Loopholes seen in ‘Kasambahay’

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013


STARTING this week, domestic workers will enjoy benefits and rights that some employers denied them, including paid leave, day off, health and social security benefits.

Domestic workers will also have to be paid a minimum wage of P2,500 for those employed in the National Capital Region (NCR), P2,000 for those working in chartered cities and first class municipalities and P1,500 for those employed in other municipalities, as mandated by Republic Act 10361 or the “Act instituting policies for the protection and welfare of domestic workers.”

But while the Domestic Workers Act is seen to improve the working and living conditions of yayas, househelpers, laundry women, drivers, gardeners and other domestic workers, a Cebu-based non-government organization (NGOs) sees loopholes that can also be disadvantageous to the workers that the law seeks to protect.

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Tessie Fernandez of Lihok Pilipina Foundation Inc. said the law affects the chances of some domestic workers to go to school and earn a degree since some employers might no longer be able to afford it.

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Aside from the mandated salary, domestic workers who have rendered at least one month of service shall be covered by the Social Security System (SSS), the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), and the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG, “and shall be entitled to all the benefits in accordance with the pertinent provisions provided by law,” the law states.

The premium payments shall be shouldered by the employer for domestic workers who earn less than P5,000 a month.

They should also be allowed at least eight hours of rest a day, 24 consecutive hours of rest in a week and five days incentive leave with pay each year.

Pag-ibig Fund will start briefing homeowners associations to enroll their househelps.

Victoria dela Peña, Pag-ibig Vice President for the Visayas, said that because the minimum salary of househelps is P2,500 in Cebu, the employer shall pay P50 while the house-help shall pay a counterpart of P50 or a total of P100 a month.

The Kasambahay law or Republic Act 10361 or An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers was signed by President Benigno Aquino III last Jan. 18.

Section 4, paragraph D of the law defines kasambahay or house-help as any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship such as but now limited to governess or yaya, cook, gardener or laundry person.

Dela Peña said that because the Kasambahay Law provides that membership of the househelps in Pag-ibig, SSS and Philhealth is mandatory, they want the presence of the representatives of these agencies in future homeowners’ briefing so it can always be done in one setting.

Because of certain provisions of the law, Fernandez said the relationship between the employer and domestic workers is bound to change.

“We have no qualms about protection for the helpers and giving them benefits. We support that and in principle, we are for the law. But once you fix certain conditions and put monetary value to everything, mawala na ang pagka-family member nga relationship. Dili na siya inato na relationship… The law helps but it also disqualifies other arrangements that have worked for some time… dili na ka kasambahay, it becomes a working relationship,” Fernandez said.

RA 10361 protects domestic workers from any kind of abuse, violence or harassment.

It also requires employers to provide for the basic necessities of domestic workers, including three adequate meals a day and humane sleeping arrangements.

An employment contract is also required.

But Fernandez said that with the requirements under the law, it may no longer be possible for some families to accept relatives or individuals from the province who want to help them at home in exchange for an education, which is common in Philippine setting.

RA 10361 defines domestic workers or kasambahay as those who are engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship such as general househelp, nursemaid or yaya, cook, gardener, laundry person.

It does not cover any person who performs domestic work only occasionally or sporadically and not on an occupational basis.

Although the law excludes those who are under foster family arrangement and are provided access to education and given allowances incidental to education, the exemption is limited only to children.

“If someone helps us at home in exchange for education, am I now expected to pay them? On the other hand, if I pay you a salary, will that be enough to cover your education expenses? These are the questions that maybe we should look,” Fernandez said.

She believes, though, that the law is a deterrent for violence and abuse and will help address the situation of some domestic workers that Lihok Pilipina assisted in the past, like helpers who are not given days off or those who were physically abused by their employers.

Since the law mandates a minimum wage, Fernandez said there is a risk that domestic workers who are already getting more than the minimum will get a lower salary, since there are employers who are concerned only with meeting the minimum requirements of the law.

President Aquino signed RA 10361 last Jan. 18 and will take effect on Feb. 10.

The Associated Labor Unions (ALU) also has no plans of recruiting house-helps as union members because they are still considered to belong in the informal sector.

Art Barrit, ALU communications director, said they want to review the resolution of the last ALU National Congress in support of the bill.

Barrit said that there are advantages and disadvantages in the Kasambahay Law.

He said one of the disadvantages is that if a family will pity a poor neighbor who is suffering from hunger, they will be reluctant to hire him to do house chores for food because they might be violating the Kasambahay Law.

Ramie Inopiquez of Panaghugpong Kadamay Sugbo said that while he is in favor of the law, there are also members of the urban poor who cannot afford the P2,500 monthly rate for house-helps but they need them especially in their livelihood.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 06, 2013.

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