Does your homeowner’s insurance cover domestic workers’ injuries?

Does your homeowner’s insurance cover domestic workers’ injuries?

Domestic workers are a part of our socio-economic fabric. They maintain our gardens, clean our homes and look after our children and our elderly. They do all of those little jobs we would prefer not to do, and contribute to our daily lives in a very real way.

Are your clients aware that domestic workers are entitled to certain rights if they should become ill or temporarily or permanently incapacitated because of a workplace incident? Do they know that, should a worker pass away because of such an incident, their dependents are entitled to compensation? Do they know who will be held responsible for this kind of compensation?

Read more to find our if your client might be vulnerable to civil litigation if something should happen, and how to make sure that they – and their domestic worker – has the right cover.

People who hire domestic workers often wonder if their home insurance will cover costs if the worker is injured at work or contracts a work-related illness. The short answer is no.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa has recently ruled that domestic workers must be covered by the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, no 130 of 1993 (COIDA). This allows for domestic workers to claim for illness, disabilities or injuries acquired while on duty. COIDA provides injured employees with guaranteed benefits and protects employers against claims for occupational diseases and injuries suffered while on the job.

The National Minimum Wage Act, 2013, defines a domestic worker as any worker who performs domestic work in a private household and who receives, or is entitled to receive, a wage. While this may seem like a broad definition when taking the various duties into account that a domestic worker may perform, those who qualify for the title include cleaners; gardeners; a person employed by a household as a driver of a personal vehicle; a person who takes care of children, the aged, the sick, the frail or the disabled; and domestic workers employed or supplied by an employment service.

Current South African legislation requires both the employer and the domestic worker to be registered with the Compensation Fund (commonly known as workmen’s compensation fund). Regulated under COIDA, the Compensation Fund is a statutory insurance that benefits both the injured or ill employee (the domestic worker) and his or her employer (your client). This includes part-time, casual, temporary and full-time workers.

Click here for information on how to register employees with the Compensation Fund.

In a nutshell, this means that domestic workers who are injured on duty or contract an occupational disease can claim compensation for temporary or permanent disablement from the Compensation Fund. If a worker dies as a result of an injury on duty, his or her dependants will also be entitled to claim compensation. In terms of common law, employers who have registered their employees with the fund are protected against civil claims in this regard.

How does registering with the Compensation Fund cover the domestic worker? Should they suffer an injury or fall ill as a direct result of their employment, they will be able to claim compensation for temporary or permanent disability, assistance with medical bills, rehabilitation services and orthotic- or assistive devices.

In the tragic event of their death, their dependants can claim compensation for funeral expenses and ongoing support in the form of a widow/widower’s pension or lump sum, a child pension or additional dependency award to cover parents, siblings and other family members who may have been dependent on your domestic worker’s wage.

Compensation is also payable if the work-related injury or disease was caused by a third party while the employee was on duty, and increases if negligence on the part of the employer or a fellow employee has caused the work-related injury or disease.

Accidents, including motor vehicle accidents that take place whilst traveling to or from work, are not covered by COIDA. As the workday has either not yet started or has already ended, such an accident does not occur during the course of employment, unless the employer has instructed the employee to perform a special duty along the way.

New employees should be registered within seven days of signing an employment contract and existing employees should be registered as soon as possible.  Once registered, the employer will have to submit an annual return of earnings for the domestic worker that confirms their income and other benefits received during the year.

The Compensation Fund will use this information to calculate the annual fee payable. Keep in mind that this fee is only paid once a year and may not be deducted from the domestic worker’s wages. It is, however, a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the domestic worker – and your clients’ portfolios – will enjoy all this protection from a work-related injury or illness.