On 14 October 2018, SERI researcher, Kelebogile Khunou, and SERI attorney, Thulani Nkosi, wrote an op-ed published in the CIty Press about the urgent need to extend protection in terms of the Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 (COIDA) to domestic workers and the new court case that seeks to force the Department of Labour to ensure domestic worker get the protection they deserve.
SERI represents Sylvia Mahlangu, the daughter and sole dependent of a Maria Mahlangu, a domestic worker who dead in her employers home, in an application challenging the constitutionality of the definition of "employee" in COIDA (the definition currently excludes domestic workers employed in private households). COIDA is a law that provides for employees to claim compensation from the Compensation Fund for injuries, illensses or diseases sustained in the course of their employment, or death resulting from such injuries or diseases.
Ms Mahlangu mother died on 31 March 2012 at her employer’s home in Faerie Glen, Pretoria. Her mother, who was partially blind, was washing windows outside a bedroom located next to the pool when she slipped from the step ladder on which she was standing and fell into the pool (which was unfenced and uncovered). Her mother could not swim and drowned. Her body was discovered hours later by her employer, who was at home when her mother fell. Ms Mahlangu approached the Department of Labour to enquire on getting compensation for the death of her mother but was informed that she could neither get compensation or unemployment insurance benefits for her loss (since domestic workers do not fall under the ambit of COIDA). SERI, on behalf of Ms Mahlangu, has brought an application to compel the Department of Labour to amend the definition of "employee" in COIDA to include domestic workers.
As Khunou and Nkosi write "domestic work is not viewed by the public as having occupational hazards" but many domestic workers, gardeners, drivers and caregivers experience work-related injuries, illnesses or even death, including "dog bits, blindness, deafness, arthiritis, back injuries, broken limbs, cuts tuberculosis, asthma and bone fractures". Sometimes domestic workers have even recorded incidents of physical violence from employers. While other employees can claim compensation from these injuries, dmoestic workers "are left out in the cold".