Questions over new domestic worker regulations

PRACTICAL DOUBTS: Concern has been raised by several parties on the implementation of the act covering injury on duty for domestic workers
PRACTICAL DOUBTS: Concern has been raised by several parties on the implementation of the act covering injury on duty for domestic workers
Image: Supplied

Domestic workers could soon see themselves qualifying for compensation with regard to injury on duty, in line with Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) set to come into play on Sunday.

However, while Cosatu and other allied unions have welcome the potential benefits for domestic workers, they have raised concerns over the implementation of the act.

In May 2019, the North Gauteng High Court handed down an order declaring the exclusion of domestic workers in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) as unconstitutional.

Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said their main concern with the act was that there was no regulation framework for its implementation.

“We cannot undermine a positive move, but we have to bring the uncomfortable questions and the legislature needs to provide a plan as to how this would be regulated,” Pamla said.

He said there was a lot needed to be done and campaigns needed to alert people about the policy and its processes.

“When the employer still fails to abide with the wage increase and there is no regulator, what would happen? When the domestic worker doesn't pitch at work who’s going to intervene?”

He added that meetings would be held to table these types of challenges.

The unions also voiced concern over the discrepancies in the new national minimum wages — also due on Sunday — between domestic and farm workers as opposed to general workers.


The prescribed minimum hourly rate for general workers increased to R20,76, while domestic and farm workers received an increase of only 57 cents an hour, bringing their hourly minimum rate of pay to R15,57.

Domestic workers who spoke to the Weekend Post on condition of anonymity said the increase was unfair and would not make any difference.

A Joe Slovo resident and mother of three said she was barely able to make ends meet and, with the high rate of inflation, they continued to feel the pinch.

“We do appreciate the jobs that we have, times are hard, but the increase is nothing compared to the amount of work we put in these hours,” she said.

She added that half of her salary was spent on transport and food.

“Because of desperation it’s even hard to question the employer about increase or any other benefits. We fear that we may lose our jobs,” she said.

“I’m a parent, I can’t afford to even spoil myself or my children, with the 57c increase that cannot even buy a packet of chips. It pains a mother when a child cries for something and not being able to provide.”

Another domestic worker echoed her sentiments and said she was not even aware of the wage increase or any other policies.

Nelson Mandela University Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences lecturer Bridget de Villiers said the salaries of many domestic workers were far from ideal and these lower than expected increases did not satisfy the demand for a living wage.

“This needs to be acknowledged and reflected in both their contractual and relational work experiences. Domestic workers frequently have little control over their conditions of service and private homes are rarely monitored for legal compliance,” she said.

She added that not all employers obeyed the laws protecting domestic workers, who often fear losing their jobs if they speak out on wages, hours and working conditions.

South African Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union national organiser Gloria Kente said the increase was an insult to the domestic workers.

She said with regard to COIDA they were still in talks with the legislature about concerns surrounding its implementation.

Department of Labour spokesperson Ziphozihle Josefu coZiphozihle Josefuf several questions posed to them on Thursday morning regarding the minimum wage increase and implementation of COIDA, saying “the qCOIDAhas been escalated to the relevant specialist”. 

However, despite several telephonic, WhatsApp and e-mail attempts, no response was forthcoming by the time of going to print.






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