Domestics and COID claims

Domestics and COID claims

Human Resources, Legislation

Government is urging domestic workers to apply for compensation if they have been injured, disabled or contracted an occupational disease while at work. In a recent statement, Government encouraged qualifying domestic workers to apply directly to the Compensation Fund.

The call follows an amendment to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, no. 130, in April 2023, to include domestic workers in the definition of ‘employee’ for COID purposes. Domestic workers can also claim benefits retrospectively for occupational diseases, disabilities, or injuries dating from the 27th April 1994 onwards. Families of deceased domestic workers who have died from occupational injury or disease since the 27th April 1994, are also entitled to compensation.

According to the Act, employers must register their private domestic workers within seven days of employment with the Compensation Fund, and submit a declaration of the annual earnings of the domestic worker via a Return of Earnings (ROE). The ROE reflects what the domestic worker earns in that reporting period (1st March to the 28th February) and includes bonuses, overtime and fringe benefits.

Even with the treat of penalties and interest being levied for non-compliance, we have seen a very small percentage of employers comply with legislation and register their domestic workers. Whether this is because of a lack of knowledge, an unwillingness to incur extra costs or avoiding the administrative burden that it creates, is unclear at this point.

Another concern regarding the inclusion of domestics for COID purposes is the Government reference to claims being made directly by employees to the fund and the fact that claims dated back to the 27th April 1994 will be entertained. Dealing with the Compensation Fund is challenging at the best of times. Domestic employees making direct claims to the Fund will no doubt be a process fraught with challenges.

There are just so many questions that are unanswered at this point. These include:

  • Will a claim be entertained if the employer is not registered?
  • If registration is a requirement, what will happen if the employer is no longer traceable or deceased?
  • What level of proof will be required to prove that the injury / illness / death was incurred on the job?
  • What documentation would be needed to lodge a claim? With the time lapse since 1994, it is unlikely that many potential claimants would have the applicable documentation to prove expenses and loss of income.

Only time will tell whether this announcement will result in actual claims being processed and benefits paid out. With the Compensation Commissioner’s Office so difficult to deal with, it would not be a surprise to see cases drag on for years, while case files are shuffled around and letters traded. And whether those who really need the assistance will ever see any financial benefit, is another question.