House helper rights boosted

Posted on January 24, 2013

A LEGISLATION that upgrades the benefits of household helpers has been inked by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, a Palace aide said yesterday.

“We are pleased to confirm that President Aquino signed Republic Act (RA) 10361 or ‘An act instituting policies for the protection and welfare of Domestic Workers’ last Jan. 18, 2013...,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail F. Valte told reporters in a briefing.

Congress sent the copy of the priority measure -- called Kasambahay Bill -- to the Palace last Jan. 14, more than a month after its approval.

In a statement, Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada, proponent of the bill, said the new law will benefit more than two million household workers in the country.

“The Araw ng Kasambahay (Day of the Household Helper) has finally come. After many years of languishing in the legislative mill for several Congresses, the Batas [law on] Kasambahay is now a reality,” he added.

According to the law, the date of signing shall likewise be proclaimed as “Araw ng mga Kasambahay [Domestic Workers’ Day].”

RA 10361 establishes internationally accepted labor standards for domestic workers, said Mr. Estrada.

Under the law, the minimum wage rate for domestic workers will increase by more than three times to 2,500 from 800 per month in Metro Manila, while the rate in chartered cities and first-class municipalities will rise to 2,000 from 659. In other municipalities, the pay will become 1,500 from 550.

Benefits through membership in the Social Security System, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industriya at Gobyerno (Pag-IBIG) or housing will also be provided to domestic workers.

Employment contracts between workers and employers are now required by law, while employing persons below 15 years old will be prohibited.

The law also lists the rights and privileges of workers, including rules against abuse by employers, as well as opportunities for workers to finish basic and higher education.

Workers are also entitled to rest periods and service incentives.

Violation of the act shall be punishable with a fine not less than 10,000 “without prejudice to the filing of appropriate civil and criminal action,” the law read.

Sought for comment, Labor Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz said in a text message yesterday: “For the first time in the history of labor rights in the Philippines, the government recognizes the basic rights of DHs [domestic helpers] to minimum wage and other terms and conditions of employment just like other workers.”

“By passing the law, we are also compliant with ILO [International Labor Organization] Convention 189 on domwork [domestic work], which was ratified by the Phl [Philippines]... It is a concrete proof of fostering inclusive growth as a development agenda,” she added. -- Richard Jacob N. Dy