In January 2013, former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed into law the Domestic Workers Act (RA 10361) or the Kasambahay Law that aimed to further protect the safety and benefits of a kasambahay or a domestic worker.
Under the Kasambahay Law, the State recognizes domestic work similar to office jobs that give employees benefits, security and specified working hours. It states that a kasambahay must earn the minimum of Php 2, 500 or about USD 50 per month. Moreover, after a month of service, they must also be entitled to other monthly contributions such as Social Security Services (SSS), Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industria at Gobyerno (Pag-IBIG), and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). The aforementioned benefits would entitle members to monthly pensions when they retire, apply for housing loans, or receive health-related financial assistance respectively.
The law also included in the provisions that a house help must work for only 8 hours a day. Work between 10PM to 6AM is prohibited and house helps must never be exposed to any hazardous labor or physical threat. Non-compliance would be fined between Php 10,000 to Php 40,000 or about USD 200-400. This also respects employees’ privacy, ensures access to communication, and gives right to day-offs. Also, the law stipulates these workers’ privileges for training.
Kasambahay Law Issues
The domestic industry in the Philippines sometimes employ underage house helps. We hire teenage kasambahay which violates the general law on labor and employment. But due to the Filipino trust culture, we do the hiring via referrals; thus, undocumented. Sometimes, it even includes child labor. Not because we do not care but because we deem it as “help” to poor families and fight inequality in the Philippines.
We need to understand that the Kasambahay Law states that hiring of persons below 15 is illegal. However, the legal age of work in the Philippines is 18. We can already read between the lines here.
Recently, I chanced upon a few adult house helps in our neighborhood. Based on our discussion, they are not aware of this law. In addition, they have not signed a single employment document. Every agreement they had with their employers was verbal. Given this, what then could be house helps’ assurance that they would be given a fair deal?
As claimed, these house workers receive a fixed rate of Php 4,000 per month without the deductions for governmental contributions. Also, as they are stay-ins, or those that live with their employers, they rarely get day-offs.
Another problem that we do not see is that some families in the Philippines are extended. This means it is either the household includes other relatives living in the same home or relatives living in apartment-type houses. Normally, a house help is only obliged to work for one family. In such cases, other families living in the same area call them for work without pay. The work includes doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning the house, babysitting, and doing other errands.
All this for at least three families for just Php 4,000. And they send a portion of this income to other far provinces. In fact, they migrated from cities as far as Cebu which is about 450 miles away from where they are now. The good news is that airfare was paid by the employer and serve as contract for them to stay for at least six months. If not, they would have to pay for it in cash.
Considering the workload, their monthly salary is too small. Nonetheless, judging by the Kasambahay Law’s provisions, it is still almost twice the mentioned minimum salary of Php 2, 500. Likewise, these domestic workers do not receive payslips contrary to what’s required.
The question is this: considering the undocumented hiring procedure, is this industry actually regulated?
Just a Portion
Though these stories are real, these cannot be enough to generalize the current status of the Kasambahay Law. But what it says is this: not everyone is aware of their rights. They trade their supposed benefits just to secure a job.
What most domestic workers do not know is domestic services are highly needed anywhere in the country. Most especially in the area of babysitting. It is difficult to look for a legally working house help that can be trusted. However, the government has found a way to balance the expected situation. But compliance need to be assured. Nevertheless, how?
Most households that employ domestic workers are average income earners only. Hence, they cannot commit to sharing a governmental contribution for their house helps. Consequently, though the demand might he high, the domestic workers’ salaries would always be capped.
Kasambahay Law’s Mutual Benefit
However, we cannot solely focus on the benefits the Law poses for domestic workers. Moreover, we cannot shed a bad light on employers, too. There are several factors that can be considered to the the law’s current status. Though the law is centered on the lawful treatment of house helps, this also covers the safety of employers.
Part of the pre hiring process is the requirement of certain identification documents and clearances. This way, the transactions would properly be recorded. Undergoing the right hiring process and complying with the prerequisites would give both the employer and employee security. But in reality, the process is intentionally skipped. Reason: convenience.
The law has been in execution for almost four years, but it is not yet applied by everyone. So, what is the use of the Kasambahay Law if nobody would actually monitor and control it?
What we need to be successful in enactment endeavors is to make the public and the stakeholders aware first and then to strictly implement and supervise. But is this happening? Let us allow the current situation of domestic workers in any Filipino neighborhood to speak for itself.
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