Baguio City – Republic Act 10361 popularly known as the Batas Kasambahay” or Domestic Workers Act institutes policies for the Protection and Welfare of domestic workers. Based on the study conducted by the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC), domestic workers were considered lowest paid and few employers comply with the law requiring domestic helpers to be registered for social security benefits and there are around 585,000 live-in domestic helpers all over the country of which 92 percent are women.

There are laws and policies protecting our Kasambahays way back in 1949, Articles 1689-1699 Policies on Household Service under Republic Act No. 386 the Civil Code of the Philippines. In 1974, Articles 141-152 Policies Protecting Househelpers under the Labor Code of the Philippines and in 1993, Republic Act No. 7855 an Act Increasing the Minimum Wage of Househelpers, Amending for the Purpose Article 143 of the Labor Code. In spite of these laws many controversies on abuses and maltreatment of domestic workers, here and abroad have been highlighted by media, thus in 2013 the approval of the Batas Kasambahay.

Jolina tiptoes around the house and moves from the kitchen to the dining room with a mop and a trash bag to collect garbage and after which carries a laundry basket to collect dirty clothes from the rooms of the members of the family she works for then she mops the floor, dust the shelves, goes to the market, refills the water bottles, cooks, and makes sure everything is clean and where it is supposed to be. Jolina repeats this cycle for six days, and knows the corners of each room as if they were her own. Her palms smell of soap most of the time and the veins on her hands are accentuated; marks of hours spent washing clothes and dishes and ironing clothes. She is 25 and this has been her life for the past seven years.

When asked about Batas Kasambahay, she said she never heard of such law. So it was explained to her that Batas Kasambahay took effect on June 4, 2013, a law that protects her rights as a kasambahay and recognizes for the first time that domestic workers are similar to those in the formal sector. The law also strengthens respect, protection, and promotion of the rights and welfare of domestic workers.

RA 10361 covers all domestic helpers engaged in domestic work, whether on a live-in or live-out arrangement, such as, but not limited to, the following workers like general househelp, yaya, cook, gardener, laundry person; working children or domestic workers 15 years and above but below 18 years of age; or any person who regularly performs domestic work in one household on an occupational basis (live-out arrangement).

But service providers, family drivers, children under foster family arrangement, and any other person who performs work occasionally or sporadically and not on an occupational and regular basis are not covered. Also not included are children under foster family arrangement living with a family or household of relative/s provided access to education and given an allowance incidental to education like “baon,” transportation, school projects, and school activities; provided, that the foster family and foster care arrangements are in compliance with the procedures and requirements as prescribed by Republic Act 10165 or Foster Care Act of 2012.

The employable age of a kasambahay is 15 years old and above. However, the employment of children 15 but below 18 years old, the following conditions are set: 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.

The law mandates employers to pay kasambahays employed in the Cordillera Administrative Region a minimum wage of P3,000 in chartered cities and first class municipalities and P2,500 in other CAR municipalities with 13th month pay in cash only, provide them with SSS, PagIbig, and PhilHealth benefits, and allow them a daily rest period of eight hours, and one day off weekly.

Although Jolina does not know how much she earns per month because she claims that her bosses deposit her monthly salary in her bank account for her, she says it is enough. All the benefits are given to her and even more. Her employer even pays half of her younger sister’s tuition in one of the local college in her hometown.

But not all kasambahays receive the same treatment from their employers. Exploitation is still rampant, but recently, a stronger and more cohesive protection for domestic helpers in the country is now assured following the signing of a joint memorandum circular on rescue and rehabilitation of abused kasambahay by the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, and the National Bureau of Investigation.

Under the JMC, the DSWD, through the municipal or city social welfare officer, in coordination with concerned barangay officials who are under the DILG’s supervision, take charge of the rescue and rehabilitation of an abused kasambahay, while the DOLE oversees their job placement. The goal of the JMC is to set in place a more unified inter-agency network to protect the rights of kasambahay against abuse, harassment, violence, and economic exploitation.

The JMC provides that any act of abuse committed against a kasambahay can be reported to authorities by the offended kasambahay themselves or anyone who has knowledge of the abuse. The DOLE assists in all the stages of the conduct of rescue operations, particularly in facilitating the settlement or disposition of labor-related disputes and the provision of alternative livelihood or employment for rescued kasambahay.

The Labor Department also established other related mechanisms on the employment of kasambahay, such as wage setting, occupational safety and health, and recruitment regulations to ensure that pertinent provisions of the law are complied with. The mistreatment committed against a kasambahay may be in the form of physical, sexual, and psychological harm or economic abuse, which includes withholding of wages or part of it, or any act which induce the kasambahay to give up any part of the wage by force, stealth, intimidation, threat or by any other unlawful means.

The JMC also stipulates that LGUs may opt to use the annual five percent of their Gender and Development or GAD budget, or any other local fund source, in rescuing and rehabilitating abused kasambahay, as well as in carrying out capability-building programs at the local level, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations on gender and development.

END/Patrick T Rillorta