Baguio City – Chelsea wakes up at 5 a.m. to get breakfast ready for the daughter of the couple she works for before she leaves for school. Then prepares the couple’s breakfast and sees us off to work. All this while getting her son Dave, 7 years old ready for class at a nearby public elementary school.

Chelsea comes home, cooks lunch for herself, Dave and the couple’s eldest child, feed three dogs, buy vegetables and fruits at the talipapa near the couple’s house and groceries and meat at a supermarket.

She does the laundry, sweeps the yard, irons clothes, mops the floors, scrubs the bathroom, and sprays air freshener in the bedrooms before the Family comes home at the end of the day.

But housework isn’t all she does. The roof and ceiling is leaking? Chelsea looks for a carpenter and supervises his work. Shower at the bathroom not working? She taps into her friends and fellow mothers at Dave’s school to find a plumber. Repairs for bedroom or painting jobs, or a built-in bookshelf made? She’s got the worker’s numbers on her cellphone the the day they’re needed there around to do the job.

Chelsea also does secretarial and errands for the family. Deposit money, pay bills, deliver documents and packages? She’s on it, with time to spare.

The roles our house helper or kasambahay (kasama sa bahay) play in our lives may be vital and essential, but we often take them for granted. More than just people who do the chores, our kasambahay allow us to become productive in our careers. By taking over household duties, they free us to work in offices, take up hobbies, travel. Living with them in close proximity, sharing our troubles and joys, they may even be considered part of the family.

The reason Chelsea entered domestic work is the usual… poverty. She was born in Palo, Leyte to parents who were unable to provide her with an education beyond second year high school. As an adult, she led a hard life, with mistakes along the way and lessons learned.

Quite likely Chelsea’s’s circumstances are different from most household workers, many of whom are overworked, underpaid, and in some cases maltreated and abused. Recognizing this, lawmakers gave protection to domestic helpers through Republic Act No. 10361, or the Kasambahay Law.

It was signed into law on 18 January 2013 and institutes policies for the protection and welfare of domestic workers. Among other things, it provides a set minimum wage as well as SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-Ibig benefits.

Employers are also required by this law to allow house helpers eight hours of rest a day, one day off a week, at least three meals a day, humane sleeping arrangements, and assistance in case of injury or illness.

These are basic human rights and common sense would dictate that we treat kasambahays with fairness and dignity even without this law, yet sadly, common sense isn’t all that common. The public should be aware of this law, and its proper implementation should also be a priority of the authorities.

Labor Secretary Silvestre h. Bello III issued Labor Advisory No. 10, series of 2018 (LA 10-18)“ Entitlement of kasambahay to other statutory leave benefits and labor standard benefits” last June 18, 2018. The order is to further strengthen and harmonize the implementation of the provisions of RA 10361, particularly on the entitlement of labor standards and statutory leave benefits and to guide all stakeholders concerned.

The Kasambahay is now entitled to all rights and benefits granted under Republic Act No. 10361, as amended, unless otherwise expressly provided. The employers are not prohibited from granting such other benefits in addition to the minimum requirements of the law.

The Labor Standard Benefits in addition to the five (5) days Service Incentive Leave (SIL) granted under Article 95 of the Labor Code, as amended, the Kasambahay is entitled to Special Leave Benefit (RA 9710) popularly known as the Magna Carta of Women; Solo Parent Leave (RA 8972); Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) Leave (RA 9262) provided she meets all the conditions for entitlement. For emphasis, to promote the welfare of the Kasambahay, it is encouraged that dialogue between the kasambahay and the employee is integral in the settlement of disputes.

Section 12 of RA 10361 on Pre-Employment Requirement states that prior to the execution of the employment contract, the employer may require the following from the domestic worker: (a) Medical certificate or a health certificate issued by a local government health officer; (b) Barangay and police clearance; (c) National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance; and (d) Duly authenticated birth certificate or if not available, any other document showing the age of the domestic worker such as voter’s identification card, baptismal record or passport.

Section 16 of RA 10361 on the Employment Age of Domestic Workers states that it shall be unlawful to employ any person below fifteen (15) years of age as a domestic worker. Employment of working children, as defined under this Act, shall be subject to the provisions of Section 10(A), paragraph 2 of Section 12-A, paragraph 4 of Section 12-D, and Section 13 of Republic Act No. 7610, as amended, otherwise known as the “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act”. Working children shall be entitled to minimum wage, and all benefits provided under this Act./Patrick T Rillorta