Issue of January 15, 2017
     
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Domestic Workers Act and Araw ng Kasambahay

Republic Act 10361, also known as the Domestic Workers Act or Batas Kasambahay, a law that took effect on June 4, 2013, protects the rights of a kasambahay or katulong or kasama sa bahay. This landmark piece of labor and social legislation recognizes for the first time domestic workers as similar to those in the formal sector. This law strengthens respect, protection, and promotion of the rights and welfare of domestic workers.

Batas Kasambahay is a major step in bes-towing decent working conditions, fair compensation, and sufficient benefits to domestic workers. But the greater challenge is ensuring that employers will abide by the law. The entire nation celebrates Araw ng mga Kasambahay every Jan. 18.

Last May 2015, the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-CAR issued CAR-DW-01, a wage order for domestic workers, increasing the minimum wage rates of all domestic workers in the Cordillera and implemented in Aug. 10, 2015. The minimum wage rates for all domestic workers increased by P500 per month. This means that the minimum wage rate for our domestic workers employed in Baguio City and first class municipalities is P2,500 per month and P2,000 in other municipalities.

The law has raised the level of importance of house helpers that practically, they enjoy the same rights and privileges afforded to employees in the formal industry sector. Today, domestic workers enjoy 13th month pay and rest day. It is also mandatory for domestic workers to become members of the SSS, PagIbig, and PhilHealth, and therefore entitled to all benefits afforded by these agencies to their members. Likewise, their counterpart contributions or premiums to these agencies shall be shouldered by their employers, except when the domestic helper is receiving not less than P5,000 per month salary that she shall shoulder her proportionate contributions to these agencies.

Other standard rights and privileges enjoyed by the domestic workers under RA 10361 are rest period of at least eight hours per day; a rest period of 24 consecutive hours per week; wages to be paid in cash at least once a month, right to complain for non-payment or underpayment of wages, and other monetary benefits in the nearest Department of Labor and Employment regional or provincial office; the right to terminate their employment relationships prior to expiration of their contracts due to valid causes; and the right against withholding of wages or interference on how they dispose their wages.

The employable age of a kasambahay is 15 years old and above. However, in the employment of children who are 15 years old but below 18, the following conditions are established as follows: they shall not be allowed to work for more than eight hours a day, and in no case beyond 40 hours a week; they shall not be allowed to work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. of the following day; they shall not be allowed to do hazardous work; and they shall not be denied access to education and training.

Finally, domestic workers enjoy other rights like just and humane treatment; provision of board, lodging and appropriate medical attendance; access to communication facilities; access to education and training; right to privacy and right to be provided a certificate of employment.

But it’s so unfortunate that even with the protection of Batas Kasambahay, a lot of domestic workers are still underpaid, overworked, and deprived of benefits provided under the law. The roles our house helpers play in our lives may be vital and essential, but we often take them for granted. More than just people who do the chores, house helpers allow us to become productive in our careers. By taking over household duties, they free us to work in offices, take up hobbies, and travel. Living with them in close proximity, sharing our troubles and joys, they may even be considered part of the family.

To give due recognition and importance to the role of domestic helpers who tirelessly provide convenience to their employers and their families, the region will celebrate Araw ng mga Kasambahay on Jan. 29. On this day, activities focus on measures implemented to help promote the welfare of domestic workers and will include free medical and dental checkup, free wellness services (massage, pedicure, manicure, and haircut), and fun games too. The celebration will be held at the Nene Pimentel Hall, Department of the Interior and Local Government regional office compound (fronting the NBI-CAR office) starting at 8 a.m. onwards.

For more information on RA 10361 or the Domestic Workers Act, visit www.dole.gov.ph or www.bwsc.dole.gov.ph.

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