The Domestic Worker Sector: The Effect Of The Compensation For Occupational Injuries And Diseases Amendment Bill

Sweeping the path to formalising the domestic worker sector: the effect of the compensation for occupational injuries and diseases amendment bill

The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Amendment Bill (the “Bill”) introduced to Parliament in September 2020 introduces many changes that employers need to be aware of.

This Bill builds on the judgment of the Constitutional Court in Mahlangu v Minister of Labour [2020], where the rights of domestic workers were recognised, and the Court sought to bring more inclusivity to the existing legislative framework to protect the domestic worker sector further.

Until recently, domestic workers were excluded from the protection of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) and could not claim its benefits, such as compensation for workplace injuries. Employers now also need to register domestic workers for UIF and must pay towards the Compensation Fund, something which was previously not required.

Another new aspect introduced in the Bill is a multi-disciplinary employee-based process for employees who suffer occupational injuries or diseases. Through this process, employers must attempt to rehabilitate and reintegrate affected employees to enable them to return to work. This will compel employers to exhaust all options before resorting to dismissal. 

The Bill also establishes inspectors to investigate complaints and monitor and enforce compliance. These inspectors will be able to issue compliance orders, which will become an order of court. They will further have the authority to enter workplaces and even homes to carry out their duties, provided they have received permission to enter from the occupier or owner.

This Bill, therefore, aims to widen the scope of protection afforded to employees and now includes domestic workers within its ambit, thus formalising the domestic worker sector. With this increased protection for employees, on the one hand, comes a heavier burden for employers to comply with on the other.

Employers would do well to seek legal assistance in navigating the complexities of the labour field at this time to aid them in their compliance duties.