Employers are scrambling to comply with the law following the ground-breaking judgment by the Constitutional Court that domestic workers are eligible for compensation under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida), previously known as the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

The court ruled last year that parts of Coida were unconstitutional as they excluded domestic workers employed in private households from the definition of employee, and the situation must be rectified retrospectively.

In a statement, the National Employers Labour Association (Nela) said: “Along with the UIF, employers will need to pay towards the Coida to ensure their domestic employees are covered, as commercial businesses currently do.”

Nela assistant general secretary Albert van der Merwe said: “The bottom line is that we, as employers, can’t wait for the amendment to be promulgated, because the amendment is retrospective.

“South Africa faces a big challenge when it comes to employers of domestic staff being legally compliant and the Coida is going to be another aspect of non-compliance if not managed properly,” said Van der Merwe.

“If your domestic employee is injured on your property today, for example, they will be entitled to compensation. The legislation states that cases dating back to 2004 will be eligible for compensation.”

However, Van der Merwe said that while commercial businesses currently paid Coida fees annually for their employees, the domestic staff sector was too fluid for this as it was a highly unregulated sector.

“The domestic sector is not the informal sector, as some people refer to it, but a volatile, flexible and huge gear in the economy of South Africa. Why should an employer pay annually for a domestic staff member who may only work for six months of that year? We as Nela propose that assessments are done annually but payments made monthly.” said Van der Merwe.

Meanwhile a safety expert said the amendment to the act called for a new perspective on home security.

Fidelity ADT’s Charnel Hattingh said: “It is important to ensure that domestic workers are as safe as possible while working in your home.

“What homeowners need to realise is that any employee who comes to your home for a period during the day could fall victim to crime.

“Apart from domestic helpers, think about home day-care providers, for example. If they’re spending time on your property, they should be part of your security protocols.

“After all, having mom, dad and the kids on the same page with security and all diligently locking doors and arming the garden beams is pointless if these things don’t happen when your domestic worker is home alone with the children.”

Source: www.iol.co.za/capeargus | By Mwangi Githahu