It seems everyone’s been talking about the new Kasambahay Law, which takes effect beginning this month. You can read the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) here, or go through the simplified inforgraphics created by GMA and ABS-CBN.
My son Jacob with his Yaya
The law has been quite controversial in recent months, and while I do have issues with some of its rules and regulations, I am for the law and applaud our government for its creation. So many Filipinos work as household helpers, and I’ve always felt bad when I think of how nearly impossible it would be for many of them to improve their lot in life, not to mention what will become of them when they grow old and are no longer able to work.
In the past, I thought of SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig benefits as a way to reward and help out our household helpers who had performed their jobs well and shown loyalty to our family by staying with us for a a year or two. For example, when Jacob’s former Yaya Leizel told us she was planning to get married, we started making SSS contributions for her. Yaya Leizel was very open with us, and said that she planned to continue working with us for only a year after her marriage, and then leave in order to start her own family. So she knows that my husband and I paid for her benefits not to bind her to us, but really to reward her for her service, and ensure that when she has a baby, she can reap maternity benefits from our contributions.
I am a mommy, and believe me when I say I have had my share of horror stories when it comes to househelp, especially yayas. As in any industry, there will always be bad seeds, but this doesn’t mean we should withold benefits and protection from the domestic workforce. I really feel that with this law, we are taking a huge, positive step, finally empowering the lowest paid among us, giving them legally demandable rights and protection for the future.
Here are just some of the salient points included in the Kasambahay Law:
- A Kasambahay is any person employed to do regular domestic work, such as a yaya, a cook, a laundry person, an all-around helper, or a gardener, whether they have a live-in or stay-out arrangement with their employer. Family drivers, service providers, children under foster family arrangement, and all those who do “occasional and sporadic” work are not included.
There is still some confusion about the classification of “regular” vs “occasional and sporadic” domestic workers. For example, if you have a cleaning lady come once a week, the law would consider her to be a regular domestic worker, and she is entitled to all the benefits stipulated under the law. But what if the cleaning lady has multiple employers? Who among the employers should take care of her SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig benefits, or should they all make contributions? This is something I still don’t understand, and luckily it doesn’t apply to our household, as our household staff all currently stay with us full-time.
My husband and I have also decided to pay for the SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig benefits of our family driver even if drivers are excluded under the law. I actually don’t understand why family drivers are not included in the first place. And besides, I feel that maintaining these contributions for household employees will also benefit the employer, in that it will result in happier workers who take more pride in their work, more professional workers who would think twice about going AWOL as they want their employers to continue making payments for them to enjoy their SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig benefits.
- The employer may require kasambahays to to submit the following pre-employment requirements: birth certificate or any valid ID or showing the age of the worker, NBI clearance, police clearance, barangay clearance, and health certificate to be issued by the local government health officer.
When interviewing applicants for househelp, I have always asked for some sort of ID just to show that the persons in front of me are really who they say they are. After all, without ID, anyone could just invent a whole new identity for themselves. In my 7 years’ experience of managing our household and interviewing house help, though, I have found that many applicants do not have a single valid ID to their name. No birth certificate, much less an NBI clearance, police clearance, or health certificate. If employers were really to require their house help to submit these pre-employment documents, majority of domestic jobseekers would never land jobs in the first place.
But this is something the government can work on. Perhaps by offering free or deeply discounted processing fees with the NSO and other agencies for domestic jobseekers, posting help desks in barangay centers, and creating a hotline for both employers and employees who need assistance in order to comply with the law.
- An employment contract shall be drawn up in a language that both employer and employee can understand. The contract should include the employee’s duties and responsibilities, period of employment, compensation and authorized deductions, and hours of work. Both employer and employee should have their own copies of the contract. If the employee is below 18, the contract should be signed by his/her parent or guardian, with a barangay officer as witness. Children aged 15 and below may not be employed as kasambahays.
Most domestic workers seem wary of contracts, but Im sure they’ll get used to this as more and more households comply with the Kasambahay Law. Employers can always draft the contract in Filipino, and sit down with their kasambahay and go through the contract line by line, so that the worker understands that the contract is also for their protection (more for their protection than for the employer’s, actually). Don’t know how this would work for foreign/expat employers though.
Regarding the minimum working age, I have encountered many applicants claiming to be older than they really are, and once a mother even accompanied her very young-looking daughter on a interview, the mother insisting that her daughter was already 18. The poor girl looked terrified and on the verge of tears; she looked all of 12 to me. So I am in complete agreement that domestic workers should be 18 or older, but I feel that if the kasambahay lied about his/her age or presented a fake ID showing her to be of legal age, then the employer should not be held liable, and I wish that this could be explicitly stated in the IRR.
- Employers will shoulder the transportation costs of the kasambahay for his or her place of origin, but may charge these costs to the kasambahay if he or she leaves in 6 months or less without good reason.
I have paid for our helpers’ transportation from province to Manila several times in the past already, but I do have to say that even when the helper stayed just a month or two, I never was able to get back even one centavo. This is because when they do leave, most helpers do so without any notice, and they leave immediately after collecting their salaries on payday. So I wonder if it would be legal to deduct their transportation costs from ther salaries in installment? Then if they stay 6 months, I can return the full amount to them, but if they stay for less, at least I’ll be able to recoup some of my investment.
- The monthly minimum wage for domestic workers has been set at P2,500 for the National Capital Region, P2,000 for major cities and municipalities, and P1,500 for other municipalities. Employers should provide their kasambahays with monthly payslips. All kasambahays who have served at least 1 month shall be entitled to SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig benefits.
Most of the complaints I’ve heard about the Kasambahay Law have to do with the time-consuming processing related to SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig. This requires a lot of extra time and expense for the employer. I am lucky because my husband is a lawyer, and he simply had one of their office paralegals assist our house help in processing their requirements. Paralegals and office staff likewise handle the monthly remittances and all the required reporting.
But! What if my husband and I both worked for other people or companies, Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm? That would mean that one of us would have to take God knows how many extra leaves from work just to do all the required processing. First to help our helpers get the required documents to apply for SSS, Phihealth, and Pag-ibig memberships, then on to actual application with SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig, then to make regular payments, then to do regular reporting. Honestly, if this were the case with our household, I have no idea how we would find the time. Not to mention how we would deal with the loss of income for all those missed days or hours of work! Of course we could always tell our helpers to take care of all the processing on their own, but how many would actually do it?
So this is something the government really needs to address. I believe most employers would be happy to comply with the law, if only the government could make it easy for them. Perhaps the government could station representatives from the NSO, SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig, in major malls so that employers can take their helpers there after work hours or on weekends? And for payments, it would be helpful if employers could do all payments and even reporting online, through ATM’s or at bayad centers. Remember that if your kasambahay resigns either with or without notice, or if she suddenty goes AWOL, employers would again have to process the termination of the domestic worker, or be held liable for the conituation of his/her SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig payments. So ideally, employers should be able to do everything including this online.
- If a kasambahay’s salary is below P5,000 per month, employer shoulders all SSS contributions. If he/she is earning P5,000 or more, employee contributions will already be deducted. As a sample computation, SSS deduction for a kasambahay earning P5,000 a month is at 10.4% of gross income, 7.07% of which is paid for by the employer (P353.50) and 3.33% by the employee (P166.50). Philhealth (P175/month) and Pag-ibig (P100/month for NCR) contributions are to be shouldered by the employer. Kasambahays who have rendered at least one (1) month of service shall further be entitled to receive 13th month pay, which should be paid no later than December 24 of each year.
Our former yaya was receiving a salary of well over P5,000 a month, but didn’t let her shoulder any of the payments for SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig. We decided to simply pay for everything ourselves. Now with this law in effect, though, we will be paying for benefits for all our househelp, and we intend to comply with even this provision. We have talked with our household helpers, and naturally they are all happy to receive SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig benefits. But, they do not want to make contrbutions towards them. So does this mean we keep all salaries below P5,000? Would it be OK to pay our helper P4,999 a month, for example, plus a P2,000 “allowance?”
One other problem I foresee would be with regards to domestic workers who suddenly leave after a period of working and having their employers pay for their benefits. Many of them simply go back to their provinces after having earned a sum of money, and then come back to Manila in search of jobs when the money runs out. When this happens, and they are unable to continue making contributions to SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig, sayang lang lahat ng past payments. So when a kasambahay resigns, it’s very important to teach them how they can continue making contibutions a voluntary basis (at a much smaller amount). This way, they can continue to enjoy the benefits until they reach retirement.
- Kasambahays should be allowed to finish their basic education (elementary and high school), as well as be allowed other learning or vocational training. The employer should adjust the kasambahay’s work schedule to accommodate their continuing education. Employer is not required to pay for the education of the kasambahay.
This I have a problem with. I feel if there is to be such an arrangement, it should be between employer and employee. I would not feel OK about hiring a new helper, only to have her tell me later on that she has decided to attend night school and earn her high school diploma, and that we’d have to adust her work schedule accordingly. Even if she goes to school in the evenings during her free time, obviously she would need extra rest hours and time to do her homework or schoolwork which would eat into her work hours. It would be a different story if employer and employee were to come to an agreement that the employee will only work half the day, for half the pay, and pursue further education the rest of the time. I don’t know, though, if this would be considered legal under the Kasambahay Law, or a violation of the minimum wage provision for domestic workers.
As for other learning or vocational training, I’m all for encouraging our househelp to attend short courses related to their line of work. We send our housegirls and cooks to cooking classes at 25 Mushrooms, for example, and I would also be interested in sending our yaya or nanny to childcare classes or first aid seminars.
- Kasambahays shall enjoy the right to form and/or join labor unions.
This sounds like a potential nightmare to me. I have to admit, I would not knowingly hire a unionized domestic worker. It’s just too much to worry about at this point. Maybe in the future this will seem the next logical step, but… baby steps.
- Kasambahays should be able to enjoy 8 hours of rest each day, and 1 day off per week (24 consecutive hours). Weekly day off may be waived in exchange for equivalent additional pay. Kasambahays who have been in service for at least 1 year will further be entitled to 5 days paid leave per year (not convertible to cash).
8 hours a day seems insufficient for a full days’ worth of rest, so I assume this refers to sleep hours. Our helpers take daily afternoon siestas (naps), and we also avoid asking them to do any sort of work once the dinner dishes have been done. They usually go on days off twice a month, and I generally let them pick whatever days they want. I believe it’s within the law if upon hiring, both parties agree to only two days off, with the stipulated monthly salary already covering additional equivalent payment for the other two days. Say for example, they get P4,000 per month with 2 days off, already including pay for the other 2 waived days; or P3,733 per month should they wish to take all 4 days off. But I am guessing here and need further confirmation on this.
- Employers must provide kasambahays with the following basic necessities: humane sleeping arrangements (or a decent space to rest, if on a stay-out arrangement), three (3) adequate meals per day, and appropriate assistance in case of sickness or injury.
This is a given, but it’s good to have it all spelled out in an actual law. A lot of condos these days don’t have maids’ quarters, and I’ve heard of families who let their helpers sleep in the kitchen, and use the common/public toilets in their building’s lobbies or parking lots. Maybe the government also needs to look into the maids’ quarters of buildings under construction — many of these “rooms” are more like closets that can barely fit a bed, with little or no ventillation.
And speaking of humane sleeping and rest arrangements, I wonder if our domestic workers abroad are legally entitled to the same protection under a different law? I have a friend who used to be based in Singapore. She wanted to take their housekeeper with her, and the housekeeper had to undergo training mandated by the POEA. Housekeeper told my friend that part of their training was to show willingness to sleep in cold, uncomfortable places, since most Singapore residences do not have maids’ quarters. And therefore many of our Singapore-based domestic workers are forced to sleep outside on balconies or in the buildings’ bomb shelters together with other maids! I kid you not! True story!! And under the Kasambahay Law, we can be proud to say that third world or not, in OUR country, such arrangements are now considered illegal.
- The kasambahay may terminate the employment contract on the following grounds: verbal, emotional, or physical abuse, violation of contract by the employer, any disease that may harm the kasambahay, or any crime or offense against the kasambahay. The employer, on the other hand, may terminate due to any of the following: misconduct or willful disobedience of the kasambahay, habitual neglect and/or inefficiency in performing duties, if the kasambahay is afflicted with any disease that may harm members of the household, violation of contract by the kasambahay, fraud, or any crime or offense committed against the employer. Marriage and pregnancy are not acceptable causes for termination.
Should the employer wish to let the kasambahay go without just cause, employer must first pay him/her all due wages plus 15 days extra pay. This sounds fair to me, and also leaves some wiggle room for employers in case they want to let their kasambahay go for reasons other than the acceptable ones listed above. For example, it would make my husband and I very uncomfortable having a pregnant domestic worker in our home. Since I had difficult first trimesters for both my pregnancies and could barely leave the bed much less do any work, how could I ask a pregnant maid to clean and do laundry or other chores? I’d be too worried about her having a miscarriage while in our employ. And if she works until almost her due date, does that mean we’re supposed to provide financial assistance for the birthing costs? And after that, if she and her baby have nowhere to go… does that mean they both have to stay with us??
On the other hand, if it’s the employee who terminates the contract and/or leaves without due cause or notice, the employer can withold 15 days worth of pay from her salary. Good in theory but yeah, good luck with that. Then again, we only have to remind ourselves that as the employers, we are the privileged ones. We will not go hungry from the loss of 15 days worth of our kasambahay’s pay, but they just might. And in my view, it’s more than worth some inconvenience and extra expense on our part to finally be on the road to empowering the helpers who help us run our households, so we have time for other things — such as keep our jobs and run our businesses — making more money and living more comfortable lives than they ever will.
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To learn more about the Kasambahay Law, SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig, you might want to check out the following links: