UCL Faculty of Laws


Prof Mantouvalou cited by South African Constitutional Court in judgment on domestic workers’ rights

24 November 2020

Research by Professor Virginia Mantouvalou has been cited by the Constitutional Court of South Africa in a landmark judgment on the human rights of domestic workers.

Professor Virginia Mantouvalou

The research of Professor Virginia Mantouvalou (Professor of Human Rights and Labour Law at UCL Laws) on the human rights of domestic workers was cited in a landmark judgment of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Mahlangu v Minister of Labour. The case involved the exclusion of domestic workers from social security rights and the Court ruled that it breached the South African Constitution.

The judgment begins by highlighting that ‘Domestic workers are the unsung heroines in this country and globally’. The case was about Maria Mahlangu, a domestic worker who was partially blind and drowned in her employer’s swimming pool while cleaning. Her daughter was left destitute and claimed compensation. However, the relevant legislation (Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act) excludes domestic workers from its scope, trapping them in ‘a cycle of poverty which is a direct legacy of the country’s colonial and apartheid past’, as the amici explained. The Court ruled that the exclusion of domestic workers from social security protection for injury, disablement and death is contrary to the constitutional rights to social security, equality and dignity.

Professor Mantouvalou’s article that the Court cited discusses the human rights of domestic workers, analyses their exclusion from protective laws in many legal orders, and examines the violations of human rights suffered by this group of workers.

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