The Kasambahay Law up close

posted February 25, 2013 at 12:01 am
by  Rita Linda V. Jimeno
A law that ostensibly benefits domestic workers such as househelp, nannies, laundrywomen, cooks and others, is now in effect. Republic Act 10361 entitled: An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers, more popularly known as the Kasambahay Law mandates that house helpers be paid a minimum wage of P2,500.00 per month in the National Capital Region; P2,000.00 monthly in chartered cities and first-class municipalities and P1,5000.00 per month in other municipalities. The law further mandates that employers register all their domestic helpers in the barangay where they reside; have a written contract of employment with them in the language known to the workers and issue monthly or bi-monthly pay slips which the employers must keep copies of, for at least three years. What is more, employers must pay for the SSS, Philhealth and Pag-ibig contributions of their domestic workers receiving P5,000.00 or less per month. For those receiving wages in excess of P5,000.00 per month, the employers may deduct the workers share of their membership contributions in these social security agencies. Employers are also required to guarantee that their domestic helpers eat at least three times a day; are provided with safe sleeping quarters and have rest days consisting of a total of eight hours a day; continuous 24 hours every week; and annual incentive leave of five days with pay. Personally, I am all for the benefits embodied in the law for domestic helpers especially the provisions ensuring their protection from physical and emotional abuse and allowing them to pursue education and training for development of skills. Most of us take for granted that they serve us so we can pursue our dreams and careers; enjoy life and take vacations while they man and keep our homes safe. They take care of our children and our elderly as we work to make a living. What we enjoy in the Philippines, families in developed countries can only dream of, as the cost of having domestic helpers there is simply prohibitive. Most wives in economically progressive countries have to be the families homemakers themselves; setting aside personal ambitions. The big number of available househelp in the Philippines explains why many women hold executive positions and top posts in government and the corporate world. Young as the Philippine Republic may be, compared to advanced nations, it has had two female presidents and a number of senators and representatives in Congress as well as governors, mayors and other posts in local government. The law has its downsides and confusing provisions, however. First, it makes hiring house helpers too restrictive and stringent, especially for middle-income families. Thus, instead of keeping say, three house helpers, the legislated minimum wage and added costs of shouldering expenses for police, NBI and health clearances before hiring helpers and getting written contracts made, will most likely discourage middle-income employers and decide on hiring just one or two; or giving them up altogether. Considering that the number of those who may wish to find employment as househelp in Metro Manila because of the better wages may increase, their chances of getting hired become inversely proportional. And since there are hardly alternative opportunities in the poorest rural areas of the country, the danger that young women seeking employment might get lured into trades that may make life worse for them such as human trafficking or drugs, increases. On this score, the law seems to suffer from sufficient study and economic foundation. There is one provision in the law too which appears to have come from nowhere, and is clearly misplaced. Section 10 under the heading Rights and Privileges (of domestic workers) says that: All communications and information pertaining to the employer or members of the household shall be treated as privileged and confidential, and shall not be publicly disclosed by the domestic worker during and after employment. Such privileged information shall be inadmissible in evidence except when the suit involves the employer or any member of the household in a crime against persons, property, personal liberty and security, and chastity. This provision is evidently misplaced and vague as to its intention. If at all, it should fall under the provision where an employer may terminate the employment of a househelp. Yet, it is absent in the list of grounds when employment may be terminated. Why was this inserted and hidden among the Rights and Privileges of Domestic Workers? Moreover, what does this prohibition against divulging information about the employer and any member of the household during and after employment pertain to, specifically? Does this mean, domestic helpers may not be summoned by courts to testify in marital disputes by one spouse against the other? Often, they are the ones who know if a husband or a wife has given cause for nullity of marriage. Does this mean, house helpers cannot testify on issues involving the treatment by a parent of his children in cases of custody or child abuse? Does this mean they cannot testify on matters involving graft and corruption and illegal trade involving their employers? The trouble with our present crop of lawmakers is that they often do sloppy work. This is the reason the Supreme Court gets unduly burdened with petitions involving the validity and interpretation of laws. E-mail: ritalindaj@gmail.com Visit: www.jimenolaw.com.ph
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